As a recent college graduate, the job search has begun and will hopefully lead to landing multiple interviews where I can wow people and talk about myself and my education in order to start my new career. For an interview, appearance is very important; you want to look professional and be smartly dressed. This requires the right outfit, the right shoes, and most importantly, your hair needs to look good. On a personal note, if I don’t feel like my hair looks good, then I don’t feel good and it may affect my confidence in my appearance at an interview.
Most friendship groups these days have a group chat where friends discuss a wide range of topics; from the hilarious to the super serious. For example, in mine the other day we were discussing hair. It just so happens that all the friends in my group chat are black women who have just graduated with Bachelor’s degrees and all happen to have natural hair – meaning that the hair that grows from our scalp is unaltered by any chemicals like relaxers, etc.
One of my friends in my group chat is going into the health profession and she feels that the doctors that she works with treated her differently once she removed the weave from her head. She could not exactly put into words how this change in behavior occurred, but she felt it. What she was certain about was that it reminded her that regardless of what her hairstyle is, she will always be viewed as the “Black girl” and that she has to be okay with that, her hard work will speak for itself. She seemed to have been a little defeated by what had happened and said that she was ready to get braids. I kept pressing at the issue because I wanted her to love her natural hair (which she insisted that she does) and I also wanted her to feel comfortable with wearing it.
There is a clear discrimination against the natural state of black women’s hair in the professional sphere and it is perpetuated in popular media. It appears that there is a prejudice borne out of misunderstanding and ignorance of the texture and appearance of natural black hair as untidy or unprofessional. There is evidence of black women facing this discrimination in their respective professional environments. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36279845. The fact is that this prejudice is wrong and there is nothing wrong with a black woman wearing her natural hair to work. A black woman’s hair is beautiful; it comes in multiple different textures and curl patterns. Our hair can range anywhere from a loose curl to a tighter coil. The argument around the “professionalism” of a Black woman’s hair has gone on for far too long. Typically, the hair of a woman with looser curls are generally more accepted and viewed as having “good” hair, while women with a tighter curl pattern are often called “nappy” and their hair is less widely accepted.
In the group chat we also talked about the fact that we do not all have the same hair texture, therefore our experiences dealing with our hair in the workplace may play out differently. Why is a black woman’s hair perceived as wild and unkempt when worn in its natural state while everyone else may wear the hair that grows from their head completely unaltered? As with the rest of our bodies, a black woman’s hair is always under scrutiny for its appearance, always under a lens. We are consistently told that our butts are too big; our lips are too plump, we are too curvy, our hair is not professional. It is time for the media and the world to stop commenting on the bodies of Black women, I do not stand for the policing of any part of my body any longer.
For me personally, since growing out the relaxer that once made my hair straight and silky, I have never altered the state of my hair for the sake of employment. I have worn my hair as an afro for the past 2 years or so and it has been straightened once recently for the sake of fitting my graduation cap over my head. I expressed to my friends that any place where you feel uncomfortable to wear your own hair is not the place for you to be. Black women face enough prejudices as it is, our hair may be one of the biggest of these issues. The natural hair movement has seemingly grown so much in the last few years and recently gaining more attention in the media. To all my Black women, this message is for you: Wear your hair however you like, no matter how you wear it someone, somewhere will form judgements of you. Love yourself, love your hair and be great.
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