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Banana Republic manager fired for telling black employee her hair is too 'urban'

A Banana Republic manager told a black employee her braids were 'unkempt and too 'urban.'
/ Source: TODAY

A Banana Republic employee is speaking out after she was disciplined at work for wearing a braided hairstyle.

Destiny Tompkins, 19, described what happened during her shift at a Banana Republic store in White Plains, New York.

“I was told to go to the office to speak with my manager, Michael (Mike), who is a white man,” Tompkins wrote in a now-viral Facebook post, which has been shared more than 57,000 times. “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.”

Tompkins, a sophomore at SUNY Purchase College, was wearing box braids, a common African American hairstyle that typically involves weaving hair extensions into a person’s natural braids to strengthen and protect their natural hair.

“When I tried to explain to him that it was a protective style for my hair (because) it tends to become really brittle in the cold, he recommend that I use shea butter for it instead,” Tompkins wrote. “I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person.”

Tompkins felt “so uncomfortable and overwhelmed” that she ended up leaving before her shift was over.

The manager who questioned her hairstyle has now been fired, Banana Republic spokesperson Sheikina Liverpool confirmed to TODAY Style on Oct. 8.

“Our team began an immediate investigation and the manager involved was promptly removed from the store,” she said in an email statement. “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.”

For Tompkins, this incident is just the latest reminder of the discrimination black women often face in the workplace for their hairstyles.

“We are still ... devalued and our hair choices are seen as intimidating and too ghetto to work in any professional environment,” she told TODAY Style in an email. "Black women are beautiful and our hair choices need to stop being viewed as unprofessional, especially when they’re highly appropriated in high fashion by white women."

"We are not a threat," she added, "and we should not have to conform to any society that wants us to change our look for the comfort of white people who view us as (such).”