Your natural hair has absolutely nothing to do with your fitness for a particular position at work, but you’d be hard-pressed to prove that based on the reactions that a lot of corporations have to black hair.
The natural hair movement has encouraged women of color to love their hair just the way that it grows — without resorting to chemical straighteners, heat and other arduous methods of making black hair more Caucasian-friendly. The new way of handling black hair can best be summed up with the words, “Let it grow and let it show!”
Unfortunately, grooming standards in corporate America generally seem slanted against natural black hair. Black women frequently end up spending outrageous amounts of money on beauty salon treatments, extensions and other hair care products just to meet the Eurocentric notions about what “professional-looking hair” should be.
If you really want to see a middle manager in a predominantly white business have a panic attack, it might take nothing more than a black employee putting his or her hair into dreadlocks or braids.
One of the best ways you can combat the sort of discrimination you experience over natural black hair is to simply draw attention to it.
For example, imagine you stop straightening your hair and decide to let your kinky, curly locks show instead. When a co-worker or manager makes what is supposed to be a funny comment about you looking like you’ve “stuck your finger in a light socket,” turn around and pretend you don’t know what he or she is talking about. Ask, “What do you mean?”
This is a non-confrontational way of turning the conversation around and obliging the speaker to examine what he or she is really saying. You shouldn’t have to defend your hair — so don’t do it.
Racial discrimination in the workplace is a real problem that needs to be addressed. If you’ve been victimized due to your race, you may have a right to compensation.