"Unkept & Messy?": The Issue of Black Hair in the Workplace
BY: KIKI N.
Reading time: 3 minutes
Everyday when I get ready in the morning for work, I spend fifty percent of my time with my hair. It's a big deal.
I'm the type of chick that wears weaves, wigs, and occasionally braids, but I'd never wore my natural hair out. Why? Because for me, it's hard to maintain it and two, I'm insecure about it.
It's messed up because I know that shouldn't feel this way. I should we able to wear my natural hair without having low self esteem. I feel as though non-Black people do not understand the struggle of a Black woman's hair. Especially those with type 1c and 2c hair.
It's even sucks more because women are not offered jobs because of their natural hair.
I was reading an article titled: "It’s virtually impossible to reach the top of City firms without straight hair." It gave a general underlying meaning of society labeling "Black hair" ugly and unprofessional. Black hair associates with characteristics such as laziness, dirt and even dishonesty, which deems inferiority. Of course, this makes a Black woman want to relax or straighten her hair because she doesn't want to associate herself with those degrading words.
Image is important. If our Black hair is associated with the words "dirty" or "lazy", we don't want to show it. Black women rather go beyond heights to make sure their hair is as conformed to society's standards of what is clean hair.
Think about it, if your hair can determine your influence at work and your future promotions, why wouldn't a Black woman want to get straight hair? And that's the problem that other Black women and I are facing. Something as simple as "hair" is making it hard for women of color to climb the corporate ladder with ‘ethnic hairstyles’. And because of such a negative stigma, Black women are forced to get straight hair.
A woman by the name of Chastity Jones, an African-American, was hired in 2010 as a customer service representative with Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS) in Alabama. In her interview Jones, she had her hair in short, well-maintained locs--a black hairstyle.
After Jones was offered the job, the HR manager asked her if her hair was in dreadlocks. Jones, was then informed that the company could not hire her because of her hair and revoked her job offer. The HR manager stated “locs tend to get messy” while also acknowledging that Jones’ hair, which was styled in locs, was not messy.
This situation was cased, filed, and taken to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. They ruled that because an employer rescinded a job offer to a qualified Black woman solely because she wore her hair in dreadlocks (“locs”) does not violate federal civil rights law, according to a petition filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether denying a Black woman a job because she had dreadlocks is a form of unlawful race bias.
When we talk messy, what are we talking about? Is it the texture of Black hair? Is the hair that naturally grows out of our heads inherently "messy"?
I hope that this case sees the Supreme Court and I hope it helps to define the meaning of neat hair.
Kiki N. works in government. She has a bachelors degree in Sociology. She is interested in the Black women narrative and experience.
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