Temple Law School: What led you to write your paper, Title VII v. State Legislation: Protecting the Black Crowning Glory, 13 Drexel L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2021)?
Nadijah Campbell LAW ’20: Like many Black girls, I wear braids, twists, faux locs and fros as everyday hairstyles. When I found out that employers, by law, could and have been preventing Black people like me from having a job because of hairstyles, ones that are completely professional at that, I was hurt, but mostly outraged. I didn’t come to law school to just be hurt and mad though, I came to law school to make changes. So, I took a guided research class with professor Bonny Tavares and I wrote a paper advocating for more states to pass legislation to illegalize this practice of discriminating against Black hairstyles. I’m happy that I was able to customize my legal education to write and learn about this topic that I was so passionate about.
TLS: Could you share a short excerpt from your paper?
NC: My paper explains how colonizers, who once admired the intricacies of Black hair, created a negative stigma around it in order to keep Black people in a lower social class. I explain that Title VII claims have largely been unsuccessful and even detrimental. As the result of cases like Rogers v. American Airlines, Pitts v. Wild Adventures and EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions, employers have been given an almost uninhibited right to control Black people and their hair, creating a need for other avenues of protection.
I explain that one of the avenues to protect Black people from workplace discrimination, is to update the definition of race to include racial characteristics. I wrote, “In reanalyzing its reasoning, the courts would have to acknowledge that just as banning afros is explicitly racist, so is banning locks, braids, and twists.” I also say states should follow others like California, New Jersey and New York, to create legislation explicitly making it illegal to discriminate against Black hair. I caution that if employers are still allowed to require that hairstyles be “neat” or “tidy,” however, it likely that employers will use these subjective policies to assert that less accepted curl textures – textures that are more kinky and coarse as opposed to loose curls – are going against the policy.
TLS: What was your experience as you worked toward a path to publication?
NC: I was so excited about my paper that I wouldn’t shut up about it. I thought it would annoy my friends, but they were actually very supportive and encouraged me to submit my paper to various scholarships and writing competitions. I was really excited at the prospect of being published so I worked over winter break to edit my paper even further. Like other law school dreams, I was saddened when my paper wasn’t chosen for publication. I almost gave up until a prospective employer told me I should keep trying to submit because my paper was worthy. I took heed and asked my LinkedIn network for advice. That is when I was told to submit my paper to Drexel’s Law Review. I got the news that my paper was selected the same day that I learned I passed all of my final classes.
TLS: With your educational background in journalism and hobby of creative writing, what advice would you give to other writers who are pursuing legal publication?
NC: With any kind of writing, you should write about things you really care about, because it will make the victory of publication that much sweeter. More importantly, not everyone is going to like what or how you write, but it is your job to stay persistent in trying to get things published if you want your voice to be heard.
TLS: What accomplishment are you most proud of during your Temple Law experience?
NC: I had a lot of accomplishments, from being a part of Philadelphia Diversity Law Group (PDLG) to being president of the Affinity Group Coalition. I’m also proud that I was able to engage in the Temple Law community by sharing my perspective of life with my colleagues in the classroom and through my coursework. But, to be honest, I’m just happy I made it through and I did it while making friends with people I hope will be my friends for life.
TLS: What advice would you give to law students who find themselves looking down a different path than they may have imagined before starting law school?
NC: We are told when we come to law school that we should do what works best for us, but that message gets lost when it feels like we are always in competition with each other with grades and extracurriculars. However, we all have different paths to success and we have to trust the process. I learned that while law school was very challenging, it taught me perseverance and to have more faith in myself because I am smart and I am deserving.