Is this really called freedom? Missouri finally passes law “allowing” black people to braid hair without requiring a 1500-hour cosmetology license
06/13/2018 // Ethan Huff // Views

African-style hair braiders who conduct business in the state of Missouri are rejoicing after the passage of new legislation that no longer forces them to undergo 1,500 hours of cosmetology training, a total of none of which has anything to do with learning how to braid hair.

The change comes after the Institute for Justice (IJ) filed a lawsuit against the Show Me State, arguing that it's unfair to force African-style hair braiders to spend an average of $12,000 for tuition and many months worth of training that has nothing to do with their jobs. Instead, they will now simply have to pay a $20 extortion fee and watch a 4 to 6 hour instructional video, as well as submit to routine board inspections.

Many are calling it a major win for freedom, as those who practice the art of African-style hair braiding will now have a lot more time and money in their pockets to support their loved ones. The changes will also make it easier for new hair braiders to enter the business without having to wade through a litany of bureaucratic red tape.

"The new braiding license is a dramatic improvement from Missouri's incredibly burdensome requirement that African-style braiders waste a thousand or more hours and spend tens of thousands of dollars to obtain a full cosmetology license, just to braid hair," stated IJ's Dan Alban, the lead attorney representing Missouri braiders.

"Rep. Shamed Dogan has been tireless in his commitment to pushing forward on braiding freedom bills over several years. Missouri’s natural hair braiders are extremely grateful that Rep. Dogan kept fighting for their right to earn a living and provide for their families, particularly after more than a decade of failed legislative reforms."


Freedom means NOT having to jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops

At the same time, Missouri's insistence that all African-style hair braiders still submit to a $20 licensing fee, as well as watch hours of instructional video that probably isn't relevant to their duties, represents an infringement on their constitutional rights – at least that seems to be IJ's view on the matter from a legal perspective.

The instructional video requirement is completely unnecessary, IJ insists. And the inspection requirements could further violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches without cause. Both of these mandates show that Missouri isn't about to give African-style hair braiders the full freedom that's afforded to them under federal law.

"While it is good that the state of Missouri finally realized that the cosmetology license has nothing to do with braiding, we should remember that 25 states don't require braiders to acquire a license at all," points out Paul Avelar, a senior attorney at IJ and head of IJ's Braiding Freedom Initiative.

"Missouri, like all states, should still consider whether government should license something as safe and common as braiding hair."

IJ's argument with regards to this issue – which applies to all other types of economic activity conducted by free Americans, by the way – hinges upon the constitutional right of citizens to engage in economic activity with the liberty afforded them by the Constitution. IJ has referred to the requirements as "needless" and "wasteful," something that both the U.S. District Court and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals deny.

But the braiders are taking the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes that it will make a different ruling. Should the Supreme Court decide that the requirements being imposed on the braiders are unconstitutional, it could set a precedent for people in many other professions who are similarly having their rights infringed upon.

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