SLIDER

11.7.10

"Will my natural hair stop me from getting jobs?"

So yesterday I was watching Eli Stone on television and in this particular episode they had two characters; Mason - a black lawyer who had set up a firm (played by James Avery, Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and Keith - a young black lawyer looking for a job at Masons firm (played by Jason George who was also in Grey's Anatomy). Basically the storyline is that Keith was refused a job at the firm because of his 'unkempt afro' (see right). It got me thinking, "Will employers not employ me because of my afro?"

'Natural hair is not accepted in the professional world', a statement I've heard from many black people from the girl on Chris Rock's 'Good Hair' to my own boyfriend but is it actually true. Are natural haired brother and sisters being refused jobs/promotions because they choose to wear their tresses in it's natural state?

A couple months back I remember coming across an article about Six Flags denying jobs to two dreadlocked women, the company stated that they didn't permit 'any hairstyle that detracts or takes away from Six Flags' theme'. The two were told if they were to change (or conform with) their appearance, that they would be welcomed to work there. This case sparked some media attention but to my knowledge nothing changed about the Six Flags' policy which clearly discriminated against prospective employees with certain hair styles.



But is this just an one-off event? It could be, however writer Luke Visconti says in one article;
There's no doubt in my mind that Black people have been overlooked for promotions because of natural hair or darker skin color. Psychological tests show that people most trust people who look like them. Since white men run most corporations in this country, straightened hair and/or lighter skin is going to be an advantage (disturbing, but let's keep it real).
On the other hand, it can be argued that there are many black professionals out there filling top positions in firms and organisation; black CEOs, lawyers, judges, bankers, teachers, doctors, etc. with natural hair. They get the jobs/promotion not because of there appearance or hair but because they are best for the jobs and this is all possible because of firm employment legislation and civil right policies.

"But if there's none/little biased towards an individual hair, where did this "myth" of straighter hair getting the job/promotion come from?" I mean surely there is no smoke without fire? In discussions and commentary over the web, I hear accounts of the natural hair styles being called "unprofessional" or "not conservative" by managers and I don't believe them to be false. Plus in most workplaces you have to conform to their image whether that be wearing a suit, speaking a certain way or wearing your hair a certain way.

Nevertheless, the majority of the time I hear the comments like "unprofessional", "not conservative", "untidy looking" about natural black hair they're coming a black person lips. Maybe it is not them but collectively us who feel the need to 'fit in' to be professional and therefore relax or weave our hair.

What do you think? Does natural hair restrict you in term of jobs? Is relaxed hair preffered in the corporate world? Other thoughts...?One a final note, I would like to say a company that does not accept your hair, does not accept you. The trade off been between your natural hair and your job is big, because believe me what's on your head is not just hair! Do not give into the pressure of the world, be you always.

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