Every time I write about natural hair in corporate workplaces, I feel a pang of concern at the irony. I’ve never worked in a corporate office. I don’t know what that life is. In my days of working for someone else, I worked in a casual environment; the kind where jeans, T-shirts, sneakers to work and bottles of rum stashed in the bottom drawer of your desk were entirely acceptable. Even though I’ve never had the capacity or opportunity to work in a buttoned up, corporate environment, I do have strong feelings about natural hair in the workplace. Here’s how I feel about it.
It makes me furious that this discussion is still happening in this day and age. It makes me sad and tired inside; every time there’s a news story about natural hair not being embraced and accepted as being just as beautiful as straight hair, every time I hear about natural hair being described as “unprofessional” by someone who should but doesn’t know better, every time there’s a story about a kid at school who has their natural hair texture called into question. It all makes me so tired and sad and angry. And it keeps happening.
Here’s what I know, and what I want you to know.
I know that there are many, many highly sought after professionals in the corporate world who go to work every day rocking their natural hair and their natural texture. They are naturally professional, point blank period.
I know that your performance should matter more than your appearance, and if you’re being made to feel less-than at work based on how your hair naturally grows out of your head, then the powers that be in that office environment are wrong and need to ask themselves some tough questions.
I know that your natural hair is beautiful, cared for, neat, well groomed, and a representation of who you are. As long as your hair doesn’t hinder your safety or your performance, it really should not be an issue in this day and age.
I know that there is still a lot of ignorance out there, and jobs don’t grow on trees. It’s easy for me to talk – I work from home as a natural hair and beauty blogger! But for someone who truly has to be in the trenches and play that professional game, there can be outside forces and antiquated attitudes. I get it. Sometimes you do have to do what you have to do. Having said that, I will say this – if you’re in the kind of work environment where your natural appearance is being judged and called into question, or you’re being made to feel like your look is more carefully considered and critiqued than your performance, is that the kind of workplace that deserves your efforts and your loyalty? How much of that are you willing and able to put up with, when you know you deserve better?
Tough question, sure. But that’s one worth asking.
Afrobella was the natural hair blogger at AOL’s Black Voices and a writer for Vogue Italia’s Vogue Black website. She has also presented keynotes at several major media expos and seminars.