When will the Corporate World Embrace the Natural Hair of African Americans?
One would never suspect that hair could be such a difficult commodity - that certain hair wouldn’t be accepted in particular places. However, the corporate world has proven to make things more and more difficult.
The term “professional hair” stirs up great controversy particularly in the black community.
For some cultures, professional hair is defined by hair length and hair color. However, for the black community professionalism is accompanied with more specific and disheartening stipulations.
In light of the “natural hair movement,” of which people are transitioning from relaxed hair and embracing their curls and coils; the question has surfaced as to whether natural hair is appropriate or not for the workplace.
Black women who have recently begun to embrace their luscious locs are wary to continue, for fear that their styles aren’t a good fit for the corporate world. When taking headshots women often opt to straighten their hair rather than wear it natural. Many have also chosen to wear straight hair for job interviews before they let the office see their natural hair.
Straight hair is most commonly associated with professionalism. However, this ideology fails to account for the various styles and textures that black hair comes in. From afros to dreadlocks, braids to finger coils, the versatility of hair types is endless.
Yet due to the connotation of unprofessionalism, it has left many black women resorting to a relaxer and many black men shying away from growing out their locs in order to conform to these standards.
Such styles are often referred to as “distracting,” “wild” and sometime even “militant.”
Even artists have addressed their concerns of acceptance.
Singer and songwriter Akon sang along with India Arie in her 2006 hit single “I am not my hair.” He said himself that he “couldn’t get no job/ no corporate wouldn’t hire no dreadlocks… hate to say it but it seems so flawed/ cause success didn’t come ‘till I cut it all off.”
The unfortunate reality for many black men and women is that aside from being judged on skin tone, their hair is an issue as well.
Time and time again society has acted as if hair was a definition of character, personality, and skill. It is constantly subject to scrutiny often times by people that do not understand it.
In 2016, Chasity Jones filed a lawsuit against Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS) stating that they wouldn’t hire her unless she were to cut her dreadlocks. CMS hair policy states that “hairstyle should reflect a business/professional image” and in their eyes Jones’ dreadlocks weren’t professional.
Many black women and men have had opportunities suppressed due to the very hair that grows from their scalp and the array of styles associated with it.
Every coil and strand is unique to the individual and does not make one less qualified for a job. Having an afro does not suggest that one does not have the proper skills necessary for the professional world just as much as their peer’s straight hair does not automatically allude to her ability.
So at what point will the corporate world and natural hair community be able to coexist? Because regardless of texture, natural state, it is the person beyond the scalp that matters most.