American Apparel: Against ‘Trashy Black Girls’ & Straightened African American Hair In Hiring

Financially struggling clothing company American Apparel is coming under fire for its discriminatory hiring practices. The ubiquitous store, which has spread like dandelions in recent months by hawking hipster basics, is being accused by many of looks discrimination, and now racism.

Internal documents and former employee testimonials acquired by Gawker.com show that AmericanApparel has an intensely biased attitude against African American women when being considered for employment. According to Gawker, when considering black women coming to open call interviews, a former employee remembers having been told regarding African American women:

none of the trashy kind that come in, we don’t want that. we’re not trying to sell our clothes to them. try to find some of these classy black girls, with nice hair, you know?”

In addition, there is an unhealthy and strange attitude of control in evidence regarding how American Apparel expects black women to style their hair while working for them. The former American Apparel employee further reminisces:

i will remember that forever, especially the ‘nice hair’ part. he was instructing another manager and i on who to look for during an upcoming open call, and i sat there dumbfounded, listening to him speak while the other manager made ‘uh huh, got it’ sounds on her end of the phone. the other manager on the call with me later became a district manager, and at one point instructed me to tell two of my employees (both of whom happened to be black females) to stop straightening their hair. i refused to do this…

It is disgusting and disturbing to hear that black women are still being singled out and held to unfair standards because of assumptions based on race and our physical racial characteristics. It is disheartening, but not surprising. It is also not shocking that American Apparel is the firm coming under fire for these accusations. This company seldom features African American models, or other models of color in its ads. It therefore makes perfect sense that they do not want many blacks in their stores, and that those they choose to hire conform to a narrow idea of what a “classy black girl” would be. At this point in America’s business history, this kind of discrimination against African Americans, and black women for their hair, is old news. It’s only rare that proof of such bigotry is spelled out clearly in a way that cannot be denied.

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