It upsets me that people don’t understand how much hair is a part of our identity. Growing up I knew that we had to get our hair permed or hot combed to get it as straight as possible to match the beauty standard. Apparently, with our hair straightened it was manageable and neat. Over time we kept finding ways to hide our natural hair. As with many other issues we face, the media plays a huge factor in the way we view our hair. The media basically told us to change a part of our identity. It contributed to us adding the extensions and putting in chemicals to achieve the standard. While I enjoy the versatility that we are afforded with the weaves, extensions, and hair products, I recognize it comes at a cost as it contributes to the greater issue. I can recount stories of people demonizing and discriminating against my natural black hair, but time is limited. Instead, I’ll share the most recent events that brought about this moment of rant and reflection. The microaggressions I’ve faced in my workplace. Microaggressions are defined as statements, actions, or incidents regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.
I didn’t always feel comfortable or confident wearing my natural hair. If my hair wasn’t ‘done’ I would stay in the house. I wouldn’t dare go outside with my natural hair. My hair became a prison for me, enslaving me to the house until it was transformed into that commercial look. I needed the extensions and the relaxer to feel beautiful and in some ways worthy to myself and others. It was an exhaustive way of thinking, especially as a child in grade school. Imagine having to hold this type of hair weight on your shoulders along with all the other societal pressures and expectations you experience growing up as a kid. I cried over my hair a lot and stressed so much about it that it began falling out.
Over time I started learning different methods such as tying a head wrap to still go about daily living when my hair wasn’t together. However, that still was not enough. I didn’t want to mask my hair as if it were a flaw. I felt like there was a hidden part of me, that needed to be shown. I wanted to be able to show up fully as my whole authentic self. After all, how could I even expect someone to love all of me if I wasn’t the embodiment of it first? I started learning about my hair, the texture, the pattern, what it needed to thrive. Eventually, I got to a place that I felt good wearing it outside of the house. I love the feeling of air being able to penetrate my scalp. I have even come to miss my natural hair when I wear protective styles for a while. All of that to show that my wearing my natural hair wasn’t an overnight love story, but rather years of unlearning and relearning about the importance of its existence.
So yes, I feel some type of way when wearing my natural hair is met with loaded statements such as, “What happened to your hair?” or “Where’s your hair?” Having to fight the urge to rudely respond to you that it’s on top of my head is not something I signed up for when I applied for employment. Changing my hair is never something worth acknowledging until I choose to wear my natural hair. I shouldn’t have to state the obvious, nevertheless here it goes. Wearing my natural hair doesn’t change who I am as an employee, sister, aunt, niece, friend, cousin, writer, or overall person. With all due respect, you get the hairstyle that I give you. My work ethic should be the focus. Unless my hair is dropping dandruff on legal documents, or releasing an unruly stench around the office, there is absolutely no reason it should be a topic of discussion in the workplace.
There are a million things worth being addressed in a workplace, natural hair is not one of them. Wearing my natural hair does not stop the daily workflow of your organization. If it is on your list, then I can assure you that you are the problem. You should check yourself and figure out ways to combat your prejudice and bigotry thinking without involving a microaggressive comment toward me.
Now, to the other African American women in the office, who choose to become a part of the problem, by conforming to the masses’ way of thinking. You may not love your natural hair, you may even be ashamed of it, but I am deliberately choosing to love and embrace mine. In my doing so, it doesn’t warrant acknowledgment from you. Natural hair is just there to exist, to be in the space it rightfully belongs, which is on top of my head and a part of my body. My kinky curls are there to be on display, along with the rest of my natural beauty. Not hidden, braided, shoved underneath, permed, damaged, and conformed into what it is naturally not just for your satisfaction or approval.
Natural hair is professional. I dare you to tell me something different because I promise next time, and every time moving forward, I will have the time to remind you.
Simply Janeen ❤