She said he told her to take them out or she wouldn’t be scheduled to work there.
Destiny Tompkins, a 19-year-old black woman was “humiliated” and “degraded” last week by a manager at Banana Republic because of her hairstyle.
Tompkins, a student at Purchase College, State University of New York, had been working at the retail store in New York’s Westchester Mall for just one month when the district manager, a white woman, visited the store. After the district manager left, Tompkins was called into her supervisor’s office for violating the store’s dress code.
“I thought there was something wrong with my outfit but he sat me down and questioned my hair instead,” Tompkins wrote on Facebook. “He told me that my braids were not Banana Republic appropriate and that they were too ‘urban’ and ‘unkempt’ for their image.” Tompkins explained to her manager, a white male, that she wore her hair in box braids to protect it from the cold weather, but he ordered her to take them out or she would lose her shifts.
“I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person,” Tompkins wrote in a post that quickly went viral, prompting an investigation from Banana Republic.
“This week, one of our store managers questioned an African-American employee’s braided hairstyle,” Banana Republic spokesperson Sheikina Liverpool told BuzzFeed. “Today we concluded the investigation and can confirm that the manager has been terminated from the company. Banana Republic has zero tolerance for discrimination. This situation was completely unacceptable, counter to our policies, and in no way reflects our company’s beliefs and values.”
Tompkins’ decision to speak out was not only a brave stance against discrimination, but the catalyst for a much needed cross-cultural dialogue.
“Black women have been criticized and discriminated against because of the way we choose to protect and maintain our natural hair for generations,” Tompkins told Glamour. “The cold weather tends to make our hair brittle and cause breakage and loss of hair, which is why we style our hair with braids.”