“We have a firm belief that representation matters deeply,” said Karen Rupert Toliver, drowned out by applause in her acceptance of best animated short at the Academy Awards Sunday.
Toliver was accepting the award for her part in producing the short film, “Hair Love,” a delightfully sweet story about a Black father struggling, and then succeeding in doing his daughter’s hair.
Former NFL wide receiver Matthew Cherry wrote and directed the film, and joined Toliver on stage.
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“Especially in cartoons, because in cartoons that’s when we first see our movies and it’s how we shape our lives and think about how we see the world,” Toliver continued.
“‘Hair love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation. We wanted to normalize Black hair,” added Cherry. Cherry also dedicated the award to the late, great Kobe Bryant.
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) February 10, 2020
While “Hair Love” is a beautiful portrait of a father-daughter relationship and a message about working together to overcome an obstacle, it is also a call for action of a serious issue that discriminates against people of color.
In his acceptance speech, Cherry mentioned the CROWN Act, a law and acronym that stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” This law “prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture.”
It was first introduced by Governor Newsom of California on July 3, 2019, and went into effect on January 1, 2020. New York was the second state to introduce the CROWN Act, and New Jersey followed suit.
Twenty-two additional states are considering the CROWN Act and are looking to introduce their own anti-hair discrimination bills.
DeAndre Arnold, the Texas 18-year-old who was forced to cut his hair or else not be able to graduate from his high school, was Cherry and Toliver’s guest at the Academy Awards. Arnold’s situation is heartbreaking, but even more disconcerting is that his story is nowhere near an anomaly
In the Spring of 2018, the United States Supreme Court refused an NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund request to review a case in which a black woman named Chastity Jones had her job offer rescinded in 2010 at an Alabama insurance company after she refused to cut off her dreadlocks.
Also in 2018, a 6-year-old boy was barred from school because of his dreadlocks.
These obstacles and interferences are issues white people do not have to worry about, and it is not a mystery as to why. The rules prohibiting certain hairstyles are not to increase productivity or promote inclusiveness that will eventually optimize the school or work’s capabilities.
They are discriminatory, they are racist, and solely against people of color.
Cherry and Toliver’s delicate and touching Hair Love short film is one more step into spreading awareness of this serious issue into the public’s consciousness. The short film was beautiful, moving, and fully deserving of the academy award.
It is not enough to fight back against discriminatory rules and practices. People must consider the question as to why these obstacles are in effect in the first place and then remedy the situation from there.
Only through deep understanding, honest reflection, and diligent action will injustice be fully eradicated. Hair Love, in essence, is about loving your hair and yourself.
The story also contains a message about love and labor between a family, as the father works hard to do his daughter’s hair. Wherein both father and daughter rush to see their wife and mother in the hospital and make her feel better.
This message can be carried over to the action that needs to take place, in line with the CROWN Act. Lead with love, and be diligent in finding a way for everyone to be happy and find peace.