Thanks to the inception of Ms. Jessie's products, we have seen an explosion of natural hair bloggers, vloggers, conferences and websites that have peddled the notion that we are beautiful just as we are. Definitely a message I yearned to hear as I embarked on a journey of cold-turkeying from a 20-year-plus creamy crack addiction, an addiction that was brought on from feeling ashamed of what my natural looked like.
These messages not only empowered many of us to realize that we are enough, but more importantly, that our hair should never define our self-worth, our inner beauty or what we are capable of. Too bad some white folks at the office haven’t read that same memo.
During this same period of the natural revolution, we’ve also been bombarded with numerous think pieces and reports about how Black women are being penalized in the workplace, not for their performance or lack of experience, but for her natural hair.
Over the years, we have seen numerous news and anecdotal stories of Black women being sent home for wearing buns, the military banning cornrows, sistas' believing they didn’t get hired or promoted because of their hair and even Black female employees being told by HR and bosses that their hair “looks unkempt” and “dirty.” And sadly, even Black folks, especially those in positions of power, buy into this nonsense. Last fall, a Black female newscaster went under fire when she told an intern, who had a full crown of thick curls, that she if she wanted to make it, she needed to “straighten” her hair.
Sometimes your skin folk ain’t your kin folk.
Thankfully, right on time, we have the new campaign #NaturalIsProfessional to help counter this disempowering narrative.
A collaboration of Professionals With Natural Kinks & Curls and Happy Hair Boutique, this multifaceted-campaign includes Black women with different skin tones, complexions and hair textures as doctors, teachers, construction worker and film directors. Each image boasts an empowering tagline, such as “Guess what, my hair is perfect in every frame,” and “I rock my natural hair and my steel boots well.”
And it's gaining traction on Twitter, with sistas around the country proudly posting up their pics of their locs, Afros and twists at their work desks, in the boardroom and beyond.
(Photo: Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Corbis)
We can appreciate the effort of this campaign as they further push the notion that natural hair has nothing to do with professionalism or productivity, and additionally, the empowering truth that you don't need a weave to be beautiful, either. A narrative that we all know is persistent in pop culture.
And while I find so much power from this campaign, it also makes me upset. Upset that, in 2016, we even need it.
Isn’t it bad enough that we have to be ten times better than our white male (and female) counterparts only to make 64 cents to the dollar for doing the same job a white man does, but now we also have to have our Afros and twists used against us?
It’s incredibly infuriating because, for many of us, this journey for self-acceptance has been as long, if not longer, than it took for us to complete our education, get work experience and start to climb the ladder of success. And all that hard work is being threatened because the white gaze can’t handle some kinks in our kitchens and that we don't look like Becky and 'dem.
And no, the issue isn’t new, rare or even relegated to the workplace. Our hair has stopped us from getting into clubs, got us teased at school or made us the butt of jokes in ignorant and silly memes or by our own family members. But there is something especially dangerous when superficial bias also helps stand in the way of Black women providing for themselves and their families. Not to mention what this does to our mental health.
Yes, I know that I do not have to super conform to white standards of beauty in order to be successful, beautiful or professional. But I’m just exhausted at the lengths we still have to take to prove how we are just like them. I'm exhausted while watching white women co-opt our hairstyles and our culture and receive praise and credit, meanwhile Blacks are called “ghetto” and dismissed for creating these trends. Finally, I'm exhausted that while we slay at everything we do, it’s not our accomplishments and talent that define us, but our damn hair.
Sadly, all of this may be beyond our control. It’s not our hearts and minds that need reforming. In the meantime, all we can do is continue being our #BlackGirlMagic selves and killing the game. Because trust, one of these days, these same folks who stood in our way will bow down and finally get in formation.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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