Banana Republic Manager Who Told Black Employee to Remove Braids Fired

After being told her hairstyle is too urban, Destiny Thompkins took to Facebook to expose “blatant racism and discrimination.”

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A white Banana Republic manager who informed Black employee Destiny Thompkins that her box braids hairstyle is too “urban” and “unkempt” for the clothing store and wouldn’t schedule the 19-year-old for shifts unless she removed them is now out of a job.

The incident took place Wednesday at a Banana Republic store in White Plains, N.Y. Thompkins, a native of Harlem who has worked there for about a month, used a Facebook post to describe her experience:

“Today I went into work at Banana Republic at the Westchester Mall and after the district manager (a white woman) popped in for a visit, I was told to go to the office to speak with my manager, Michael (Mike), who is a white man.

“I came in and he questioned me about the dress code and immediately, I thought there was something wrong with my outfit but he sat me down and questioned my hair instead.

“He told me that my braids were not Banana Republic appropriate and that they were too ‘urban’ and ‘unkempt’ for their image. He said that if I didn’t take them out then he couldn’t schedule me for shifts until I did.”

Thompkins said when she told her manager that the braids are a protective hairstyle to prevent brittle hair in cold weather, he recommended she instead use shea butter to protect her hair.

“I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person,” she wrote.

Thompkins asked the Facebook community to help her make the incident public.

“They need to be exposed for their blatant racism and discrimination,” she added.

The post, which now has more than 50,000 views, went viral and prompted a response from the company on Friday announcing an investigation would take place.

Two days later, on Sunday, Banana Republic released a statement saying the manager, who was not named, had been terminated:

“This week, one of our store managers questioned an African American employee’s braided hair style,” a spokesperson said.

“Our team began an immediate investigation and the manager involved was promptly removed from the store. 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.”

The company was founded in 1978. It was purchased by Gap Inc. in 1983, who then rebranded it as a mainstream luxury clothing retailer that now has more than 500 U.S. locations. Banana Republic’s President and CEO Mark Breitbard sits on Gap Inc.’s 14-member board of directors, which has no Black women or men.

In Thompkins’ Facebook post she said that the district manager, a white woman, seemingly prompted her male supervisor to discuss her hairstyle.

And in an interview with Eyewitness News, she repeated what her manager allegedly said.

Thompkins commented, “He said, ‘The district manager came in and she pointed out your hair. We were wondering if you could take [the braids] out.'”

Banana Republic has not yet indicated if the district manager has or will receive disciplinary action.

“The ‘Good Hair’ Study: Explicit And Implicit Attitudes Toward Black Women’s Hair,” released by the Perception Institute in February, measured implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious) bias toward the hairstyles of Black women, specifically natural hair.

Alexis McGill Johnson, co-founder and executive director of the institute, told DiversityInc that although the results showed that Black women themselves have biases, it was “very concerning” that white women had the strongest implicit attitudes.

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White women “had the strongest explicit attitudes that were negative. The significant bias is a challenge for Black women that has to be acknowledged," Alexis McGill Johnson told DiversityInc.

Johnson added that white women “also had the strongest explicit attitudes that were negative.”

“They’re in positions that are really driving the look and feel of America,” she said. “The significant bias is a challenge for Black women that has to be acknowledged.

“I also see particularly in the business context, the role that this plays among HR professionals to the extent that your hair can trigger an unconscious bias or some kind of assumption.”

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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  • I am happy to see this end the way it ended. Free speech does not exist everywhere. The Firm handling this the way it should had saved possible litigation. This young lady hair style is symbolic to her cultural standards and if I was a customer of her store would respect and compliment her on it. Good story.

    Reply
  • It never ceases to amaze me. Racism all day, every day. We don’t have to go looking for it, it comes to us all too damn often. Kudos to Ms. Thompkins (whose locs are beautiful, by the way) for shedding light on this issue. It takes courage to stand up against your oppressor. I’m glad the manager was fired, but she’s a White woman so she’ll have another job in a few weeks. And her manager, advising her to use shea butter. Really!! He’s going to tell her how to take care of her hair?! This stuff is just too much!! BLM

    Reply
  • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey

    “Professionalism” as advocated by HR and management in general is so often a genteel cloak for racial, gender and class biases. I am glad this worked out well, but fear the young lady has now made an enemy in the small-minded district manager who apparently started the kerfluffle.

    Reply
  • Charity Dell

    How is a hairstyle “too urban?”
    1. Can a hairstyle be “too rural?”
    2. How about a hairstyle that is “too metropolitan?”
    3. Is a hairstyle “too suburban?”
    4. Can you wear a hairstyle that is “too exurban?”
    5. Can my hairstyle be “too international?”
    6. Is a hairstyle “too multicultural?”

    Reply
      • Charity Dell

        LUKE–The manager had BHOS–BLACK HAIR OBSESSION SYNDROME!
        Honestly, why so many Euro-Americans spend their days
        and nights OBSESSING about African hair and its myriad
        styles is simply BEYOND my comprehension! :-0

        1. Every time anyone Black changes their hairstyle, you
        have these BHOS folks going bonkers and trying to forbid
        Afros, braids (any length, any kind, plain, accessorized or decorated);
        cornrows, corkscrews, curls, dreadlocks (any style or lengths, naturals (any length);
        Jheri curls, S curls, twists, tufts, twists & tufts, braids and puff combos; or any
        frizzy, kinky or wavy hair, or any combination of textures THEREOF.

        2. Then there are the BHOS folks who forbid us to color our African hair
        ANY of the myriad shades OTHER people color THEIR non-African
        hair. White, Asian, Indigenous and Native American women can color
        their hair with any product of Belle Garnier, Clairol, Dark & Lovely, L’Oreal, Revlon
        or Schwartzkopf, but if an African-American dares to have any color other than
        sable, we’ve violated some kind of “Thou-Shalt-Not-Color-Thy-African-Hair” commandment.

        We recent descendants of Africa have African hair.
        It comes in different textures and lengths.
        We wash and style it. We wear it in America.
        We are Americans with African hair.
        That’s what it is! :-)

        Reply
    • Yes, a hairstyle can be too rural: Witness the mullet!

      On a serious note, her hairstyle is beautiful. It would take a real numbskull to want her to change.

      Reply
    • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey

      Let’s not kid ourselves. In the U.S., “urban” has been code for “black or black-inspired” for decades now.

      Reply
  • It just feels like we just keep going backwards! With this president in the White House, we definitely aren’t moving forward! Its ridiculous and pathetic. But, I find solace in knowing that we will all reap what we sow so be careful people!

    Reply
    • We have gone backwards with this administration. 45 lost by 3 million popular votes – and if you look at GDP, Hillary won 64%.

      This is an important point. Enslaved Black people were counted as 3/5ths of a human being to apportion representatives to congress. The reason for this is that enslaved human beings constituted the overwhelming majority of wealth in this country at the time of our founding. Therefore, representation in the House of Representatives was determined by wealth. The Civil War was fought because illuminating slavery would make those assets worthless. It’s all about money. Always. Money may use evil people, like Richard Spencer, to divide the population – to make more money (just look at the environmental regulations that have been canceled while we are all looking at day care Donald tossing paper towels to people), but it is always about the money.

      Reply
  • Not sure, but I suspect that the District Manager who “popped in for a visit” actually instructed that store manager to tell her employee to change her hair. If that is true, why was the store manager fired and not the District Manager?

    Banana Republic needs to do something more than just fire the managers who were caught being racist. The company needs to seriously look at how racism (institutional and individual) is being reflected in their institution.

    As a note, this is a retail business. Many consumers care about these matters and will be looking to see what Banana Republic will do to address the racism in its business culture.

    Reply
  • Didn’t the US Supreme Court rule employers can do what caused the manager to be fired for in this article? I’m only asking…

    Reply
  • SHAME on Banana Republic. The manager shouldn’t lose his job for being subordinate and taking direction from the Regional Manager…FIRE THE REGIONAL! THAT will send a stronger message. She is a WOMAN and has a social responsibility to support other younger women in the workplace regardless of their ethnicity. Petition and boycott Gap, Inc. for this abhorrent example of institutionalized racism…I hope that employee sues. If a specific “hair code” wasn’t published in the employee manual or posted in the employee breakroom clearly stating the rules around what hairstyles are acceptable with respect to the dress code, then I would be seeking legal representation and filing a formal complaint with the EEOC stat…

    Reply
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