As messed up as it sounds, in the unending struggle for justice, there is such thing as a “positive negative.” This occurs when you win a struggle that you never should have had to deal with in the first place.

A prime example is presented by the long saga of Isis Brantley, a hair stylist from Texas.

In 1997, the Dallas police force raided her school, which taught the cultural art of African-style hair braiding. It was a highly regarded school — Brantley had been braiding hair for years, even attracting star clients like Erykah Badu.

But, state authorities barked, she was guilty of a horrific breach of the law: braiding without a barber’s license. So, she was arrested and — get this — hauled away in handcuffs.

Brantley wasn’t barbering, however. She was braiding. Her case led to a reform intended to make it easier for hair braiders to get licensed for their art.

hightower-hair-braiding-texas

Steven Depolo / Flickr

Victory, right? Not so fast.

Texas officials, who loudly profess that they despise regulatory overreach, proceeded to overreach.

Teachers of braiding, they commanded, must convert their shops into fully equipped barber colleges, requiring 10 or more workstations with hair washing sinks — even though braiding doesn’t involve washing.

In 2013, still refusing to submit to this Big Brother authoritarianism, Brantley sued Governor Rick “Small Government” Perry’s Department of Licensing and Regulation.

And now, nearly 20 years after the anti-hair braiding gendarmes raided Isis Brantley’s shop, locked her in handcuffs, and ran roughshod over her rights, she’s found a measure of justice. A court has ruled that the state’s actions were unconstitutional — not to mention arbitrary, abusive, shameful, and silly.

Right wingers claim to hate Big Government intrusion. But where were they when their own government was intruding on Isis Brantley?

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower LowdownOtherWords.org

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