By Jordyn Mobley and Zoë Edwards, VOX Media Cafe Reporters
If you put yourself in a black person’s shoes, you will understand some of the adversity that we face everyday. At some point, you get used to it. You realize that this is the way it is and it may never change. But there is a certain point where we have to draw the line. People shouldn’t be able to harass us because of what we choose to do with our hair. Especially since the way our hair is made is something we can’t change. Personally, my hair expresses who I am and how I feel. I’m sure that all humans can say that their hair is a part of how they choose to present themselves.
Companies have taken the harassment as far as firing or refusing to give jobs to African Americans because our hair is “unprofessional.” In a 2016 article published in The Atlantic, a woman named Chastity Jones went into a job interview and ended up getting the job. The only complication was her hair. If she wanted the job, she would have to cut her dreads. Farah Artis, an entrepreneur and baker who owns Truejoy Bakery in Decatur, GA, told VOX that she had also experienced this type of discrimination in her work environment. “I had a boss who basically told me and a couple of other [African American] ladies on our team that wearing our hair naturally or nappy was unprofessional and that it caused a distraction.” Artis’ boss said their natural hair would keep them from getting promotions. While natural hair in the workplace is a problem, natural hair in certain schools are a problem as well.
The Department of Education is supposed to prohibit discrimination in the school environment. They have failed to do so because in certain schools black girls and boys have been threatened with suspension because of their hair. According to the Washington Post, twins Mya and Deanna Cook were threatened with suspension and being banned from extracurricular activities because their hair was “disturbing the work environment”. Discrimination in the school environment can discourage students from wearing their natural hair. Kids are always worried about getting in trouble or what peers might say. Middle school teacher Gwendolyn Henry, works at Northbrook Middle School in Gwinnett County, told VOX that she had actually encouraged one of her students to wear her natural hair. “I’ve had a parent come up to me and tell me that her daughter, who I taught 4 years ago, would come home and tell her mom about my hairstyles. ‘Mommy today Ms. Henry had her hair like that’, and I was like what are you talking about?” The parent explained that Ms. Henry had put pride in her daughter to wear her hair natural. “When I learned that,” said Henry, “I decided I would never get a perm again.”
Corporate America and school systems expect black women and girls to keep their hair straightened and black men should keep their hair short and clean cut. I understand that some natural hair can look wild, but just like other races, there are ways to make our natural hair and locks look neat and professional. Straightening our hair too much could cause heat damage. We have ways that we protect our hair. Wearing it natural is one of the many ways that we protect our hair. Getting it braided or rocking dreads are yet another way that we can protect our hair.
Here is my message to companies and schools who choose to enforce this foolish rule — if a black woman does not want to straighten her hair, do not force her to. If a black man wants to grow is hair out and have dreads, do not force him to cut his hair. We have the right to express ourselves whichever way we choose.