The toil for acceptable hair in the work place has been going on for more than a century, said Maurice Wiggins, a 23-year-old accounting senior from Jacksonville.
“It’s time for a change and it needs to start right here in the (historically black colleges and universities). Yeah, my hair is low, but if I had locks or twists, I would still be the grade ‘A’ college student that I am.” said Ciara Henry, a 20-year-old sophomore business administration student from Hallandale.
“The thought of our ancestors having to pretend to be someone they’re not just to have a job to support themselves is straight discrimination. They shouldn’t have to be fake in order to make others happy,” she said.
Henry also said that searching for a job while wearing hair that shows your ethnicity will take blacks everywhere they want to be.
Do black men who choose to wear natural-hair in the work place receive the same treatment as black women?
“Females have it the worst. The perceptions of the female’s standards are to be nicely dressed and well groomed. So when they have natural hairstyles that relate to their culture – dreads and twists – they are almost looked at as a disgrace,” said Jermaine Goodman, a 22-year-old senior construction engineering technology student from Lakeland.
Though some may think that women have it the hardest, some students believe that it is in the way you carry yourself.
“As long as you wear your natural hairstyle in a dignified manner, the treatment should be the same. You’re hair doesn’t affect your abilities and what you’re able to do,” said Amanda Williams, a 19-year-old freshmen secondary education student from New Jersey.
For some students who wear natural styles, they feel that their hair represents who they are.
“Wearing dreads on my head is a part of who I am and I’m not changing because I wouldn’t be true to myself,” Henry said.
Styles such as dreadlocks, twistees, microbraids and Afros are popping up more and more in the workplace as younger generations of black men and women embrace their natural hair.
“Black people are beginning to exercise our freedom,” Henry said.
Some disagree that a specific hairstyle defines a person’s character or performance at the work place.
“I am not my hair,” said Murell Dawson, curator of the Southern Region of Black Archives and professor of history. “You can’t judge a person’s performance by their hair.
In the past, African-Americans fought to wear of their own ethnicity, from (small Afros) to slick jerry curls.”
Surprisingly, hair is one way many races of people are discriminated against, Dawson said. “Throughout discrimination, we have integrity. Once African-Americans saw the older generations with locks and ethnic hair styles in the workplace, it gave us the stamp of approval.”
Dawson has had several hairstyles of which most were of African descent.
“In order to build confidence and alliance with my students, I had to share my culture by wearing a variety of hairstyles. Students need to not only hear about diversity and being proud of their heritage, they need to actually see it. What we do is powerful,” Dawson said.
Wearing natural hair is one of those delicate workplace issues that many corporations deal with on a day-to-day basis.
With all the commotion going on in workplaces around the nation, Hair News magazine said it won’t be hard to find a black man or woman without locked, braided or twisted hair in the years to come.
In various work environments, it’s safe to say that blacks try hard to distinguish their personal culture among what is said to be appropriate in the corporate world.
“Wearing your identity on your head should be the least of the white man’s concerns when African-Americans are slowly taking over their business,” Goodman said.
Contact Joshua King at firstname.lastname@example.org