Black women should not be penalized by employers for their natural hair

Whether Black women should want to wear their hair natural or straightened should be our choice

It’s that time of year again. Not only are we all stressed about school and our upcoming midterms, but also acquiring an internship for the summer.

The easiest part is always filling out the questionnaires and uploading your resume and cover letter. The worst part and the most anxiety inducing… the interview.

No one really likes interviews. You’re always a nervous wreck right before, and then after you always think of an AMAZING idea that you could have said while they were asking questions. It sucks. But, it also sucks to have to worry about whether your appearance will affect how the employer sees you, something that constantly plagues the minds of Black women with natural hair.

Since the beginning of 2015, the natural hair movement has surged. The natural hair revolution has proved to have a lasting impact, with relaxer sales decreasing year-by-year. As a natural myself, it feels liberating to be able to wear my own hair and just be my complete self; however, after having a conversation with a friend of mine a few days ago, it reminded me that not everyone, especially employers favor natural hair.

My friend told me a conversation between her sister and a friend of hers where she wanted to get braids, but she had a job interview coming up so she was not sure if it would be appropriate. I felt very mixed emotions about this. I am all for the natural movement, and I do not think we as Black women should have to change ourselves to appease other people. But at the same time, I understood why my friend’s associate was given pause about braiding her hair before the job interview.

Natural hair is usually viewed as being very unprofessional in the workplace. Think about it, when’s the last time you have seen a Black female news anchor with a big afro or some long dreads? I mean, during her time on MSNBC, Tamron Hall tried to go natural … and we all know how that worked out.

Why is it that the hair that grows out my head is seen as unprofessional?

Unfortunately, work culture is White culture, therefore Whiteness is normalized in the workplace. Because of this, natural hair does not have a place in the corporate world. In other words, Black women are basically punished when they do not adhere to the White standards of the workplace so that “everyone” is comfortable.

Some progress has been made however. Just a few weeks ago, new army regulations finally gave the OKAY for female soldiers to have dreadlocks. But look at how long that took.

Hopefully acceptance will transcend to the professional realm … but maybe it won’t. It is healthier for Black women to have natural hair. Relaxers and blowouts can be very damaging, resulting in breakage and maybe even baldness. Whether Black women should want to wear their hair natural or straightened should be our choice, and not up to what our employer sees fit.