Image by: Quianna Taylor
People of color, particularly Black people, both female and male, were not conditioned to love our hair or its texture, and we’re faced with hair texture discrimination. A study conducted by The Perception Institute entitled The Good Hair Study suggests that “a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias toward women of color based on their hair.”
We live in a society that, up until recently, widened its stereotypical scope of beauty. A scope, once shamed natural hair, in many unjustified cases labeling it, “unkempt” and “unacceptable.” How one wears her hair is, at times, more than simply a personal choice. How Black people wear their hair can have social and political implications that impact their life. Beauty standards have deemed Black women’s natural features as unattractive and unprofessional, especially their textured, curly to kinky hair.
Case in Point
Giuliana Rancic, an Italian-American entertainment reporter and television personality on the E! Television series Fashion Police, made racist comments about actress Zendaya’s locs, who is half African-American, saying her hair smells like oil and weed. On the other hand, Giuliana said Kylie Jenner of Kardashian fame, who at one time wore locs, looked cool and trendy. Hence, this is where the problem lies.
For many years, Black women were under so much pressure regarding their hair. During summer vacations, they would wear cornrows, braids, or twists to protect their hair, but when it was time to be considered for a new job, those styles had to be removed. Their hair had to exemplify the false notion of “professional-looking hair.”
Women have lost their jobs or been denied jobs due to wearing natural hair. This is unfair and disrespectful to the African-American culture. Black hair has always been essential to Black history. In the slavery era, black hair was dehumanizing and considered unattractive compared to caucasian hair. Slaves with straighter hair that resembled their masters were treated differently. Having straight hair was a symbol of prosperity.
Today, women should have the freedom to wear their beautiful afro-textured hair without judgment. Corporate America, as well, doesn’t see natural hair as beautiful, professional, or presentable. So, I say, as a Black woman, it’s up to us to stand up and embrace our roots.
The Crown Act
The Crown Act (Create A Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), is a law that prohibits discrimination against Afro-textured and protective hairstyles such as braids, twists, locs, and knots in the workplace and educational institutions. The Crown Act was created by Dove and Crown Coalition in 2019. The Crown Act is in effect in New York, California, and Montgomery County, Maryland. Should we be afraid to wear our natural hair in corporate America, including mass media corporations? The answer is “NO”! We shouldn’t be afraid to exploit our natural hair.
Women Share Their Hair Stories
Ronisha Moody, 24, a former student at the University of the District of Columbia and currently employed as a Program Assistant at the DC’s Department of Employment Services, has been natural for the past five years. “Having natural hair is a daily reminder that society is conditioned to hate curls, but our curls are crowns. I wear my hair with pride. “I must say being natural is not for the faint of heart. There have been many times I felt looked over due to my appearance. For example, in group interviews, I find the interviewer giving more attention to the straight-haired, fairer skin-toned candidates than myself, even given that our experiences were extremely similar. I now battle whether I should wear wigs/weaves to the interview or be my natural self.”
Brittany Noble Jones, a thirty-two-year-old former news anchor at WJTV, a local station in Jackson, Mississippi was fired after filing complaints about discrimination in the workplace. Jones was told her natural hair was ‘unprofessional.’ After giving birth to her son, Noble Jones wanted to stop straightening her hair and wearing weaves to go natural.
One month later, her director told her to go back to how she previously was wearing her hair. She was told that her natural hair was unprofessional and equated her wearing her hair natural to him wearing a baseball cap to the grocery store. He said Mississippi viewers needed to see a beauty queen. In the past, African-American women straightened their hair and used relaxers to connect with the European style of beauty in favor of their own texture. Wearing straight is not the definition of beauty.
“I feel like we tend to go for the silky straight look because that’s what society deems as beautiful when in reality kinky curls and Afros are just as beautiful, said Sharone Small, 30, a government employee.
Embracing Natural Hair
Black women are now embracing their hair culture and eliminating the European style of beauty. Our natural hair is strong and beautiful. We can wear hairstyles of our choice. Women are proudly running to salons getting cornrows, braids, dreadlocks, and twists to honorably embrace their culture. It represents strength and power. It eliminates the false notion of “Good Hair.”
People are still struggling to try to define “good hair”. Nappy hair appears to be the bad hair, what a myth. Nowadays good hair is considered strong, thick, and beautiful. Nappy shouldn’t even be in our vocabulary. Black and white alike still look at good or presentable hair as being soft, silky, wavy, and definitely not Nappy or course.
I’ve been natural for almost two years. I decided to go natural because I wanted to learn to love the texture of my hair. My hair was always long and super thick. However, I never knew what real texture of my hair felt or looked like because as long as I could remember, I would always get my hair relaxed,” said Small.
Many college students have benefited from their natural hair. Mikayla Clements, 19, a sophomore at Lincoln University, says it’s easier to manage while taking a full load of classes. “Having track practice at 7 am, I don’t have time nor the energy to style my hair every morning.”
“I think it’s amazing to see Black women wearing hairstyles that connect to their roots,” said Ronald Taylor.
Natural hair as a fashion trend
Natural hair is being more and more embraced by Black people and has also become a fashion trend. People are admiring the different types of natural looks. Commercials of different brands are hiring actresses to wear their natural hair. We see natural hair worn in fashion shows, step shows, and on beauty products. These days, the natural hair care industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Women have stepped up across the United States to raise awareness of the beauty of natural hair. Many employers have become more receptive to the wearing of natural hair styles in the workplace.
Small added, “I do enjoy seeing the natural hair movement in the media and in the workplace.”
Black people’s hair has been under attack since the beginning of slavery. We have come too far to still be ridiculed for connecting to our roots. We work too hard to achieve our goals for us to be chastised about our hair. Don’t be afraid to embrace your natural hair. Today, we, as Black women, walk with new confidence reminding ourselves daily that a part of embracing and loving our hair is being able to find beauty in every part of it.