I am not my hair
Now if you're a black woman working in a corporate setting, you'll know the varying barriers and stages of adversity you've had to overcome just to get to this position. First off, you're black. Secondly, you're a woman so that's already a double disadvantage in some people's eyes (obviously not ours because erm...#BlackGirlMagic...need I say more?) Once you set foot in most male dominated offices, you're looked at differently and potentially less than. You have to work twice as hard, put forth double the ideas and produce considerably more valuable output than your male counterparts just to be respected and taken seriously. And GOD FORBID you want to take some time off to do something as natural as have a baby.
However, these are the extremes. On a day to day basis, nothing instils more anxiety and annoyance in black working females than going into the office with a new hairstyle. Over the weekend, you may have decided to install a new bone straight or pixie cut wig, switch to a curly leave out or get some braids done. But it's like your colleagues can't get their heads around you switching styles so drastically in such a short space of time, so ask "Wow! Is that your real hair?" or "How did you get your hair to do that?". Some may even go as far as to touch your new do which is my pet peeve- how would you like it if I put my hands through your hair as if I was petting a dog? You wouldn't like it would you?
And this isn't a gender specific problem- men suffer too. Black men in the office need to ensure their beards are cut low or shaved completely, so may have to relinquish their #BeardGang membership to avoid awkward looks and questions in the office. We recently had one of our members tell us they were debating cutting off their dreads as they felt it was hurting their job prospects. Now I'm all for a tidy, well groomed man, but I think to police it to that extent and ask men to change their hair which is a part of their identity, is unnecessary. Especially as your hair doesn’t determine how well you do your job
I think it would be nice for there to be a little bit more awareness and less ignorance in the office because at the end of the day, it's just hair ladies and gents!
Head over to our Twitter and join the debate, #DreadsInLaw
BYPN Diaries is a fortnightly segment focused on the various experiences and encounters that occur on the journey of the black young professional.