In the western world, afro-textured hair has traditionally been treated with disdain, by
members of all ethnicities. Though racial discrimination is slowly fading as the workplace
becomes more accepting of a more diverse array of workplace fashions, the western influence regarding beauty standards is still the same.
Most black women are afraid to wear their natural hair in fear of harsh comments as it is
considered “inappropriate, distracting, even unprofessional.” It’s sad that we as the black
the community must still defend our natural crowns to broader society and even our own people.
The side eyes, microaggressions, and subtle or not so subtle suggestions to straighten our hair are irritating at best and insulting at worst. No one has the right to promote their standards of beauty as the norm when that norm isn’t the same for everyone. Our natural hair is beautiful with all the Kinks, curls, coils, thickness and volume and should be embraced as such.
Hair is seen as a crucial attribute of physical beauty. It can dictate how others treat you and can also directly impact how you feel about yourself. According to many, straight hair is beautiful and appropriate for a professional setting while afro-textured hair is inappropriate and distracting. This mindset stems from racial discrimination. However, thankfully over the years in the United States and abroad as the natural hair movement is gaining tremendous popularity the opportunity for people to wear their natural hair and be accepted in the workplace is growing.
Discrimination in the workplace
It’s sad that we as people of color have the added pressure of sometimes having to alter our appearance and hair to fit in the western standards of professionalism, not to mention the normal competition of the job search. Some employers have gone to the extent of including “appropriate hairstyles” in their employee handbooks.
In general, natural kinky hair is majorly discouraged while straight hair and weaves are highly encouraged as the appropriate hair. Since physical appearance is not fully protected by federal law, an employer can terminate an employee if they feel the employees’ hairstyle is inappropriate for the work setting. There have been several cases of this including the 1981 Renee Rogers case as the most notable. She was fired for wearing a braided; cornrow style while on the job.
Pros and cons wearing your natural hair to work
Pros of wearing your hair natural
• To show that you are confident in your natural kinks.
• To encourage others to wear their afro with confidence.
• To campaign against racial discrimination.
• To create awareness that our kinks should not be limited to western standards.
• You have the option to wear your hair in different hairstyles.
Cons of wearing your natural hair
• You may risk losing your job.
• People in your workplace may not treat you as an equal.
• You may have to keep defending your hair to people who don’t care.
• You have the pressure to alter your hair to fit the standards that don’t include you.
The bad news is that young girls in middle schools around the world are still getting suspended for wearing their naturally. Traditionally, many popular celebrities and other famous black women and men have been judged due to their hair texture and it affects their employability.
However, the good news is the natural hair movement has gained a lot of momentum and the representation of non-mainstream standards of beauty are being normalized. We need to continue the pursuit of this relentlessly and there is still a long way to go.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.