When I decided to go natural, I didn’t like the term “Natural Hair Movement.” To me “movement” was just another way of calling it a fad (another word that I detest) when describing black women saying no to creamy crack (relaxers and perms). Now that I’m over a year into my journey and have met countless women on the same journey as myself, I see that it is indeed a movement. Black women are embracing their heritage and are proud of the hair they were born with. Black women are tired of wasting countless hours and paying ridiculous amounts of money to have their hair relaxed, cut and curled at the beauty salons across America. Black women are finally realizing the damage they’ve been doing to their hair and scalp for years by using harsh chemicals or heat to straighten their hair. They have decided to reclaim and redefine what beauty is, and in essence, showing the world that there is beauty in our natural kinky hair. That to me is the Natural Hair Movement. How this translates into your place of employment is a completely different story. Some places are more accepting than others of African American women wearing their hair in it’s natural, kinky, coily state. I often find myself pondering how I would have been received if I was still working for a law firm or any of the other very corporate places that I’ve worked in the past had I made the decision back then to go natural?
I’ve heard personal stories from friends and family who faced harsh scrutiny, ridicule, and flat out discrimination because of wearing their hair it’s natural state. Actresses, local TV personalities, upper management to entry level women have all faced problems wearing their natural hair in the work place. Unfortunately the fear of facing such horrible treatment, or worse, termination, is what keeps many from ditching the chemicals in favor of their natural tresses.
It angers and saddens me that hair neatly styled and groomed is considered ugly or unkempt because of long held ignorant and close minded views. Hair in it’s natural, kinky, coily state is somehow unprofessional and a bad representation for a company? Really? How can any place of employment call themselves diverse or “equal opportunity employers” when they put limitations and restrictions on whether or not a person can wear their hair as it naturally grows out of their scalp? Oh wait, I remember now. They want to do business with certain companies and corporations, so allowing their employees to look too “ethnic” is out of the question. (Insert twisted up face here) I wholeheartedly agree that every business has the right to have dress and grooming rules, but where does it end? What if companies enforced rules against people who dye their hair blonde? Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Well, telling someone that they cannot wear their hair neatly in it’s natural state is ridiculous too.
I can’t even imagine being asked by my employer to straighten my hair because they liked it better that way, but unfortunately it’s happening to a lot of black women. More recently in the news, the US military is coming under fire because of it’s strict rules against natural or braided hair. Female members of the armed forces, African American in particular, are being told that they have to wear their hair “straight” or wear a wig. Braids and natural hair of any kind are unacceptable. I would love to meet the people (more than likely white men) who made these rules because they clearly need to be educated on African American hair.
If you’ve noticed, I’ve mentioned neatly groomed hair several times in this post. That is because I believe that all hair, natural or chemically treated, should be neatly groomed. Natural hair still requires grooming, and you can’t just wake up and not do anything to your hair. Those of us that are part of the natural hair community have the responsibility of being diligent with the grooming of our hair. Even if you don’t believe in combing or manipulating your hair every day, grooming of some sort is still necessary. We cannot walk into work looking like rats have been sucking on our hair and expect our employer to be ok with that. Being natural does not mean you have the right to look unkempt at work or any place else for that matter.
I have a Pinterest account, and a board called Braids & Natural Hair. That is where I pin various styles that I would like to try or styles that I find to be unique and beautiful. The styling options for African American hair are endless, and we should be able to wear our hair in well groomed and dignified styles no matter where we work. Maybe, just maybe, corporate America will see that embracing diversity includes accepting various types of ethnic hair too. Our natural hair is nothing to be afraid of and it is indeed beautiful.
Feel free to check out and follow my Braids and Natural Hair board and my other boards on Pinterest: