When I was a little girl my mother used to give me different hairstyles. I would always dread going into her room where I knew she’d be sitting in a chair with a comb, hair gel, barrettes, those despicable beads and other hair accessories that would compliment the braid job she was about to do on my tender head. But when I got older I stopped wearing those child like accessories and move towards hairstyles that fit my age. The flat iron and relaxer became my best friend, my crutch essentially. If I had neither I became very insecure and didn’t want to show my natural hair because I was embarrassed and thought that people would make fun of me. Sophomore year of high school I finally decided to go natural and try protective hairstyles after my mom convinced me to stop putting chemicals in my hair.
After going natural I noticed how healthy my hair became and that there was this natural movement, a beautiful one, occurring around me. Natural hair has given many women, and myself, so much confidence. It’s an expression, our mantra, our culture, who we are. But what if this part of us was deemed unprofessional? That our natural hair and how we were created by God was not appropriate? This happened to a young woman who works with my father.
Some time ago there was a Google search done on unprofessional hairstyles. The “unprofessional” pictures were mostly of black women who wore their hair natural to work. On the other hand, the photos that were described as being professional were of white women with straight hair and different bun styles. The young woman who works with my father was shocked to see that a photo of her was posted as an example of an “unprofessional” hairstyle. (see photo below, circled in red)
I am not sure how she felt in the moment of seeing her photo on the Google search, but I can guess that she was hurt, angry and confused as to why her hair is not appropriate. That’s how I felt for her. It hurt me seeing that the representation of who she is, as well as these other women and their hairstyles, was described as being unprofessional. I don’t understand why. But one thing that I do understand from this comparison is that being white is professional, the standard and what will give you success. This observation is not one that was made out of hate, but more so out of truth and facts. People who have seen this picture may or may not have understood the implications behind this message because it was not blatantly spoken about. But I want to remind you that a picture says a thousand words.
Instances like these are training our minds to think that we must change who we are in order to fit in. Little girls of color are being fed this message and are wanting to straighten their hair or lighten their skin without even being conscious or aware of it because it’s all they see. The media promotes it and it brainwashes their minds. Beauty is associated with lighter skin, straight and blonde-like hair. We are not allowing a variety of diversity to be shown in the media. We are not showing that dark skin and short kinky hair are beautiful. How many women of color in movies do you see playing a role where their features, such as hair and skin, are made to look messy or to be associated with a stereotype like being beaten down, a slave, uneducated, poor and struggling, and last but not least, unprofessional.
Our features have become commodities to be sold, that are then twisted to become a false misrepresentation and image, and sold back to us to wear on our backs. But when the weight becomes to hard to carry we cannot sell it off because now there is no value. It has been stripped and tarnished of its value. It’s just there and no one wants to deal with it because it’s too hard to manage and too much of an upkeep. Just like how a black women is viewed.
I don’t want the representation of black women to be like this because it’s false. I don’t want young girls growing up thinking that they are not beautiful because of the color of their skin or what their hair looks like. I don’t want my future daughter or son to be afraid to go into the workplace because they believe they aren’t qualified due to their appearance, clothes or hair. I want them to know that their skin and hair is beautiful and that those qualities about them should not be correlated with their jobs and how they perform their duties, but to use them to be confident in how they carry themselves. Natural hair is excellent. Natural hair is powerful. Maybe it’s not the hair that is unprofessional, but instead it’s the workplace that is. Let’s take notes on that.
This post is part of HuffPost’s My NaturalHair Journey blog series. Embracing one’snatural hair ― especially after years of heavily styling it ― can be a truly liberating and exciting experience. It’s more than just a “trend.” It’s a way of life! If you have a story you’d like to share, please email us at MyNatu