Natural Hair and Professionalism

Is natural hair professional? This is a question I’ve seen a lot online. I myself am on the fence about whether or not it is professional. Its more like I’m on the fence about whether or not particular natural styles are professional. Anybody that opposes someone in the workplace because of their choice to not put chemicals in their hair is discriminatory. But when you consider whether or not it is acceptable to where a “wild” afro, that makes things a little trickier. People have their opinions on both sides of this issue.

As I’ve stated many times before, I went natural during my senior year of college, which means I was still very new the the natural hair lifestyle when I was jumping out into the world, going on my first round of interviews, in search of a teaching position. The summer I graduated from college I went on 5 different interviews throughout the state. I straightened my hair for each and got no offers. I accepted a substitute teaching job in my hometown, and during that time went on another interview. For this interview I did not straighten my hair, but instead decided to wear it in a puff. I thought this was a happy medium. I put on a headband to hold down my edges and intended to take it off at the last minute, but I forgot and went into my interview with the elastic band around my head. Once I realized it  I was mortified, but thought surely if I was a good candidate the administrator wouldn’t be so vain as to turn me down because of an accessory. I did not receive a call back from that school. The next summer, one year after I graduated, I was feeling pretty down about myself because I still did not have a full time teaching position. One day I got a call from a principal at a school that I had not initiated any application process and asked if I wanted an interview. It was a little further from home than I wanted but I was desperate so I accepted. The first interview was over the phone, so no pressure there. They liked me so I had to do a interview in person. So the I faced the big dilemma once more, to straighten, or not to straighten. I decided not the straighten my hair. I washed my hair that morning so my curls would be moisturized and defined. I pushed the front of my hair back with a few pins. The interview went well, and the principal called and offered me a position an hour after the interview. I still wonder if it was my choice of hair style that prevented me from getting jobs before. Did I not get the jobs when my hair was straightened because I subconsciously wasn’t being true to myself? Did my accessory malfunction cost a position? Did my afro make me stand out in my final interview? I guess I will never knew the truth, but it caused me to never second guess myself and conform to what others think I should do as far as my hair and principles go. I decide what it acceptable for me, no one else.

I saw a post on Facebook, about a news broadcaster, that was told that as an anchor she couldn’t wear her afro, because it was distracting. Was this point valid? Or was it discrimination? Is it discrimination for some branches of the military to not allow women to wear braids, even though they are specific on men’s hairstyles as well? I do believe there is line between discrimination and appropriateness in different settings. I would not style my hair the same for an interview, just as I wouldn’t wear the same jewelry or attire as would in my everyday casual work dress. In some situations like in corporate business, what people wear is scrutinized constantly. So this wouldn’t be different as it pertains to natural hair. I guess people will have to do what I did. Test the waters, and see what you are comfortable with compromising.  If it is against your principle to conform to “the man” then do you. But if you want to take the easy way, I think the best option is to know your situation and what the norm is and play the cards your dealt with. Natural Hair is becoming way more mainstream, maybe within a few more years this won’t even be a conversation, it will just be the accepted norm.

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