Black Business

Dress Code at Dentist’s Office Causes a Stir on Twitter. Some Say It’s Anti-Black and ‘Prejudice Against Poor People’

An Ohio dentist has set some rules for acceptable attire in her establishment, sparking outrage online.

She placed a sign on a table that said, “No Bonnets, No House Shoes, No Pajama Bottoms.”

Stock photo (Photo: Getty Images)

Some on social media blasted the business owner and called the rules anti-Black. Others applauded the effort, believing house clothes should only be worn at home.

Twitter user @allhailtinasnow shared a screenshot of a Facebook post that included a photograph of the sign on May 17. The Twitter photos garnered over 15 million views and more than 500 retweets, and it was quoted nearly 4,000 times in other tweets.

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Some Twitter users argued that the rules are anti-Black, racist and classist, while others respected the dentist’s effort to protect her business.

“When y’all claim signs like this are antiblack. It’s a reflection of what YOU think black people are,” 21 Sammich wrote.

Patrice Lovelace-Holiday added, “What they fail to realize is that she’s enforcing such rules because she wants to maintain a certain image. People may not come back because everyone in the waiting room rolled out of bed.”

A Google Business page for the dentist’s office also has been flooded with bad reviews.

The discussion on Twitter became intense, with people on both sides chiming in with their opinions. Some argue there shouldn’t be a strict dress code for a dentist appointment.

“It’s the dentist office, man. Not a job interview,” Twitter user @thatshxtdead wrote.

Cynnamon1984 elaborated on that thought: “Maybe I was up all night because I have an extremely painful toothache and I literally rolled out of bed to get there as soon as I could. And yes it’s racist because bonnets are normally associated with Black women.”

She also wrote that she believes this is a form of “prejudice against poor people” and a way to exclude them from the service. “People shouldn’t have dental care gated behind a dress code,” she wrote.

However, one woman challenged that logic, commenting in the replies, “Yes but there’s a certain clientele they are trying to keep! My gynecologist doesn’t accept Medicare or Medicaid! What’s does that say? I’m Black n he’s been my doctor for over 20 years! It’s a certain class he’s not catering to.”

Hair bonnets are predominantly used by Black women to protect their hair. They are more often worn to bed to prevent hair from frizzing. Some women also wear bonnets while traveling, on short trips, or while exercising to preserve their hairstyles.

However, Kristin Denise Rowe, an assistant professor of American Studies at California State University, told Travel Noire that Black women often are scrutinized for hair bonnets.

“All women are hyper-scrutinized around how they choose to present themselves, however, I think there’s something very specific about questions around Black woman’s presentability, Black women’s hair being ‘done or not’ in public spaces,” Rowe said.

David Goldenkranz, a diversity, equity and inclusion facilitator, suggested that there is a thread of racism in the overpolicing of house wear for people of color. He says as a white man, no one would ever cast the same judgment on him — acknowledging that wearing pajamas outside is “a privilege” that he has because of his race.

“If the world we live in values looks, why do I often choose to boldly go out in public wearing clothes that do not enhance my appearance? The answer is simple – because I can get away with it,” he wrote. “My decision about what I wear and what that says about me, is very different than what the exact same outfit would convey about someone from almost any other race or gender.

“This is a privilege because while it may be a choice for me – this is not a choice that most People of Color or women can afford to make if they want to be successful in our society.”

“As a white male,” he wrote, “I am part of the social group that gets to make decisions not only about how I dress, but also how we expect others to dress…”

His essay validates what one objector to the sign tweeted on May 19, “Dress codes are historically Racist/Classist but these kinds of ppl will never be paying attention to something unless it tells them that they’re better than someone else.”

Atlanta Black Star reached out to the dentist’s office but did not receive a response regarding the reason she erected the sign, comments on the backlash, or if it has been an effective deterrent for people to stop dressing down to come to the office.

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