Black Hair in Corporate America

Black Hair in Corporate America

Do you find yourself wondering how black is too black when it comes to hair in the office?

We are in the dog days of summer (aka peak protective style season). It is that time of year where all the black girls at work start whispering in groups about how acceptable the new hair trend would be in the office. All of this whispering got me thinking about my experience with black hair in Corporate America.

As an Atlanta Native, I know I live in a bubble of blackness…people who are used to black people being present and their whole beautiful selves….mostly. So when I stopped relaxing my hair, I was surprised by the response.

I was not a person carrying out an agenda with my hair. I saw the movie good hair (like all of you) and my stylist suggested I give up the “creamy crack” in the same week, it was hair synergy.

Leaving the house for the first time as a fully kinky curled girl was nerve racking but people loved it and I got lots of compliments on it. All was right with the world until y’all aunties chimed in with their respectability warnings.

They said things like… “You will never get a job like that”, “Are you going to press it for interviews”, “Are you afraid you look unprofessional” and plenty of variations of “it makes white people uncomfortable”. I did not take their ‘advice’ into consideration mostly because I was feeling liberated and fly. There was no way I was returning to my boring flat hair with a side part. I felt more myself than ever before (and still do).

The aunties were wrong and right.  I have had lots of interviews and jobs but I have also dealt with my fair share of microaggressions from white girls (I would say non-black people but nope it’s always the same kind of person) offering “compliments” every time I change it up.

If I straighten it or wear a straight weave they say “you look so professional” or “you should always wear your hair like that” …If I get braids or just wear it wet/with tight curls “Your hair is such a mystery” and let’s not forget the uncomfortable “I wish my hair could do that”. Oh… and the forever awkward questions about hair mechanics like their favs have not been wigged and weaved for millennia. #IamMagicNotGoogle

Wait… Can I also add my braids being compared to Bo Derek or any of the Kardashian/Jenner as if my ancestors have not been braiding for 1,000 years?

*Sigh*. I often have a quick comeback these days just to make people stop and think more but I often just give a look and move on. They don’t want to be saved y’all.

Overall, When it comes to black hair in Corporate America – just live your truth. Do not bait and switch or modify yourself. We are in the office more than we are at home…if the place you interviewing has some anti-black views in hiring, it’s a clue that the culture is ugly anyway. The last place I want to be educating people on white supremacy is at the place I have to be present at 40 hours a week for survival.

I am curious about your experience. What was the craziest thing anyone ever said about your natural/braided/weaved hair in the work place?


5 thoughts on “Black Hair in Corporate America

  1. Love that you shared your thoughts on this! I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s so funny how a person who is “famous” for not doing anything rocks hairstyles from our ancestors. Suddenly, people are saying they are setting a trend or creating a new style. This type of thievery has been going on since the beginning of time. People should do their research. Also, I agree that you shouldn’t wear your hair a certain way for a job. Be who you are. If they don’t like it, find someone who does. Or even better…create your own business and you don’t have to worry about what anyone has to say!

    1. I totally agree. I would rather not get the job than get the job and have to hide parts of myself. I wanna know up front if my hair is going to be a problem.

  2. I had a person tell me my hair was “70’s” and another person said it should be straightened to “give me a hairstyle”. I should’ve said “Straight hair isn’t a ‘hairstyle’. It’s just straight hair”, but I kept quiet. And I’m tired of people equating black hair to the 70’s. We’ve had our hair since the dawn of time. Stop equating it to one decade! That’s serious whitewashing!

  3. I was asked by a black colleague if I was going to keep wearing a “pickaniny” hairstyle. (I don’t even know how to spell that word.) I said yes.

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