For natural women, hair in the workplace can be a sensitive subject. Some women are deterred from transitioning to natural hair out of fear that a western workplace will be unaccepting of the natural hair culture. Although some may find this hard to believe, discrimination based on hairstyles is a very true reality. But I’m not talking about the 16-year-old girl with messy blue hair that is trying to get a job at the local McDonalds. I’m also not talking about the 18-year-old girl with 12-inch spikes on the top of her head. Those are extreme cases where the individuals have chosen to significantly alter their own hair. I’m talking about qualified black business professionals who have been scrutinized based on their well-groomed natural styles. I’m referring to the individuals who have chosen to let their hair grow, unaltered by chemicals and straighteners.
The interesting thing about this natural hair controversy is that it impacts both men and women. In an article in the Huffington Post, it mentions various occasions where natural hair was the root of controversy. Hampton University, a historically black university, banned cornrows and dreadlocks for its male business students in 2001. This sparked a conversation about natural hairstyles in the corporate world. The dean of the business college, Sid Credle, stood his ground as he supported the ban against the hairstyles. His justification? Men like Muhammad Ali, Charles Drew, and Martin Luther King Jr. did not don these dos, so they shouldn’t be considered part of the African American history of professional hair. He also stated that 99 percent of those enrolled in the five-year MBA program’s seminar class had landed corporate jobs after graduation. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but in this case, an African American male supported a sanction of two natural styles in order to guarantee that students would be hired. It’s as if he supported the notion that those with dreadlocks and cornrows are less qualified and less professional than men with shortly tapered hair. In all cases, hair does not define one’s professional abilities, but it can influence how people perceive the individual. I just find it sad that men who have chosen to have natural styles, for whatever reason, are being limited and thought less of because they’ve chosen to embrace natural styles. Stay tuned for Part 2!