The Idea That Afro Hair Is Unprofessional


Going natural was liberating and a statement for me. It was my means of demonstrating that I renounced the "standards of beauty" that deemed Afrocentric hair as unacceptable. However, it never occurred to me that my crown in its natural state could affect my chances of getting a job. Unfortunately this resulted in a majprity of minorities altering their hair into the type of hair that is considered to be professional.

Everyone should have heard of at least one incidence in where a person of color was told to change his or her hair to look professional. Rewind back to Hampton University in 2001. Hampton University made headlines because its School of Business prohibited cornrows and dreadlocks in the MBA program. The Dean's reason for creating this ban? He believed these two hairstyles would prevent students from securing corporate jobs.

Fast forward to Fall 2015. I was in my dorm room watching a re-run of the Real on BET. For a segment called girl chat, Madison was the topic of discussion. Her internship mentor suggested that she straighten her natural for the sake of pleasing other professionals at work. The cause of both incidents are the result of individuals striving to survive in a hegemonic society that has flawed perceptions about people who are not part of their racial identity.

This is the result of hegemony in where one race controls what is considered to be professional and unprofessional according to their preferences. And then there is flawed perceptions or misconceptions I should say. Often times cornrows are associated with deviant and "ghetto" behavior in urban movies. People who obtain their ideas of Black culture in movies may assume that people with cornrows fit the false narrative seen in movies.

And then there is the afro. The afro was popular in the sixties and seventies. At this time in America people of color rebelled against a society that oppressed them for centuries. During this phase western society saw people of color armed with guns while wearing the afro. Thus, it was assumed that individuals rocking the afro or cornrow are militant, rebellious, delinquent, or ghetto

But should hair be a factor that determines what is unprofessional or professional? I can understand that there are some exotic hairstyles that should not be worn in the work place, but to tell a person that he or she is unfit for a job because of the way his or her hair naturally grows is wrong. Western society must accept afro hair and stop perceiving it to be unprofessional or a distraction.

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