The Student Assembly Department of Student Rights, in conjunction with the College of William and Mary’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, hosted attorney Valerie Brayham Wednesday as part of the first installment of their civil liberties speaker series.
Brayham serves as an attorney at the Institute for Justice, an Arlington-based Libertarian organization that represents those who are affected by issues such as free speech, eminent domain and government licensing.
Brayham’s presentation, entitled “From Hair Braiding Raids to the Flower Police: The Fight For Economic Liberty,” focused on government licensing and its adverse effect on minorities working in small businesses. She cited many examples of entrepreneurs in occupations including hair braiding, shoe shining, taxi driving, casket sales, interior design and floristry.
All the examples were cases that had been brought to the institute’s attention as a result of legal action that prevented these small business owners from working. The workers did not have licenses to practice their respective professions.
Citing a case where hair braiders were required to accumulate 3,200 hours of schooling before obtaining their cosmetology license, Brayham advised citizens to be skeptical of pointless regulations and suggested questioning who may be advocating said regulation.
“Occupational licensing laws affect real people,” Brayham said, “and have real costs.” In the case of hair braiding, laws have the potential to leave the entrepreneur in debt after having paid for an education that does not even take black hair types into account.
SA Secretary of Student Rights Braum Katz ’10 explained that the SA wanted to choose “a topic of rights that would interest a lot of students.” Katz said another way to look at this issue is “legal discrimination.”