Have you ever felt compelled to wear a weave, use a hot comb to press your hair, use chemical relaxers, shave your beard or cut your twists/locs to conform to European standards of straight hair and a so-called “clean” look? For years, Black hair has always been a topic of discussion. Oftentimes, I ask myself why? Why do we have to conform? Why are people uncomfortable? Why do people feel entitled to touch it? This is the hair we were born with, right?
Black women and men have been subjected to implicit and explicit biases such as hair restrictions and discrimination. According to an article posted by Delaware online, a state worker stated that he felt pressured to cut locs in order to progress in his career. Some of us have been rejected from jobs, not offered promotions, and denied opportunities simply due to the style and texture of our natural hair.
According to the "Good Hair" Study:
Black women experience high anxiety related to haircare
Black women spend more money on their hair than white women
Black women spend more time on their hair than white women
1 in 5 Black women feel obligated to straighten their hair for work
Preparing for job interviews can be a stressful process. Adding on the additional stress of how to style your natural tresses is the last thing one should have to worry about. But we do and we push through. For countless years, I wouldn’t allow myself to wear braids to a job interview for fear that I would not get hired for the job I knew I was qualified (sometimes overqualified) to do. Then when I got the job, I would keep my hair straight for all executive meetings or anytime I had to present in front of an audience.
Whether your hair is silky straight, kinky, curly, afro puff, twists, braids, locs it shouldn’t matter. As long as you are qualified and have the credentials to do the job you are hired to do, your hair should not be a concern, right?
In an attempt to end hair discrimination, Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act was created in 2019. The goal is to ensure protection against race-based hair discrimination. The CROWN Act is law in eight states: California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, Maryland, and Connecticut. When I first heard of the CROWN Act, I’ll be honest, I thought it was ridiculous. My first thought was, why do we need a law to allow the freedom to wear our hair the way we want? But it’s necessary and needed to combat hair discrimination.
We have a long way to go but the CROWN Act is a step in the right direction. Our hair should never be the cause of embarrassment or anxiety. We should be proud of our hair because it is powerful; we are powerful. As many organizations are now trying to address systemic racism in the workplace, now is the time to tighten it up. Embrace your natural hair, be bold and proud.
My original article was published in Black in HR magazine, Spring 2021.