Despite a growing awareness of the prejudices behind seeing natural hair and natural hairstyles as inherently unkempt and unprofessional, there is still a widely held belief that in order to be successful in the corporate world, one must have hair that presents as straight. There seems to be this idea that your hair must be kept in certain styles that are not explicitly African or Urban to be deemed appropriately dressed for the office.
The growing popularity of natural hair in everyday life and in the media is helping to change the narrative surrounding natural hair in the workplace, but in the meantime how does a naturalista or naturalisto deal with navigating natural hair in the workplace. Here are some professionals that either have dealt with, witnessed or are currently dealing with workplace discrimination because of the natural texture of their hair.
Meteorologist Rhonda Lee was fired from her job at ABC affiliate KTBS 3 news in Shreveport, Louisiana which she had been at for a year. It was not for anything she said on-air or in the newsroom. It was for responding to viewer comments online regarding her hair, comments such as these from a viewer identified as Emmit Vascocu, written on the stations Facebook Page.
Angela Green weeknight anchor at WNCT in Greenville, N.C posted a video in Sept. 2015 to her Facebook account on the topic of natural hair, asking whether or not natural hair should be straightened for the work place to please superiors or should it stay as is.
The video has since gone viral, with nearly 1 million views, and has sparked a passionate debate amongst Facebook users. In the video, she introduced 19-yr old Madison, a broadcasting intern at her station. Green asked Madison what she was told about her hair, and Madison replied, “ Too big and I needed to straighten it. Straighten it out. It would be distracting.”
Video journalist Makda Ghebreslassie of CBC news Toronto recently reported on a Toronto woman who quit her job at clothing giant Zara after she said her managers told her to alter her braided hair. Cree Ballah a 20 year old woman who identifies as bi racial, says she quit weeks after her managers at the Scarborough Town Center Store took her outside the shop and forced her to take out her box braids. Ballah said the managers told her that the hairstyle did not fit the “ clean professional look” Zara was striving for.
Nevertheless, what is so unnatural, unclean, unprofessional, dreadful, or inappropriate about wearing hair in the natural texture in which it grown out of your scalp? Banning natural hair or denying someone work because of natural or ethnic hairstyles such as afros, dreadlocks or other natural styles could be considered a form of discrimination. These types of hairstyles highlight the natural texture of hair in a large group of people, namely African Americans
People who wear their natural hair texture agree that if their hair is neat and not distracting, it should not be a problem, and that choosing to wear natural hair does not affect their work skills or ethic.