Is Natural Hair Professional?

question that vexes many people of color and is the subject of frequent discussion on natural hair boards is this: is natural hair professional? The question is often asked by women going on job interviews who often express fear that they’ll be turned down before they even open their mouths to discuss their qualifications because they think the interviewer will find their hair “ugly,” “bushy,” “untamed,” or any other negative adverb you can think of, so they feel that they must straighten it just to be taken seriously. Some women insist that they must flat iron or get a wig or a weave because due to their reasoning, they’re at a disadvantage due to their gender and/or race, so why should they let their kinks put them at a further disadvantage?  It’s easy for the majority to dismiss the question as ridiculous, but the thought and the resulting fear surrounding it has social and political relevance.  Despite claims that we live in a “post-racial” society, job hunting can be particularly difficult for people of color due to systemic racism and discrimination. For decades, in an attempt to combat the mainstream stereotypes of a worker of color who was incompetant, shiftless and lazy, most people of color did whatever they could do to try to fit into what was deemed acceptable by the mainstream, whether it was spending their last dime on designer suits or straightening their hair, as our ancestral garb and our natural kinks were deemed threatening to those in power. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that blacks could face death for even thinking about showing up to work in a dashiki or braids. However, it’s gotten to the point where the behavior of trying to fit in is so ingrained in communities of color that the majority hardly ever has to say anything directly to us. People who look like us can do the job for them quite well. Naturals are subjected to derisive comments every day by people of their own race or ethnicity mainly because those spouting them don’t understand the hair that was given to them by God and don’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed into accepting straight hair tyranny.

As far as the actual question is concerned, I need to preface this by saying that in most corporate environments, certain styles and certain hair colors are deemed universally unacceptable, no matter what your skin color, such as mohawks and green hair. Although, those things are considered outside the mainstream, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with them in and of themselves. The thing is, one can choose to get their hair styled and cut into a mohawk and one can choose to dye their hair green. However, those people need to realize that a consequence of such choices is that they may not be able to work in a corporate environment and if they are okay with that consequence, all is well.

The actual question about natural hair being professional concerns the hair that you are both with, was created by God and which you had no choice in how it appears. How on earth can the hair that grows out of your scalp ever be unprofessional? Speaking for myself, I’ve come too far with my hair to ever be pressured into slapping a relaxer ever again just to be deemed acceptable to somebody. Is that hiring manager going to take me to the ER to treat a scalp burn? Is that hiring manager going to give me money out of their pocket to pay for doctor visits and medications in order to treat hair loss and damage to my hair and scalp? If that person isn’t willing to do that, than their opinion about my hair texture makes no nevermind to me. Any company who would turn somebody down for something as ridiculously shallow as their hair texture is not a place that’s worth working for in the long run. In my current job, I’ve never worn completely relaxed hair. I had braid extensions when I initially started there nearly three and a half years ago, but I went fully natural nearly two and a half years ago and no one has ever said anything negative to me, so often, the fear that you’ll be an outcast in an office environment because of your hair is unfounded.  All that should matter is that your hair is clean, well groomed and that you wear it with confidence. All this reassurance still won’t convince some women as long as racism, sexism and straight hair tyranny are still prevalent. I can’t make all those things go away but what I can tell you is that confidence in your abilities and in your appearance will go a long way.

I got some of these photos from Le Coil. Personally, I think any of these styles are more than suitable for Corporate America. For those that don’t, they can suck it.

This happens to be Corinne Bailey Rae:



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