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April 19 | Cipriani Wall Street | New York City



Ask the White Guy: Do Blacks Need to Relax Their Natural Hair to Get Promoted?

Does corporate America discriminate against Black hair?Question: 

I am a Black woman from continental Africa who chooses to have natural Black hair, not relaxed or chemically altered in any way. I wear my natural hair not as some political statement but because it is the hair that God gave me and intended me to have, just as it was intended for some Caucasians to have blue eyes or blond hair. 

I have heard about women and men of African descent being overlooked for promotions or outright being fired because they choose to wear their natural hair, braids, twists, mini Afros, locs and so forth. I understand that you do not represent all white people nor do you speak for the whole white race, but I wanted to know if whites in general feel disdain for natural Black hair in corporate America, or is it just an overblown issue? 

Also, I have heard that the more “African” you look–dark-skinned, coarse hair (think Wesley Snipes, Whoopi Goldberg)–the more ignored and overlooked you will be in the workplace … and the more light-skinned or “whiter” you appear (think Halle Berry or Beyoncé) you appear, the easier it is to get promotions. Is this really all true? Are there “preferred” Blacks in corporate America? Isn’t diversity supposed to be inclusive of everyone–natural hair, blue eyes, fine hair, etc.? 

Also, why does wearing natural hair, braids, locs, twists or any “Black” hair style that accommodates and is more healthy for our hair structure have to always be perceived as something negative, or worse, “political”? Why does the coarse hair on my head need to relaxed or chemically altered to be “presentable” in the workplace? Please be honest.


There’s no doubt in my mind that Black people have been overlooked for promotions because of natural hair or darker skin color. Psychological tests show that people most trust people who look like them. Since white men run most corporations in this country, straightened hair and/or lighter skin is going to be an advantage (disturbing, but let’s keep it real).

However, allowing a bias like this to go unchecked is detrimental to business, as hair texture has no connection to talent or ability. An inability to manage past immaterial things like this makes a company less competitive.

This is where diversity management returns on investment. Companies that manage past bias and hire, mentor and promote equitably have better talent. They are also better prepared for the future as our country becomes more diverse. Our DiversityInc Top 50 data proves that representation is tied to recruitment and retention.

This isn’t a theory; it’s a reality for companies that earn a spot on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. DiversityInc Top 50 companies have up to twice as much representation of Black, Latino and Asian people in management than the overall management work force in the United States.

Equity equals quality. That means a corporate culture that is so out of touch with reality as to not have good diversity management is not a good place for anyone to work–not just Black people.

If you think your company “isn’t ready for natural hair,” then you should check out our career center right now.

However, please consider this carefully: President Obama won a decisive majority of white people’s votes and diversity was a key factor in determining the 2012 election, so if you think your company really isn’t “ready for that,” it may be that your perception is out of date.

I think America is ready for the Black women (and men, but this is mostly a woman’s issue) in our lives to be more natural with their hair–and I’m looking forward to it.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.



  • A few months ago, I decided to give my hair a rest from all the overprocessing and let it go natural, wore it in neat afro.

    I was, until a few days ago, the only Black person working at a Verizon store in Cheyenne.

    You should have seen the fallout from my first day wearing an afro! I got (mostly good-natured) comments from my coworkers about being “an angry Black woman”, questioned as to whether I was “stickin’ it to the Man” and, “Oh, look, Catt cut her hair!” (That last was from the office racist so I didn’t take it as complimentary…)

    It never occurred to me that letting my hair return to its natural texture and shape would have such an impact on my coworkers. I’d already worn my hair a variety of ways, but nothing had ever elicited the reactions I got by “doing nothing” to it…

    Needless to say, I let my hair rest only two weeks, then relaxed it again. The odd looks, silly comments and the creepy feeling went away, but I still feel I’d betrayed something/someone somewhere. Maybe myself.

    • Cristalexi

      You should have stuck it out. I think after awhile they would have got used to it. Their reactions are very strange indeed. I just don’t understand why people are so against the natural hair. I personally love the natural hair and think it is much nicer and actually compliments the person’s look. I personally think black people look a little “odd” with the fake stuff (I hope I haven’t offended anyone by saying that).

      • noneofyourbusiness

        not nice… a little odd?? so now people cant wear their hair anyway they want to??

        • @ noneofyourbusiness– What Cristalexi said was not “odd” at all….She simply stated “if you break it down” is ‘why do we resort to wearing fake hair instead of our natural hair?’ and quite frankly, I agree! And Im a hairstylist …I wear my natural hair and extensions…I remember one time at school I ask a classmate (white male) that I am going to put my extensions in…I was tired of wearing my fro and wanted a new look…He told me..”Dont wear extensions…why do you want to look like the other “white girls”…its fake. I didnt get offened by it…It showed me how he respected my natural hair…but inside I didnt.

          I’ve gotten many positive reactions to my hair from the Caucasian race even when I lived in Beaumont near Vidor, Texas still known for its racial background.
          I’m in corporate America now…and I love my company because it is DIVERSE…to the point that I started trippin because I saw I guy with Dreadlock’s walking around in his suit. It made me feel comfortable.

          With all that being said (I went off topic a little) your statement was given with not even trying to understand what she meant…In all your getting get an understanding…(thats biblical)..We cant charge people no more.. just ask what they mean.

      • I have naturally curly hair. Not agro curly but fine curly. I have some things going on there that have predominately shown in my hair texture but other wiseI look and identify 100 percent black. Proudly. I have not had the issues you had, instead I get racist jokes about my weave or ignorant questions about where I bought it. I like many women of all races enjoy a nice clip in from time to time but go mostly natural or straightened. I usually give a speech about how it is racist to assume its fake because you think we are all the same (whites come in all shapes and sizes but black, is black) I have even stated that they don’t openly ask a white girl if her hair is fake so why is it okay to ask me???

        I would ask that you rock your fro. If my hair worked thay way I would!!! Who you are is not defined by your hair and it doesn’t determine your power. White people will forever wonder who what when and why but it is because some are ignorant and others really just do not understand, and that is why they ask questions. We know all there is to kbow about them because we paid attention. They only learn when it is in there face, and can’t not help but ask. They will get over your hair however you wear it. Do you!

      • Venola Brooks

        How sad black people mostly women are targeted for perking and changing their hair but whites, Hispanics, Asians and other people changing their hair us okay. It okay for some to dye their hair fuss pink but when a black lady straightens her hair it wrong that crazy. Some do look naturally with straight hair.

    • In Oct of 2013 I decided to give my shedding over processed hair a rest. Chopped it off to the roots. My company of 800, 75% caucasian population welcomed me with open arms. I’m still getting compliments every day. I love the attention… I’ve heard everting from don’t I know you, it looks so healthy and feels so good (yes I let them touch it) you look so much younger, your hair is beautiful, to I wish I could do something different with mine too! And thats from the caucasian population. The African American coworkers sometimes act as though they are afraid to comment. The few that do mostly say “you have some beautiful hair” I’m not of any biracial hair texture. This is strickly thick wooly hair. I keep it clean and neat. And I think thats what Corporate America’s protocol is. not texture. I’d never hop of bed and go to work without putting a comb in my hair. i do see people with natural hair doing that. Natural don’t mean unkept. to sum this up, I don’t think people of other races are as shallow as we sometimes think they are about our hair and culture. .

      • I totally agree with you. I started working for a company and was wearing a lace wig. It was nice and I got compliments. A year later I went natural and haven’t looked back. I work remote so don’t see my co-workers often. I met my boss (Caucasian male) for lunch and one of the first things he said is I really like your hair like that. A few months later I flew in with the CEO (Caucasian male) for a meeting. In the meeting with other department heads he said by the way I really like your hair like that. Now this is a man who rips people’s heads off on the regular.

        Fast forward I interviewed for a new company for a corporate position. I almost wore a wig but I said nope I will represent who I am. I wore my hair in a fro full out and beautiful. I interviewed with the company’s director (Caucasian female) and 3 other team members (Caucasian females). I start on the 12th.

        Be neat, clean, confident and a solid employee. I think your perception of yourself is what’s most important and you give that perception off. On the other hand I’ve seen people push the limits with their hair for attention and just rebellion. Per are smart. They know the difference. When I go to see clients I will probably put my hair up in a bun or something. I’d do that whether it was natural or not. I don’t want the client distracted by my awesome hair lol. You can be natural and tone your hair up or down when you need to. I think that’s being smart. Some people say that’s conforming. I call it strategy.

        • Luke Visconti

          Great advice! Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

        • I will agree with what you are stating. After reading several comments, of course yours my thoughts (that’s all) wondered off to the compliments received by White Corporate Americans. Are they really and truly compliments or are they like our Black’s more directive indirect in your face comments as “remembering the times” “compliment”? As my grandmother would call, “a back-handed” compliment. Just a thought. Remember racism is still very real to this day. I’m not racist by any means. I look, listen and think (a lot). Maybe White Corporate America are the ones with the strategies? Its being again, called “White” Corporate “America” for a reason. Food for thought.

    • Society needs to be re-educated to what black ladies should look like minus slavery. Everyone has a unique texture to their hair. Let us flaunt it and get everyone accustomed to it.

      • I think Black ladies can look like whatever they want to look like. For you to try to pigeon hole them into what you deem “re-education” is just another form of oppression.

    • You betrayed yourself and you called God a liar. You allowed the superiority of the white mentality to dictate to you how you should wear your Naturally God given hair.They didn’t react anymore because they won.They know now that you hate your hair and you love and respect their views and opinions of you.You will always mentally be enslaved until your whole existence as a black woman is honored and represented.The reason everyone gave you attention when you wore your natural hair is because some were intimidated, insecure,shocked that you had self acceptance and fear of being you posed a threat so they poked pryed and picked in hopes that you would do just what you did ,and you did it. The white world does not want you being other than who they say you should be and the further you step away from being black the better they feel because you pose no threat.

      • Eritrea Constantinople

        Or maybe she loves her hair, and her confidence shines through. That’s what all the compliments were reacting to.

        Regardless of other people’s opinions I’m still gonna rock my natural hair, and I believe she will, too. If I get compliments, I don’t take it personal – just like how I take any (covert or overt) insults. I enjoy and love my Afro coils! That’s all that matters.

    • Elizabeth Phillips

      It’s so sad that they treated you that way. One of my friends wears her hair natural most of the time, but a few months ago she relaxed it for a conference. Apparently, the last time she attended, someone said her hair was “scary.” I was absolutely flabbergasted. How can someone’s hair be scary?

    • Hair University

      Greetings as a Professional stylist my clients deal with this issue when hiring, or even with themselves. It’s a REALITY. We ( African Americans) look at each other the same way. It’s not just about Natural vs non Natural it’s about the total package. What fits 1 doesn’t fit all. It is important to know the culture of your workplace to decide whether or not this is a good or bad move. Simply put if you carry yourself in a manner that is pleasing and your attire is professional and you have the look that fits your company then you are ok whether that’s natural or curly or extensions, but straight doesn’t make it better if your attire is not on point or the hair is not maintained. Let’s face it grooming is essential in all environments…love the skin your in be truthful, bold, and confident…in reality do what makes you, YOU!

  • America has a problem with natural black hair, and from what I can tell, a problem with naturally curly non-black hair as well. Just one glance at the media tells the story.

    Beyond skin color, which black women are held up as beauties? Gabrielle Union, a beautiful brown-skinned sister wears long, straight hair. Beyonce, a beautiful caramel colored sister wears long, straight hair with blond highlights.

    I challenge you to find any black women put forth as a sex symbol or leading lady who doesn’t have long, straight hair. This has become the standard for black women. Relaxer or weave.

    The message the media sends is clear: you can only be beautiful with long, straight hair. If you’re white you better have long, straight blonde hair.

    So femininity and beauty are tied to this idea of straight, long hair. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, or something in between. This is the beauty standard and it’s reinforced by media images.

    So, this is an America problem. Unfortunately for Black women it extends beyond the boardroom and into the familial and dating world as well.

    • Tracy Ellis Ross

      • Tracy Ellis Ross is not a sex symbol she’s also half white so her hair don’t count… We talking about them good ole black women… black to the bone.

        • @anon

          Tracie Ellis IS black,you know—her being mixed dosen’t make her any less black. I find that statement to be very ignorant. I have a number of mixed folks in my family, and they definitely know they are black (and because they look it more than anything else.)

          • I think the sentiment behind anon’s comment was that Tracy Ellis Ross’ hair is not exactly a thick afro. She may identify as black and be mostly black, but a significant portion of her genetics are clearly non-black. This non-black portion of her biology results in her hair being looser and tamer than that of black people who have less non-black ancestry.

            I’m a black woman with two African parents. I have some white in my family, but it was very far back in my family tree. My hair is very thick and tightly coiled, and it does not lay flat on my head. I love my hair and think it is beautiful, but I have never seen a famous black woman who is considered “sexy” with hair that does not appear to be directly impacted by her non-black ancestry.

          • noneofyourbiznez2

            Tracy Ross is bi-racial and possibly multi racial. Historical it was tabou for anyone with any strain of African ancestry to claim that they were anything but black. You could have had platinum blond hair and blue eyes, if your great grand parent was an African, you were considered African.
            That is why today, a person claiming to be black is more of a cultural statement than a racial one. ‘Black’ is a term used by Americans with African ancestry. It is a culture. At the end of the day most are multiracial but identify through music, art, customers, culturaly. This is not a comment to separate from being African. It is just what it is. Personally I think it is wrong for anyone to claim that a certain member of their family, whatever race, didn’t exist.
            Culture is a beautiful thing!

          • My friend you are wrong she is very much white also she is a mixed woman I have mixed cousins also and for you to say she is black is like saying she should ignore her other half. My cousins are mixed and I am black. I know we live in a country with the one drop rule but we need to put a stop to that statement and we need to encourage and embrace mixed children to correct someone when they say they are “black”

        • What a truly dumb and offensive comment. Who the hell is ‘black to the bone’. Do you not know the history of forced miscegenation during slavery? I dare you to find one African-American in this country who doesn’t have at least 15% -20% non-African blood due to slavery. Shoot, Africans straight from Africa aren’t ‘black to the bone’! Bones aren’t black! Just because Tracy Ellis Ross is half white doesn’t make her natural hair any less black. I’m black with naturally curly and coily hair and I proudly wear my hair in its natural state just the way God made it. I prefer my natural hair to straightened, processed ‘trying to be European’ hair and will never go back!

          • noneofyourbusiness

            trying to e european hair??? chip on your shoulder?

          • No. Is there one on yours? Speaking the truth doesn’t equate to having a ‘chip’ on ones shoulder. When black people straighten their hair it is primarily for the purpose of trying to conform or fit into acceptable standards dictated by majority culture. Didn’t you read the article? Duh.

          • Chiming In

            I think you all are misunderstanding anon. When talking hair, Tracey being half-white DOES matter. Most biracial people do have a less kinky texture. Her hair may not be as intimidating or unattractive in the dominate society as, say, Erykah Badu or Whoopi Goldberg’s hair.

          • Omg I dealt with you people growing up. I got more discrimination from my own people than I ever did from white people. Everyone that straightens their hair is not trying to look white. That’s such an ignorant statement. We get prissy when people generalize us blacks but then we generalize ourselves with these kinds of statements. I’m natural but I’ll probably get a blow out this year because I like my hair straight sometimes. I like the way it bounces and feels when it’s straight. Then I get tired and I’ll want it curly. I like the play of my natural hair, the exotic look it has and the way I don’t have to run for the car when it rains. Then I’ll probably braid it because I like the way it looks in a bun braided and I like twists the way they bounce and then maybe I’ll go straight again who knows. I might wear a short wig for a while. The point is women are women. We change our hair based on many many factors. Do some use hair to look white as you say? Sure just like some use natural hair to make a statement that they’re black. This is the kind of 8th grade garbage that keeps not just our race from uniting but the world.

            Grow up.

        • First of all no black american is black to the bone and im tired of black women that see a sister thats bi racial to light brown to caramel with wavy to curly hair being singled out or looked at as not being black enough all because she is lighter with a softer more textured grade of beautiful hair.You type of sisters need to stop being so envious and grow up. And as far as sex symbol what the heck are you talking about .Gabriel union is just an actress not a sex symbol. But all in all i do get what you were saying until you contradicted yourself but they do need to show more black women with natural hair whether course or curly but unfortunately this is the white world and its all about their beauty.

    • Elizabeth Phillips

      How about Viola Davis? In real life, she wears her hair natural.

    • Now we have Lupita Nyong’o who is dark skinned and natural. There is more and more diversity on screen and society is changing. Slowly but changing.

  • There are so many highly intelligent points made in response to this article. Most of whom can speak from experience from which we can draw several conclusions. However, there are two conclusions that I’d like to address specifically: 1)It is mostly the non-acceptance of natural hair by black people that has caused this to be a major black women’s issue. Of course, there are the limited few caucasian/whites who may take notice and have an opinion, but they are judging by comparison, to what they’ve seen in this country. Compared to other nations, ours is the only one that ridicules blacks for wearing their hair in it’s natural state, and that’s sad. It’s natural, and what we were born with yet we have to compromise that in order to be accepted? Nonsense.

    2)I must admit, in my opinion, a lot of people who wear their natural hair (myself included) tend to be quite intelligent. Of course, I’m not saying that the chemicals are affecting the minds of people who use them, I am merely stating that companies who do not employ these people might just be fearful, because they may be threatened by their intelligence. Anyone who wears their natural hair knows that after so many years of the harsh chemicals, you are bound to suffer from thinning and/or baldness and believes in self-preservation; not destroying their folicles to impress others. I say: stand out, be an individual, and do to the necessary research in order to take good care of yourself and your hair.

  • Anonymous

    It is very disturbing to have issues about hair when there are so many more important topics to be discussed and remedied. Unfortunately, I am also a victim of the “hair chronicles” as last year I decided to go natural. I was told by one of my male friends that natural hair makes me “unapproachable” to men, and that perhaps I should “press” it out with a hot comb. I was offended actually because I felt like I shouldn’t have to alter myself that much to be attractive to men. Then when I considered locs or twists another male friend said that a man wouldn’t want to be with a woman who looks like she has sticks growing out of her head. Ok, offended again, so I tried one of my sister’s mid length, straight bobs and I got all sorts of compliments on that, but it was hot, and I felt self conscious because I knew it was a wig. It’s terrible when you get hassles from the workplace, but it is even more painful when you get negative comments from Black people when you wear the hair God gave you. I went back to wearing my natural hair, and if a person can’t like me for me I don’t need them in my life anyway. If God had wanted me to have hair like society deems beautiful he would have given it to me. Black hair is beautiful as it is and I shouldn’t have to have chemicals, synthetic hair, or wear someone else’s hair (weave) to prove self worth.

    • Well said. I have a grown daughter and a teenage daughter, I tried to tell them that all t times . I point out to them that no other race put added hair in their head other than the black race just to fit in. We have put a lot of people kids through college by buying hair products out of their stores. I could go on but what’s the use.

  • Anonymous

    There are so many highly intelligent points made in response to this article. Most of whom can speak from experience from which we can draw several conclusions. However, there are two conclusions that I’d like to address specifically:

    1)It is mostly the non-acceptance of natural hair by black people that has caused this to be a major black women’s issue. Of course, there are the limited few caucasian/whites who may take notice and have an opinion, but they are judging by comparison, to what they’ve seen in this country. Compared to other nations, ours is the only one that ridicules blacks for wearing their hair in it’s natural state, and that’s sad. It’s natural, and what we were born with yet we have to compromise that in order to be accepted? Nonsense.

    2)I must admit, in my opinion, a lot of people who wear their natural hair (myself included) tend to be quite intelligent. Of course, I’m not saying that the chemicals are affecting the minds of people who use them, I am merely stating that companies who do not employ these people might just be fearful, because they may be threatened by their intelligence. Anyone who wears their natural hair knows that after so many years of the harsh chemicals, you are bound to suffer from thinning and/or baldness and believes in self-preservation; not destroying their folicles to impress others. I say: stand out, be an individual, and do to the necessary research in order to take good care of yourself and your hair.

  • Oh, the natural hair thing. People there is nothing wrong with having natural hair and depending on how it is worn, I have seen plenty of sisters in the work place with a head full of nice natural curls. There are women with curls, women with nice smooth short naturals, and women who have natural hair pulled back in a low slung chignon. When worn correctly, no one will complain. However, if you go into work with nappy uncombed, hair, month old dirty extension braids, expect people to reject you. Just because your hair is natural does not mean that you don’t have to comb or groom it. Also, we aren’t the ONLY people with this type of hair. Jewish people have a range of hair just as we do and they deal with it. The secret is to not cut it into a length that is not able to be managed. Also dreadlocks are not “black” hair. It is more or less associated with a religion.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a white guy. In regards to the corporate world’s acceptance to hair styles, I can attest that men also have to deal with similar problems. The key is ‘grooming’ to fit a corporate model of what is considered ‘appropriate’ or ‘professional’. Unfortunately natural hair, afros, really long (waist length) hair for women, really big hair, long or artificially colored hair for men, beards and mustaches, can all be no-no’s.There is no contempt by whites when blacks wear afros. It is however an UNGROOMED look when compared to relaxed hair. It is also out-of-style, much like a guy showing up for work with a greasy 1950s pompadour or a bowl haircut. Professional work places are all about grooming and conformity. Look around and see how many guys have 1970’s style hair. Do they even still make Jehri Curl? Think about the problems black men with dreads could have in the workplace. Or the brother with the big afro. The blond dude with the ponytail. Men are expected to have a clean, neatly groomed look, or military style hair. Men have more recently been going with no hair. Bald, and not because hair is falling out. This is acceptable nowdays but 20 or 30 years ago this would have been taboo. Grow a patch out on the top and shave the sides, that’s police style, but grow a thin strip instead, and that’s a mohawk, and that’s considered completely unprofessional. See where this is going? I have no problem with anyone sporting hair or beard as nature intended. I used to have hair past my shoulders. Thin, stringy mess of wavy split ends, a ‘natural’ if you will. Yeah I got hassled for it. Meanwhile, women wore little boy haircuts, permed, treated, colored, braided, bleached, extended, or put-up hair styles with no problem, so why not an afro? Men get the same runaround for not shaving or sporting a fu manchu. I guarantee a man will get flack about his facial hair or his cornrows or ponytail, to the point of being coerced to shave or cut, before women will be required to alter their personal styles. Non-professional they say. What a crock.Ladies, wear your hair the way you like it. If you feel so inclined, go natural. It is a sad thing when the corporate world gives a person trouble wearing hair in its natural state, period!

    • I think that this post misses the mark in many ways and does not take into account the nuance of what really happens in organizations that push employees to look less black, less ethnic. IN many cases the issue is not big blown out afros, crazy styles etc. It is just a decision to be natural or not for folks, and it is more of an issue for black women because you don’t really see Brothers getting “marcels” anymore. A lot of people look great, come in with their natural hair and look like professionals, just different than others and then you see 6 months later as they move up they have straightened thier hair. This is makes me so sad when I see it.

    • @ Anonymous—You may never read this and I know you posted this back 6 years ago….well update: As the Generation Y kids (me) are exiting college and entering the corporate community…Standards are changing for both black/white male and female…Were challenging the systematic rule of “Conformity”…you will see men in “low pompadour’s, straight leg slacks, wing-tipped oxfords, with a plaid tie and solid button up…holding a mid-or high level position (were advancing) as the Baby boomers and Gen. Xers retire and die out (not necessarily mean “die out” but you know what I mean)–And were demanding the companies to ACCEPT it! Yes, we abide within the rules…but with a twist…and the “Corporate Elders” see …some accept…some don’t…oh well they’ll “die out ” too! For those ancient companies that still live under that structure their stuck back in time…Because it is changing WE (Gen. Yers) Demand respect. And if not given we know that is not the company for us…

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t relaxed my hair in years…I wear the texture that grows out of my head, just like all my caucasian, Asian, and Latino counterparts. It’s ridiculous to suggest that an entire race of people are intrinsically “unprofessional” due to their natural physical features. You might as well try to have a rule against Asian eyes…or naturally blonde hair. Good luck with that. I wear my hair in curly fros, afro puffs, twists, up-dos, braids, you name it. I am a director in my company…I have interviewed with my natural hair, attended board meetings, negotiated contracts, and executed every other part of my job. I didn’t feel the need to straighten my hair, bleach my skin, or eradicate any of my other racial characteristics. My compentence speaks for itself.

    • I hear you! Same here. I have owned a business for five years and also hold a high-visibility, highly-skilled position at another company simultaneously. My hair doesn’t do my job, I do. If you’re the type of person who thinks that natural black hair is automatically ‘unprofessional’ then you are the one with issues. I do just fine garnering high respect for my skills and my natural hair doesn’t come into play, as it shouldn’t. I shouldn’t have to change my hair in order to be accepted or respected! Other cultures don’t do this therefore I should not have to either!

      • I agree your hair nor skin don’t do your job you do but it doesn’t minimize the fact white collar businesses will and have discriminated against ethnic groups and minorities for things so simple I as a black women with a masters degree have had experiences with being passed over for career advancement due to my dark skin and kinky hair so im sure it could and does matter.

        • Sandra Scott

          I agree. While a small minority aren’t affected in the corporate world for having natural hair, a vast majority are.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed reading this article, both the initial question and the resonse from Mr. Visconti. I also agree that the way one chooses to wear their hair should not be equated to their abilities as a professional, but unfortunately as Mr. Visconti points out, sometimes it does. As I began to read some of the readers’ comments, however, I became a little offended at the number of people who act as though having relaxed hair is somehow a negative thing or makes you less Black. I choose to relax my hair and I acknowledge that the relaxer makes my hair straighter (although it is still curly) but I personally do not feel that I am going against God by making the curls He gave me a little more loose. As long as the hair stays healthy, what is wrong with changing it a little? Variety is the spice of life right? I don’t mean to stray away from the original question, but I feel the need to acknowledge that straight or curly, natural or relaxed, we are all in this together. A more diverse and inclusive environment in the workplace benefits us all, and discrimination hurts us all, even the light-skinned black girl with the straight hair.

    • Just think about what you are saying. Chemical relaxers are just that “CHEMICALS”. They are put on your scalp and absorbed into the skin. They burn sometimes, have lye in them or some like product. You are not only damaging your hair, but you are damaging your mind. ONE of the reasons, even though we don’t like to admit it,) is this country’s marketed, promoted, elevated, standard of beauty AND it is not your natural hair or your dark skin color. It is straight hair, preferably blond, curly straight hair, white skin. Sometimes we just don;’t want to believe that we are still carry the vestiges of slavery. after all, we are only 50 years out of legalized Jim Crow, after having been indoctrinated for over 600 years, passed down generation to generation, a standard of beautify that does NOT look like us. I HATE to see Black women with fake hair down to their butts. WE truly have not learned how to LOVE ourselves but we sure know how to justify NOT doing so

  • Anonymous

    I really do believe it depends on which sector in which one works. I work in the independent school sector, and, depending on how progressive vs. conservative the school is, a Black woman, or a Black man, for that matter, can wear his/her hair however she/he chooses. Right now, at my current place of employ, there is a Black woman who wears dreads, and a Black man who wears shorter dreads. Their choice of hair style, in this particular venue, has not impacted their respectability or promotability.

  • Anonymous

    Having struggled with the decision to go natural for over 5 years, I took the leap, the comments, and the questions as I continued to climb the corporate ladder. As a VP, I have gained far more confidence in the fact that you are the professional and your hairstyle of choice compliments your personality. I would add that it takes all three, confidence, professionalism, and personality to demonstrate your unique ability to impact the organization you work for or are seeking to employ your talents.

  • Anonymous

    As a white woman, I really don’t know much about the nature and care of Black hair. It’s really only been in the last couple years that I realized (duh) that everything about cutting and caring for that hair type is probably totally different from dealing with my Caucasian hair — and that a lot of what I’d assumed was normal for Black women’s hair, is in fact the product of extensive chemical processing.I suspect that a lot of the “it’s unprofessional” attitude comes from this kind of ignorance, from white folks who simply aren’t aware that this is what certain kinds of hair are SUPPOSED to look like. Or that by pressuring people to change their style, they’re actually pressuring them to use a lot of harsh chemistry to do something completely unnatural.I’m still learning. I don’t work in the corporate world and therefore wasn’t aware of the problem — or of the number of Black women who wear wigs in order to deal with this issue. This article is enlightening, and also makes me sad. I’d hate to have to put myself through all these chemical treatments, or wear a wig, in order to fit someone else’s idea of “professional.” That’s just wrong.

    • Jayme Gill

      This totally transparent, and honest comment is so refreshing!! I so wish that more whites could be aware of the facts about Black hair, and become more understanding and open-minded! That would make it so much easier on Black women, in particular!

  • As a woman of color who wore her hair in a short afro for many years; I decided to don a new hairstyle which was more in line with mainstream society a few years ago. As a member of a specialty team in a large medical center; I was so shocked to hear comments from my colleagues especially the doctors on how happy they were with the change.One M.D. went as far to say that now I truly looked professional and was much prettier than he originally thought I was. It was because of my skills and expertise that they just took my eccentric appearance in stride.Hmmm….. This attitude is everywhere and frankly I’m in shock. I shouldn’t be but with these particular people whom I felt were progressive and open minded; another way to view is certainly in order.That alone is very disconcerting.

  • Anonymous

    At the beginning of this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I underwent chemotherapy treatments and lost my natural hair. I had been wearing my hair with its natural texture for around ten years. It took about a year for the comments to change from, “I liked your hair better the other way,” to “I like your hair!”I choose to wear a wig to work, but the closest wig I could find to match my style was three times my natural hair length hair half braided and half straight texture. I will acknowledge things are progressing when I can find wigs styled for natural African textured hair in the mainstream. Now that is summer time, I could really use a micro fiber wig with a short style.If anyone has a current recommendation in the South Jersey area, I would greatly appreciate it.

  • I believe that White America has come a long way in putting aside their corporate prejudices and has become more accepting of the diversity in Black hairstyles. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Black America.As a very light skinned Black woman with long, naturally curly hair not a day goes by where I don’t get a negative comment from another Black person about my hair. I’m accused of “selling out”, wanting to look white, thinking I’m better than other Black people because I have “good hair”…you name it. I can’t remember the last time a White person disrespected me because of my appearance, yet my own people do it every day.I LOVE the different styles and textures of Black hair and have never thought mine was better than anyone elses (each head of hair has it’s own issues). “Good hair” is hair that looks good on you, no matter the length, texture or color. People of ALL races need to understand that and stop judging each other on such superficial things as a person’s choice of hair style.

    • I agree prejudice is ugly regardless of one’s background, it’s impossible for all people of color to look the same or think the same. We have been forced into mixing due to slavery and in this day and age we are mixed by two people of very opposite backgrounds falling in love such as who else our own parents. I’m a mixture of African/Spanish and probably a little Native. I’m dark olive more or less, look kinda North African, bi-racial or Ethiopian to some. I really like looking like I can be from all parts of Africa including a little Mediterranean. I have natural short hair and my hair grows usually not more than beyond my shoulders but it’s full thick and healty without chemicals now. But it’s not very tightly curled it’s closer to 3C but I am learning to appreciate my curly kinky texture that I have. I never needed to straighten my hair much to style it. My dad had curly hair and my mom’s course. We are products of our lingeage and no one should have to apologize for how they look. When u true deep brown women with truer African hair and features I simply see another type of black beauty, she can’t represent my beauty and I can’t represent hers. Not all Europeans are blond and some are almost as dark as me. Why should this lady with very long hair feel sorry for how she looks? I put it this way, not everyone has to adore or even embrace how I look, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” However, please don’t mistreat me or suggest that I change how I look just to please you. If my appearance or anyone eelse’s brother you that much then please just don’t look, but keep your hatred to yourself and this is pertaining to not just one people group. Let’s try harder to appreciate diversity. Thanks!

    • All people still have a long way to go as far as racial issues go. Blacks over the course of history and their treatment in this country have been taught to hate each other for our differences ( a process practiced during slavery) now we carry this evil. I think we are unique among people looking like no other group of people and yet looking like them all.

    • noneofyourbusiness

      agreed…. is it just hair… it shouldn’t be a big deal… good hair is hair that looks good on you and tat one is happy with..

    • Anonymous

      I agree that light-skinned people are less accepted in the workplace—by both blacks and whites.

      White people are more comfortable with a person who looks like their idea of what black people should look like. I guess they feel that a dark-skinned person is “in his/her place,” whereas a light-skinned black person must constantly be “reminded” that they are black, lest they try to get uppity or something.
      And, some black people simply suffer from the time-worn light-skinned versus dark-skinned idiocy.

  • Anonymous

    I am glad this issue has been brought up for discussion. As a white professional working in the field of diversity and inclusion, I like this topic because it illustrates just how devastatingly personal the effects of systemic racism can be. We are talking about a cultural value that upholds all things white-european as normal and casts everything else as different, and in many cases, suspect. A non-white woman’s “different” hair style becomes a question of grooming, cleanliness, attitude, even professionalism. How ridiculous, and what an indignity to put up with! Spending thousands of dollars on hair care becomes necessary for an entire population to “fit in” as normal, something that whites don’t have to do in most cases. And all this just to get to the playing field! This is a white problem. We whites have got to quit expecting everyone else to “be like me.”

    • noneofyourbusiness

      yepp good old eurocentricism and coming from a mixed euro, african person. evry1 is unique and individual and i am pro choice.. if you want it natural go for it, want colours, length, braids.. go for it? who really cares? the prejudice has to stop.

  • Anonymous

    Luke – Thank you for your post. “so if you think your company really isn’t “ready for that,” it may be that your perception is out of date.” resonates with me. I firmly believe that TODAY black women are more likely to take issue with kinky hair worn in organic styles, than the white males with corner offices. Deep and sad, but true.

    • I have never liked flat straight hair on my head, as a child I had enjoyed full thick hair and yes very soft in texture but still texture type hair. Then at 19 I got my first relaxer, my hair had more length for sure but it was like pasted to my scalp. I had missed my full head of hair! I love curly hair and all types of curly hair. Africans, Middle Eastern, South Pacific people, Israeli, Hispanics, Arabs, Ethiopians and even some Irish all have various types of curly hair. Why I think more people on the planet all together have curly hair. There’s a lot of curly hair too among European ethnicities. True African decent people are known to have the curliest or kinky; but kinky hair is not just an all African trait either.

      Curly hair if maintained well and conditioned can be attractive on anyone. So what’s the big deal about bone straight hair I wonder folks when not all whites have bone straight hair either so why should people with naturally curly and kinky hair be pressured to wear straight hair. I personally don’t mind smooth textured hair at times but I look more healthy and younger with curly type hair. All hair should be cleaned and nourished and styled to fit one’s face. Straight hair that’s flat and oily doesn’t look great either. Straight hair needs less oils to look groomed and curly, kinky and coarse hair needs moisture to look it’s best. It’s more are main fence than texture.

  • Anonymous

    I think it is absolutely outrageous that one’s capabilities should be undermined because of their hair style or texture. I am a student living in South Africa. While similar problems exist here, making an issue out of hair texture seems really trivial. Discrimination unfortunately will alwys exist in any society, but it is up to you to take pride in yourself regardless of how you choose to maintain your hair. It is important to also remeber the norms of any society, and and of the workplace. I believe that one can look and feel professional with their natural hair. It is also not our place to judge or discriminate against those who choose to relax their hair.

    • Post not coming up, so forgive duplicates.

      As a student, you haven’t experienced the corporate world. I’m a Nigerian currently living in Nigeria, so I can tell you that though natural hair is very slowly growing (mainly among the upper-middle class) in Nigeria, it’s still considered unprofessional in the workplace, and with friends in South Africa, the situation there is pretty much the same. I’ve been to a number of natural hair meet-ups here where this is the biggest complaint by naturals and women considering natural hair. I myself was accused, when I first moved back to Nigeria, of being too American, too “bohemian” by women with Brazilian weaves and no hairline. All said I was lucky cos I was an “import”, so employers wouldn’t stress too much about my hair, since they were hiring me for my American education and work experience, but these women could never wear their hair like mine cos their jobs would deem them unprofessional. Some banks apparently even frown on braids and prefer perms and weaves only.

      When I lived in the US, I wore my natural hair in braids for convenience at my first job cos I had a high-stress 60-70-hour-a-week job, but I’d let my hair rest in between braids. It was a very diverse work environment, unique in that all minorities in our part of the country had almost as much representation as whites had. My Afr-American boss and I got along well most of the time–until I took out my braids and wore a neat twist-out or pulled-back style. No, I didn’t imagine it: I was at that job 5 years and even my coworkers noticed and would joke, “Time to get your hair did!”

      For my next job, I straightened my hair for the interview. I’d already interviewed with many firms with my natural hair pulled back or in braids and guess what happened! Yeah, the first time I straightened my hair was the first time I got a job offer. Of course, I changed my hair back the very first day on the job, and during that first couple weeks at that large company where the only other black person was a receptionist, I got so many hesitant questions about my hair being different. I explained that this was my hair’s natural state and kinda fibbed that I just happened to have it straightened the week I flew over for the interview. Luckily, my competence didn’t allow my hair to be a factor at work (but my personal life suffered in this new city, as I’d quit doing braids).

      So wherever you go, natural hair can be an issue. Won’t ever make me go back to the perm, though. I’ve come way too far.

    • noneofyourbusiness

      thats right!! spot on!!

  • Anonymous

    I have chosen to go natural….well not completely. I no longer use chemicals to straighten my hair. My hair is of a texture that I can get away with it. However, it is not straight enough for my workplace, so I pull it back to lessen the look of a 70’s afro. I told one of my coworkers that when I retire in 9 years, I’m going to grow dreds. She replied, “Why not now?”. My reply, “Our workplace is not ready for it.” She didn’t understand why I could not just be myself. Strange….coming from a white female. I’ve had some that say they like my hair as is. Then I’ve had upper management look and treat me as though I’m either a radical or some type of alien being. If my natural hair interfered with my brain functions causing the quality of my work to suffer, I could understand the impression that natural hair is not favorable in the workplace. But that is not the case. So what do I do? …Not be myself. Shame on me!

  • Anonymous

    I used chemicals for as long as I could and decided what was best for my hair and health. As a 43 year Federal employee I received mixed reviews when I decided not to “Perm” any longer. Although I was an upper level manager, I took pride in wearing my hair without chemicals. This was 2 years ago! I retired in January of this year and still enjoy my real hair. I made the decision to do what was best for me and decided to not let others make decisions for me!

  • Anonymous

    As an African/British woman, having my hair in locs is one of the most freeing things I have ever done – see Myspace. Thankfully my daughter is following in my footstep!

  • Anonymous

    First, I want to thank Luke for his honesty once again. The subject of Blacks and how we should or should not style our hair has been hypothesized in both Black and White communities. Subsequently after reading many of the post I agree with both Lisa and Jeanine Hills.Unfortunately, this issue and the fact that we are discussing it is another piece of evidence (not like we need it) that systemic racism breeds both racial inferiority and superiority. However, without forums such as these we may never be able to speak about this issue so openly.Thanks everyone for their contributions.

  • As an African -American woman in a middle management position this article was timely for me. When I started working in my current facility I came here with a very low cut a Cesar with waves. I let my hair grow, then cut it then grow it out, all the while keeping it chemical free. I decided to Loc my hair 2 months ago and I was very excited about the process. I have an interview this week and I was concerned about the appearance of my hair and how I would be perceived. I even considered cutting it for the interview to look more professional. But then I thought about it, more professional in whose eyes. I have the same degrees and accomplishments no matter if my hair is Loced or bone straight. I hope that my hair does not become an issue. It is my hair and part of me; I would not change my hair for a promotion or a job. If the people hiring doing the hiring cannot see beyond my Locs then, do I really want to work in an environment that is that superficial? My hair should not be a factor in hiring or judging my ability to do a job.

  • Anonymous

    First let me say I am a caucasian of very northern european descent and have the blue eyes and hair and skin color of the stereotypical aryan. Although I think hair is a very personal matter and statement of style, I have always had a bit of a bias toward the natural hairstyles for all varieties of hair, as I do not think that it is really a positive statement of self image for anyone to try to look like some other race or ethnic group. So my bias has been in favor of those who wear their hair the way it grows out of their head, without any chemical intervention for color, curliness, whatever. I have always been aware of this and have been very careful not to let my bias influence any sort of decision concerning the worth of the person under the hair, but if asked I woudl have to say, “let it be” and be natural rather than artificial, regardless of your ethnicity.

  • Anonymous

    I believe it depends on what was the hairstyles of Blacks at the time you became part of the job. In other words, when you applied for a position, did you notice what type of hair styles the Black women were wearing? If you saw natural styles, braids, etc, along with relaxed hair, then you knew that such styles were accepted. However, did you ask any of those wearing such natural styles about promotions? In comparison to those women who wore natural styles, were they promoted just as equally as those who wore wigs, weaves or relaxed styles, or were they “looked over” or were considered last for promotions and assignments that would show off their skills? When it comes down to it, we need to be more observant of what Blacks in white corporate American are wearing, especially hair styles.I have dealt with high school kids going to interviews with the most ridiculous outfits and hairstyles, and get upset when they don’t get the job. Then I’ve seen adult Blacks “styling” like they’re going to the club or chilling with their hoodies at work or even on an interview. There is nothing wrong with natural styles. There are other people who are not black but have “naturally curly” (we call it “nappy”)that have to use relaxers (by the way, when you have curly or nappy hair, you relax, not perm. You perm when your hair is straight and you need curl or texture)that have been told that their hair is not acceptable.In this society, we sometimes have to conform, just to keep a job. When you accept a position, you are accepting the conditions of the company’s policies; those seen and unseen. Where I work, the natural styles are acceptable and are worn with class. Those who prefer to relax or wear wigs and weaves make sure that they are professional in their looks.But after work, you are on your time therefore you can wear your hair anyway you feel.

  • Anonymous

    A simple rule of thumb is: “If you think someone will look at your personal dress and grooming as unprofessional, you are probably right.” If you want the job, present yourself the way you think the employer wants to see you. If personal style or pride is more important than employment you are free to make it a higher priority. Since you are already aware that you are choosing to put yourself at a potential disadvantage, don’t be disappointed when you don’t get the job.

  • I would think that this is the same problem in America that my daughter has with her tattoos! She is a beautiful white, blue eyed twenty-one year old that has a artistic passion in life has always been driven to make sure people understand diversity, especially since her parents are Gay women. She has been looked at and turned down because of her two very beautiful tattoos on her arm and back. They make up who she is and she has had the hardest time getting a job in the “corporate world” if you want to call it that. They either think she is a gang member or on drugs which are both very wrong. When will America come to the right conclusion that everyone weather they are black with natural hair, white with tattoos or any other Diverse group around and believe they are good candidates to hire. I don’t like to think that in the 21st century we are still having these problems especially with all the companies that say they are Diverse and have Diversity and Inclusion in their Corporate statements that they are this stupid to not hire people for who they are not what they look like. Just my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    I am a white female in the professional workplace. It is my opinion that everyone should want to look their best when they arrive at work. I need to wash, curl, straighten, style, gel and spray my hair everyday… If I came to work with my hair “natural” I am sure someone would say something to me about my messy hair. I say Get Over it, and join the rest of us.

    • zannadanna

      The standard of professionalism is straight hair. As black people, our hair is naturally the farthest from straight. So all the white women posting about how much they have to change to fit in, just imagine what black women have to go through. In order for black people to have straight hair, we have to either relax it with harsh chemicals that destroy/burn our hair and scalp or we have to buy wigs/weaves. So constantly maintaining straight hair is an unachievable goal. The problem is that because this hair issue only effects us, and there are so few blacks in the corporate world, we have no representation. White people still think that an afro is a “hairstyle” or a form of “self expression” they are ignorant of the fact that even if we comb, wash, and oil our hair, it will still be an afro. Its not a style or expression, its what our hair looks like. There needs to be diversity training in this matter. If a manager didn’t hire an asian because he was afraid that he couldn’t open his eyes wide enough, that would be discrimination. So why are we being penalized because our hair cannot be straight without harmful chemicals?? As long as the appearance is neat and you can perform the job then nothing else should matter. And for anyone that commented who thinks we should conform because that is the norm. Slavery used to be the norm also. That didn’t make it right.

    • You cannot compare a white woman doing her hair to look “presentable” to the debate that is going on here. No one is saying (from the comments I’ve read thus far), that people of color should have the right to come to work with a messy 70s type large, unkempt, unwashed Afro. If it is short, or medium length, well-maintained, then THAT is well-kept for OUR HAIR. Well-kept for Caucasian hair is COMBING AND STYLING IT, so that it lays flat and is not of the “fly away” variety. If one’s hair is kinky, then one has no choice in how it grows out of our heads.

      You relate “natural” to how your hair looks when you wake up in the morning. It is messy and uncombed. Yes, it is not professional to show up at work looking like that. What we are debating here in terms of “natural” is unprocessed, non-straightened hair not uncombed hair. The two are so different. What people of color want is to be able to not get stupid comments or be accused of being “angry militants”, just for wearing our hair as God/Nature gave us. If you, as a Caucasian woman, cannot recognize the external forces in the beauty industry that even encourage White women to wear makeup when men don’t have to, shave one’s legs (again when men don’t have to), or even wear skirts, then it is YOU who is brainwashed and clueless. Not that I am getting all feminist up in here (I am a gay man) but this also affects women in general of all races! Just do a Google search of women who were fired for not wearing make-up (though they were clean, dressed professionally and only stood out because of their desire not to wear makeup). These forces in the corporate world need to be addressed because it affects all women.

  • Anonymous

    To DONNA KAYSI am also a white female. DONNA, YOU MISSED THE POINT. This is not about being lazy to do whatever you need to do to make your natural hair look good. This is a social issue about people not accepting perfectly work appropriate hair style (a.k.a. professional) because it is curly or an afro or twists, or whatever. Who is anybody to say that this or that style (straight, curly, short, long, twists, bangs, pulled up, lose, bundt, etc.) is professional or work appropriate or not? Yes, we all want to keep certain decorum in the work place, but it has nothing to do with hair styles. If men want to wear their hair long, I just say, keep it clean. Why ask of men to wear a pony tail when you don’t ask the same from a woman? The same applies to african americans hair. Why ask of them to straighten it or do anything else to it regarding the style, when you wouldn’t ask white or asian or hispanic folks to wear any particular style? I feel for african americans that are struggling with this issue. And I would encourage them to wear their hair as natural as possible and to hold themselves and each other only to the grooming standards which apply to all in the work place, regardless of race and hair type (which by the way should only be concerned with whether the hair is clean and neat. May be that will help people begin to accept that no particular hair style is telling of any particular trait of any person (whether you are smart, or not, professional or not, etc.).To everybody, be kind to your hair and be kind to other people! I hope that we ALL can help change the way african americans have been unfairly and irracionally treated when it comes to this issue.

  • Anonymous

    I find most of the comments very interesting, but I’m amazed that no one has mentioned that (I believe) a black woman invented some of the products to modify hair to “look more mainstream” and while this shouldn’t be necessary in our enlightened (???) era, black hair products have made some black folks wealthy and more able to have their childreneducated to move up to professional positions!

  • Anonymous

    Whether to change a hairstyle to make oneself more “promotable” should not be an issue, although I’m sure it is. I’m a white woman who once was fired from a lowly waitress job because my supervisor did not like my long straight hair, which was shining clean, tied back, and covered with the mandatory hairnet during work hours. Nobody should be passed over for a promotion because of hair style, skin color, or body shape, but it happens. When it happens, the best answer is to take ones skills to a more open-minded employer. However, that isn’t always possible. There have been times in my life when I was not in a position to do that, and just had to take my lumps. I have been passed over because I was newly married and might want to start a family soon, because I was not athletic enough, because the job was at a rough school and called for a male teacher, and because I did not socialize enough with the “in” crowd at work. I’m now old enough to face age discrimination. Sometimes we just have to take our lumps and learn to be philosophical. Think long and hard about which is most important, the promotion or your freedom of expression.

    • zannadanna

      The hair that grows out of my head is not a form of expression. If I shaved all my hair off and it grew 3 inches even if I wash, comb, and oil it, it will still be an afro. In order for my hair to be straight, I have to put harsh chemicals in it that burn my scalp and make my hair fall out. Or I can spend money I don’t have to buy a wig. If I have to burn my hair off or buy a wig then the message I am being sent is that black people are not allowed at this job. By requiring that my hair do the impossible is a less blatant form of racism. Work skills are what is important, not my hair’s ability to withstand punishment. Self expression has nothing to do with this.

  • Anonymous

    No way,I think hair should be natural. No grease,oils,dyes,etc. unless a medical condition warrants a wig or chemicals. We are all different and let’s celebrate our differences.

  • Anonymous

    Jealousy, Hater… Maybe?As an African American I read this article and the associated comments and could not help but think back to the “good ole days,” when our ancestors were called “darkey,” or “big lipped,” even “big but.” But what I have come to understand is that those people were often jealous of our wonderful looks. Look at “copper tone” and various other tanning creams, and don’t forget the multi-million dollar tanning salon industry as an example of a group of people who wanted to look more like us. Think of the injections that some get to enjoy fuller lips, or, a shapelier “bottom.”And on our side, there are those who want to look more European, see Michael Jackson as yet one example…this desire to assimilate goes both ways as we are often taught not to appreciate what we have been given; but this is changing and there is nothing that Madison Avenue can do to stop it. There is a new generation that is here, one that is ready to accept you as you are, and one that accepts who they are. There are only a small percentage of those who “hang on to the way it use to be,” and their “hater days” are rapidly coming to an end.

  • Anonymous

    I am Caucasian, but have been told at work that wearing my hair down in its natural curly state at work is too wild/unprofessional. I put a lot of effort into getting under control every morning. I know it’s far more difficult for black women to get their hair into a state that’s more acceptable to white sensibilities. However, at most professional workplaces, there will be standards of what look is professional that apply to both races.

    • zannadanna

      But no one is asking you to change the texture of your hair. If ANYONE comes to work with wild hair all over their heads then yes it is unprofessional. But you’d only have to comb or flat iron your hair. I’d have to put harsh chemicals in my hair every 6-8 weeks that will burn my scalp and make my hair fall out. Or spend more money on wigs and hair pieces. This is past conformity, this is about fairness. If we both had to work in the hot sun for 8 hrs, I can do it without sunblock. Can you? Probably not. But it wouldn’t be fair for you to have to work without sunblock and a hat when you know it would give you sun burn and cause you pain. You’d want someone to understand your plight. Now all we ask is that white people do the same.

  • Anonymous

    Luke, thank you for your candid response. I would suggest people not rely too heavily on the Diversity rankings though. I work for a company on the top 30 list, and I would say they do an excellent job on branding their diversity message, but a poor job of implementing it. You only need to look at the lack of diversity in senior leadership.

  • As an attorney, I work in the legal field which tends to be conservative. My hair is natural with no straightening chemicals in it. Whenever I have applied for a job and been granted an interview, I always straighten my hair and wear it pulled back in a bun just because I’d rather play it safe and err on the side of being conservative. For some reason and for some people, Black or White, natural hair on a Black woman is a political statement. Once I get the job, I then wear my hair in any style that I choose, such as natural, straight, or in braids. Whatever style I choose, I make sure that it looks professional. I love that fact that the new CEO of Xerox Ursula Burns sports a short natural!

  • Anonymous

    I work for a “liberal” non-profit and there are a couple of us naturals there. I’ve never heard a negative comment, but the reaction I received when I straightened my hair one day was surprising. My hair was literally the talk of the office all day, with people even coming from different floors to “check it out” and saying how “different” I looked( and they were implying it was different in a good way) I was on the elevator with my white colleague when she blurted out ” So is that a weave?” in front of other people. Her eyes were wide open with astonishment when I explained that I could straighten my hair and revert back as much as I pleased. I never wore my hair straight to work again!

  • Anonymous

    Earlier this year, I made the decision to forgo the relaxer I had worn since I was nine. I’m 26 now. And I had myself convinced that relaxed hair was more manageable, easier to deal with and, honestly, more beautiful. I never felt more pretty than the first day I had a fresh relaxer and my hair was silky straight and flowing. I’m now nearly 9 months into my natural transition, and I’ve never felt more beautiful. It took a complete shift in perception for me to feel this way in the first place. I don’t knock women who wear their hair in a relaxer. I just hope that it is the product of a personal choice and weighing all their options, as opposed to a choice that was imposed on them as a child that they were never able to get past.As black women, I truly believe we are all beautiful the way we choose to be. If that means relaxed or with a silky straight weave, so be it. If it means wearing kinky, curly hair, dreads or braids, then so be it. India Arie said it best. I am not my hair. I made my decision because I’m trying to live a more chemical-free lifestyle overall, and if it ever inhibits my ability to get a job or be perceived as a professional, then that’s a consequence I’ll have to live with. And I’ll do my best to try to educate the ignorant people who would perpetuate that kind of stereotype and hope for the best next time.

  • Anonymous

    Luke Visconti’s White Guy blog is new to me. So is blogging. But, I couldn’t help but go to this site when I saw the article among several that popped up under ‘black natural hair’ as I was exploring what the current trend is for wearing black naural hair as I have noticed some differences since the trend started in the 1960’s. I keep trying to catch these quick commercials where black women are looking so cute and sexy with hair that seems barely combed to me. So, I’m trying to see whether that is a look or my imagination.

    Right now,I am wearing my own black natural hair. Over the years, since Martin Luther King’s assassination, I have worn several different styles including a short and evenly cut Afro immediately following his death ( I was supposed to get a touch up perm but had my hair cut very short, instead. It was the least I could do). This was followed two years later by an Arfro wig….Jeri curl, relaxed hair, hot comb straightened hair, hair weave to camouflage breakage, corn rows to grow out a relaxer, and now I am back to a natural as a result of retiring and seeing how carefree and different the natural now looks.

    And,it is different . One of the things that strikes me as different about today’s natural is that neither women nor men feel compelled to cut their hair short and even all over and neither do they feel compelled to comb long natural hair out and have it puffed all over the head like Angela Davis and Rap Brown wore theirs.

    To me, today’s social climate indicates more tolerance/acceptance and allows black women to wear their natural so that the kinks actually show. It’s a kinker style than was worn when I first wore a natural in the late 1960’s. I have been surprised by the way that my hair curls on its own and how sensuous and soft it feels ( I do use Sta Sof Fro). I have a wonderful beautician who keeps the nape and back of my hair cut close and short in a ‘V” shape. I allow no cutting of the front and top layers. I simply love my hair and this wonderful style that I am wearing! My scalp feels so good since I have not put any straightening chemicals in my hair for two years, now. I feel freer and I feel like I am really taking care of myself. Right, now, I’m contemplating combing my hair less because I want my hair to grow longer and the daily combing snaps off the tiny coils of curl that my hair forms.

    But, I must say that caring for my natural hair is no picnic. It takes time and effort to keep it groomed and looking nice. And, I more clearly understand why when I was working (and had to work) that I vacillated back and forth over the years between a natural and processed hair. Wearing natural kinky hair takes time and care if you don’t want to snap it off each morning.Time that I did not have while working and trying to be on time.

  • Wonder if PBO,wa to ware his hair longer would he be cast as being militant or just a guy wearing his hair longer to keep his head warmer.

  • Anonymous

    People assume I am wearing a weave or have a perm and I seem to have to explain to them that my hair is naturally long, It seems to be hard for people to accept different hair textures. I have found more problems with Latinos in this regard that assume that my hair must be fake or something. I personally blow dry and curl my hair. Beyond that I don’t like chemicals, but if that is what someone else chooses to do to their hair and they look nice doing it then so be it. I do prefer hair that looks combed though. I can’t stand these looks that just look unkempt, braids are attractive, but too much hair looking wild is something else altogether.

  • Anonymous

    I am a white male; But I think natural looks better. I look at it this way. Be happy with yourself naturally. I love it. But I think It depends on the person!

  • Anonymous

    What if the workforce issue is mostly about “STRAIGHT HAIR” and not “NATURAL HAIR?”

    You can have straight hair relaxed or natural. So, to please the boss man…straighten it!!!

    That issues is totally outside of the realm of what is really going on in the hearts of black women. Our issues are “Is MY natural hair beautiful to me? OR How would I see myself in the eyes of whites if I were to wear my natural hair?”

    If you care about what whites think concerning your hair…then that tells you alot. If you become angry about it…then it tells you alot.

    Whenever I read articles about the topic…alot of the times I see that relaxed ladies are mad that they are ridiculed for relaxing their hair. I do not become angry when someone says natural hair is wrong for whatever reason, because I am at peace with my hair and don’t see myself going back to relaxed hair.

    There is something to this “anger” and this “peace.” We need to analyze it, so that we may grow to love our natural selves. I love it, because God made me this way!

  • Anonymous

    I think there is a difference between styling hair and having to chemically change the natural texture of it. One is temporary for a look (professional or otherwise) and the other one is demaging to both the hair and human health.

    I have been burned by hot combs since the age of five and now am balding along my temples because of relaxers. I DO wash my hair (what is left) regularly and style it as well. Twists, cornrows, and locs require time and effort–nobody just wakes up with a head full of two-stranded twists. It took me several hours to complete mine today.

    I agree everyone has to be groomed for work. The only thing I ask is for white people to realize that:

    1) Afro hair is a genetic trait not a style from the 60s. Should Asians get eyelid surgery to look professional? Afro hair is the most fragile hair type because of its multipe spiral bends, despite its woolen texture.

    2) For afro hair to look straight require caustic, chemicals or intense heat that cause scars, burns and balding. To the woman who said, we (blacks) should get over it because she too has to style her hair…how would you feel if your job required you to go to the tanning salon, exposing yourself to UV rays and possible skin cancer so that you would look “darker, healthier and suitable for the work environment” and then tell you to get over it when skin lesions appeared on you.

    I have white people in my family and I have afro hair (I am black). My white family members tell me to be proud of my hair because they know that afro hair is a challenge.

  • Anonymous

    I am a black woman with beautifully groomed locs. My hair has been natural now for about 15 years, and I have mastered the art of making my locs passable in my corporate workplace by pulling it back into a tight neat bun. My hair is not wild, messy, unclean, or untamed.

    However, I know that the days where this style works for me are coming to an end. I will be graduating with my MBA in finance, which may be the most conservative profession around. While I excel at what I do, I know that I cannot hope to find a job with my hair like this, no matter how healthy, neat, clean, and beautiful it is.

    The truth is, I cannot afford to stick to my principles on this one, and I am saddened by this fact. In order to keep my natural hair, I would have to change professions. Pressing is not an option because of the smell, and braids are just as bad as locs in the eyes of the corporation. So, to get the job, I have to inflict the violence of a relaxer on my body. As stated above, the chemicals used to straighten hair cause severe burns, blindness, balding, and are toxic to the body. I am dreading this process.

    It took me a long time to be comfortable with my natural hair texture. I had to learn to accept myself, love myself, and feel beautiful no matter what society thought of me. Many little black girls grow up feeling bad about themselves because they can never get their hair close enough to white hair. Now that I have conquered that, and learned to love myself as I am, I am beginning to see that my natural hair is a luxury that I cannot afford.

    This is my last summer with my natural hair. Sometimes I cry, mourning the loss of my culture, and the right to my racial identity, I hope that middle and upper class women are able to fight this fight, and push these walls down. For me as a working class woman, to survive, to put food on the table, to give my children the possibility of a better life, I have to surrender my crown, and make the sacrifice.

  • This is a very good article. I do believe that this is an issue that needs to be talked about, especially during times when alot of us like to believe that attitudes towards non-whites, specifically blacks has changed, and racism is a thing of the past—all are accepted…the way they are. This could not be farther from the truth. ‘Black’ or Indigenous naturality has always been an issue with the Eurocentric world, and it goes a whole lot deeper then ‘non-professionalism’. Personally I believe that it has to do with stripping a people of their identity and culture. Wrather we like to admit it or not, any one or thing that has been stripped of originality or naturality will malfunction in a sense, and no I am not saying that people with permed hair malfunction. But I will say to those who do not like to be criticized for wearing perms or weaves. Evaluate just how long you have been wearing your hair in perms or weaves…Most of you have since childhood.(This excludes Blacks with naturally straiht or curly hair) Truly ask yourself just why you wear weaves, perms, or undergo other forms of chemical processing. The answer will most likely be because those in your families criticized natural African hair while you were growing up and while in the process of processing your hair, made you feel as though you or you hair were not good enough. Ask yourself how many times you heard about someone in your family, circle of friends, or maybe even you; talk about ‘nappy, black, and ugly’; or ‘good hair vs bad hair.’

    Yes of course there are those who do perm jst for the sake of doing it, but subconsciously majority of Black women alter their hair because they have been systemically that their natural hair, skin tone, etc is ugly. This is fact and not meant to be offensive, but we must understand that facts are offensive.

    Personally, I went natural because I was tired of conforming and putting harsh chemicals on my head that seep into my skin, and have the potential to cause cancer and various other illnesses(read the ingredients in that stuff, and tell me how it is even legal to allow someone to put that stuff on their skin.) besides causing constant hair thinning, never ending split ends and baldness. And if you believe that those harsh chemicals do not have an effect on your brain and personality, you have another thing coming…Just as all of the other non-organic substances in our air, food, water, and everyday products alter our behaviors and health…so do the perm chemicals.

    My decision to go go natural foremost of all though was to abide by natural law, which is the law of the Creator. The Creator does not make junk or anything ugly, and he/she does everything for good reason. And if he/she made black hair like lambs wool, kinky, or curly then here must have been a significance behind it…hence it should not be altereld to please the ego of man.

    peace & blessings

  • Anonymous

    This article made me think really hard…The other day I visited my mother (a hairstylist) and I was wearing my natural hair. It was not untamed just natural. She asked me “girl what is going on with your head”. I was like nothing Im just going natural, she was like no that is not going to work, she told me to come in Tuesday for a relaxer on the house. I said no, Im content looking like me, not like everybody else. I told her I went and put in some apps, her response ” you went looking like that, I mean with your natural hair, hmph good luck”. That really struck a nerve with me. Why do I have to look like sally sue, and jonny-mae to fit in. Why can’t I be me and still be excepted, and expect to get a job? Im 23 years old, and if I can except everyone for how the are why can’t everyone else. It is so hard to feel beautiful in your own skin/hair when others around you find it unexceptable and ugly.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad to see this article. Last month my told everyone that they were changing the dress code to be more professional with a start date of July 1st. Today I walked into the office waering office attire and my natural hair up in a porfessional bun. I was quickly told by operations that I too wold have to adhere to the dress code. I looked at her and stated that I was dressed professional today. I then asked by professional do you mean that my hair needs to be relaxed. She stated yes that is exactly what I mean. So aparently if I do not have my hair relaxed by July 1st I’m not allowed to go to work.

  • Anonymous

    Are we serious? What would it be like…let’s say…um…TODAY, if people didn’t fight and just let…

    Jim Crow be?.
    Segregation be?
    Blacks can’t vote be?
    Blacks are owned be?
    Extermination of Jews be?
    *Add here*

    …and all the while…we are letting Corporate America be…and over hair…

    Are we serious???

    Thanks to all natural hair wearers in Corporate America who are standing up for yourselves, because you are paving the way for others.

    And to the women who decide to get relaxed in Corporate America…the fight is not AGAINST you. That’s not the point of this article.

    The point is…being able to wear the hair naturally in Corporate America. Basically, NOT having to be the ONLY people who have to use relaxers or even press it straight (heat is damaging to natural hair as well).

    Remember, please stop making the battle be about relaxed vs. natural, because it’s NOT. Because many times when I hear how someone is fighting to be natural somewhere (ie Corporate America)…someone relaxed comes along defending themselves. Stop that. Do YOU!!!

  • Anonymous

    Depending on the company that you work for or want to work for will affect your hairstyle. For personal joy and emotional health and balance, choose a company that reflects your inner values and outward physical preferences. For instance some companies are Black oriented, catering to black needs and lifestyle, but they reject the rap or hip-hop and/or pop way of dressing and speaking for various reasons and especially if they are trying to impress, intergrate or remain intergrated with other cultures in the community. Within black culture there is different authentic ways of living. Choose one. As an overall most blacks end up living one style and displaying another for work, school, church, and other community activities. It isn’t always right, but as long as no one is getting hurt than it is more of a personal choice. So choose your company, job, business, school, and community wisely, and be picky.

  • Anonymous

    I remember in my Catholic high school guys weren’t allowed to wear cornrows. There was even an argument. Yes, an argument with the caucasian girls as to where braids came from. The girl was actually screaming and shouting that braids did not originate in Africa. To this day, I don’t know why she was so mad about it or why she was so wrong about it.

    But at any rate, they finally allowed the guys to have cornrows. I honestly don’t understand what the big deal is. I understand the concept about trusting people who look like you – I just don’t get why people don’t realize how stupid it is.

  • Anonymous

    I’m an African American woman who has worn a short natural hairstyle aka teeny weeny Afro (TWA) for more than 20 years. I wear it out of practicalitere are few qualified ethnic hairdressers where I live and I simply can’t afford to travel to get my hair done and attempt to keep it up. It would take up 1/3 of my check to do it. Ssure, I get the occasional rude and insensitive comment, but most people have no problem with it. I say wear your hair the way you like within reason and let the chips fall where they may. If someone else doesn’t like it, that is their problem. If they carp, ask them if they’d like to pay your airfare to fly you into a big city to get your hair done or pay for wigs to conform? They’ll back off, I guarantee it LOL

  • I came upon this blog, because I’m applying for a position in the corporate world. I will be graduating from my paralegal studies soon and I asked my daughter in law to press my hair out for me. I’ve been wearing my hair natural for almost 15 years now, and I have no desire to put chemicals in it ever again. But, the reality of it all is, I know that corporate America shuns the beauty of our hair, regardless of how well maintained it is. But, once in the door, they become accustomed to it, and try not to let it bother them. Like the majority of the posts prior to mine, I chose to stop putting chemicals in my hair because I wasn’t born with straight or lightly curly hair, so why should I be ashamed of what the Creator bestowed on me as my crowning beauty? And, like the majority of the prior posts, I was initially criticized and and laughed at about going back to the 70s. You name it, I was teased about it, and gave in the first two times I had attempted to go natural. But, I refuse to allow people to brow beat me into conforming to a way of presenting myself that was against the way the Creator had originally made me. I’m putting my two cents in, because I do have to ‘press out’ my hair to impress the interviewers of my future profession. I don’t like it, but, until I get the job, I’ll chose the road less resistant to my natural beauty.

  • Anonymous

    Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for addressing this issue. Great points. I don’t feel like I have to wear a wig to be accepted in Corporate America. If they cannot acceot change, that’s talent they lose. It has nothing to do with me. I recently went to an interview in an Afro. Didn’t get teh job obviously. 2 months later, I got a call that I was reconsidered for the position. The interview happened 2 months later. 2 weeks later, the same woman who didn’t hire me the first time did hire me. Here’s the catch: I didn’t have my Afro. I had a short Ceasar cut and 2 weeks later she offered me a job. I didn’t take it. Why? She basically told me in so many words what was accepted and what wasn’t. I will not work for someone that will not allow me to be me. My Afro was going to return in the late fall and early winter. Was she gonna fire me because I wore my Afro again? I wasn’t taking that chance. Her loss, not mine.

  • Love all the comments. I am excited to know these ladies did not alter their look to get a job or to be accepted. I am natural and have friends that are natural. When some may have an interview they want to get their hair straighten.
    I am glad I came across this site because I am a speaker and I wanted to address career development and natural hair at a Conference. There are a number of people that do not believe or want to admit your look (Black Natural Hair) will hinder your career advancement.

  • Cincinnati

    It depends. I relax my hair but hate the time consuming straightening process after I wash it, so I mostly wear my hair natural (which is thick with a frizzy curl). Most of my co-workers and peers are white and have plainly said my hair looks better when it’s natural. From informal conversation, white people assume natural hair is cleaner and washed more frequently than straight hair (with the exception of locks, which they incorrectly assume is never washed). So I don’t know if they think my hair really looks better natural, or if they prefer it natural because they assume it’s clean.

    Oddly, my black peers and co-workers are the one’s who say things like “Oh, you’re wearing the nappy look today” or “I see you’ve got the wild Afro look today.” Older black women are usually the most harsh, and will say things like “I know a good hairdresser” or “Young lady, why don’t you do something about that hair.”

    • zannadanna

      I find that the older generation(baby boomers+) of black people were not strong enough to fight the conformity and so eventually gave in. Their generation made a lot of strides for our freedom, but they were so happy to even have a job that they settled. Now that its a new day, you would think that they would be pleased that the new generation is cosigning to the natural movement. Instead many of them are the quickest to tell “massa” when you don’t look the part. All because they didn’t have the guts to stand up when it was their turn. The hardest thing for me to accept is that the enemy isn’t obvious. Its not black vs white. Its black vs black vs corporate mainstream america. We’re our own worst enemy.

  • I was just wondering, not rudely, but curiously, why the “B” in “black” was capitalised, but not the “W” in “white”. Just an observation.

  • I find it to be a problem also for Men of color as well for Women when it comes to our hair. You are looked at as strange object. As for me I dig a lady off color to wear her natural hair, I guess it what I grew up with in our house hold my mom only wore her hair as it was, and she had many styles with her natural look. So I support you ladies who choose to wear it was you are born with.

  • I work at a theme park during the summer. One of the rules of the theme park is no dreadlocks. I do not have dreadlocks but the rule seemed peculiar to me. I do not think it is fair that employees with dreadlocks have to wear wigs.

  • I’ve been natural for the past 5 years and feel FREE. I will never again process my hair for anyone, white or black or otherwise, if they don’t like it, they can stick it.

  • NO!!

    African-American women…. DO NOT relax your hair! Unless it is for deep, personal reason. Screw whatever desires some stupid employer has. Be who you are at all times.

    I’m a product of the 60s, and I still have images of Angela Davis and her gorgeous, giant afro, burned into my mind.

    Nothing is more beautiful than a woman that accepts her body as God intended it. Treat your bodies as the temples they are, eat healthy, be righteous. But to change something like curly-hair, because some filthy capitalist likes it better…. well, that’s just accepting [their] messed up views, that you are inferior, in some way.

    Blow-off the Barbie-look. Curls rock.

  • I believe that White America has come a long way in putting aside their corporate prejudices and has become more accepting of the diversity in Black hairstyles.

  • after reading your post i would say this is all about racim, which is very sadly that people still judge others from these criterias and not from their efforts or knowledge in work

  • This is a tough question. It’s a sad fact that in certain industries, yes, it may be necessary. However, it depends on the place you’re employed at and a lot of other factors. In my opinion, if you have to relax your hair, then you shouldn’t be working where you’re at.

  • Anonymous

    I love my natural hair, but I know that moving up the corporate ladder is out of the question. I wore my hair braided in the front and loose in the back to work one day. It was really not an unprofessional style. But you would have thought that I was a leper or had some kind of contagious disease. My white coworkers stayed away from me. They didn’t come near me unless it was absolutely necessary. The next week when I wore my hair natural, but pulled back, I was told my hair looks “so much better”. I told them I preferred the style I had the previous week. Silence….. As I said in the beginning, I love my natural hair! Whether you relax your hair or go natural all depends on whether you are willing to compromise your free spirit. What is more important to you….trying to fit in or being accepting of the way God made you? God made me like this on purpose and I am more than satisfied with me being natural and free! My life does not depend on climbing the corporate ladder. Besides, when you get up there, you females are going to hit that “glass ceiling”. Then what?

    • Matagofie

      Reading this did make me laugh not because it was funny but because of the ridiculousness of it all. I just don’t understand why certain parts, at least, of our culture can’t be displayed and expressed at work. I dare not even wear my hair in cornrows at work because I think they may all think I have a gun under my shirt. I just don’t get it. They tell me at work to be myself and stop being so serious but that is the only emotion that I feel would be “professional” to them because when I laugh they think I’m crazy, when I smile they think I have an ulterior motive, and when I do express my opinions I’m getting agitated and it makes them uncomfortable.

  • Also, don’t forget Rachel True(from “The Craft”, “Half Baked,” and “Half & Half”), Corinne Bailey Rae(wonderful singer and gorgeous young lady), and Mel B(Scary Spice!) ^_^

    Even then, there are sex symbols or beauty ideals from all ethnicities who are KNOWN for curly hair! Shakira, Minnie Driver, Taylor Swift, Sarah Jessica Parker, Joss Stone, Esperanza Spalding, Lenny Kravitz, Rita Ora, Slash, and countless others, are usually envisioned and iconically depicted with coils intact. Even THE original bombshell, Marilyn Monroe, was a curly girl!

  • nice – Thank you for your post. i am glad this issue has been brought up for discussion.

  • I totally agree. I am native american and black. My skin is real light. I started wearing extensions in 1979 which transformed my look. It was long straight. Hair combined with my skin color I could pass for any race until I start to talk. Southern as all getout. But my looking like soneone other than black got many doors open for me. I worked for fortune 100 law firms. Now I’m wearing my hair locked at 63. Its hanging down my back and I’m so proud. I wish I had done it years ago.

  • Matagofie

    This does affect men as well. I’m a male that is black and Samoan (though at work they consider me black.) Anyway, my hair is long and naturally curly. It’s not coarse or thin, but be very soft and thick. I have had issues with this particular job that I’ve been at for 4 months (I’m trying to make it to a year.) Everyone is white and very much southern. I have had the “is that your hair” comments and even questions in the interview about “would I be willing to cut my hair” and quite frankly it still gets to me. I wear my hair either in a tight pony tail or at the base of my neck bundled and when I do wash it (those days I dread) I wear it down because I let it air dry. One of my coworkers asked me one day when I had it all down if it took long to put “the extensions from the store in.” I looked at him aghast at the ignorance of that question because he saw my hair was still long even in a pony tail. I try to be professional and avoid them even noticing my hair and I do have an attitude and temper but don’t want to “scare” them if I come out of nowhere and say what I actually want to say. Despite that, my hair is breaking a lot more because I keep it tied up more than I usually do. Yesterday took the cake, and though I know white people strive for affinity and a common trait between us but I was just flabbergasted at the things they say. I was sitting in my office and one of my coworkers brought in a book with Jimmy Hendrix on the cover in a big afro and says “I didnt know you were on a book cover.” Now any person in their right mind would know that I do not look anything like Mr. Hendrix (way more attractive :0) and my hair was nothing like him nor or we even the same age but she took it upon herself to make a joke that made me grimace and clench my fists under my desks so I didn’t throw the book at her. I need to find a positive way to vent and let them know ” I’m not like all black people.” What irritates me is that I will tell them something about me and then they just forget about it and throw out a generalization. I made a comment about going on vacation to New Orleans and they asked me if my family survived Katrina. I tell them that I only like fish and turkey and they tell me I forgot to mention fried chicken. I tell them that I’m working on my second degree and they ask me if I went to a community college. I just really feel like they are trying to break my spirit and being I have no one here to relate to it makes it worse. I don’t know how much longer I can stomach this.

    • Hang in there Matagofie. I feel for you. I love in an area that is not very diversely populated. Sometimes I feel it too.

  • Mr. Ask the white guy,
    Riddle me this. Do you think the same rules apply to black men as much as black women? As television and entertainment has repeatedly shown us it is easier for a black man to make it in any industry than a black woman. Anytime interracial couples were shown, it was a black man with a White, Asian, or Hispanic woman. If she is black, then the more culturally ambiguous, the better. Until that same decisive majority of the white population can envision EXTREMELY powerful white men marrying natural dark complexion women, the ideals will still be one-sided and the hope for change becomes moot.

    • Luke Visconti

      Our data show that sexism is still more of an issue than racism in corporate America. I agree with your conclusion. That said, we’re making progress, and Michelle Obama has proven to be very effective as First Lady—as evidenced by the amount of hate directed at her by the bigot brigade. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • I am a white woman and think there is nothing wrong with a black woman’s natural hair. What I don’t understand is why wear hair of a different race? This blows my mind. I mean the weaves that black women wear are not even similar to their natural hair. At some point and time the fad of weaves will run their course and there will be a revival of black women being proud of their hair instead of covering it up with someone else’s hair. Dont confrom, transform. you are beautiful the way you are.

  • None of this should come as a surprise because it’s been happening since the beginning of time or at least this country’s existence. The media is just an example of what happens everyday. How many dark skinned blacks, especially women do you see on tv? The paper bag test is alive and well in corporate America. Yeah they can’t openly discriminate so they try to find someone who “fits” their image so they can say they hire or promote African Americans. You see this in any highly visible positions where they don’t want anyone with “African” features representing their company. I braid my hair and won’t change for anyone and my cousins have had natural styles one working for a law firm and the other for a financial firm. There is so much pressure to give in to the company’s wishes but I will quit before doing that because it is my right to look like myself and not some eurocentric imposed image that makes them feel more comfortable. Look at my job performance NOT my hair or features!

  • NonWhiteHispanicPR

    I did not have the opportunity to read all comments and this sub-topic might have been brought up. In reference to Hispanics of Black race; I can only attest to my country and culture (PR). During the life style of the 60s and 70s almost everyone fashioned big afros (men and women) but women in particular have relaxed their hair since torching the bell bottoms. Not only professional women but about 90% of black Puerto Rican women and/or women with black hair in general relax and/or blow dry it to make it appear “straight”. Others use extensions, wigs, etc. It is a social and cultural trend as women have often, mistakenly, been perceived as “less beautiful” or “not esthetically groomed” when wearing that type of natural hair. Men and Women seem to have adopted this perception, unfortunately it has become sort of a social rule. Racism? Yes, blacks have been oppressed in my country and this is a perfect example of how they must try to “improve” their esthetics to be alike the dominant race. I experienced it myself being called a “charcoal – equivalent of the N-word” many times. Blacks may not be able to lighten their skin but have been provided with products to “modify” their natural look in order to achieve a specific look. Should black people relax their hair in order to advance career wise? In my humble opinion is no but it is a matter of choice. I have read other articles in this site in where a person opted for plastic surgery in order to advance; I disagree that people should yield to such pressures but ultimately it is their choice. If a black person chooses to do so it should be because it is their preference not because they are expected to alter their look in order to be accepted. I look at my mother’s pictures with and without her afro and she looks equally beautiful.

  • It would really please me, when African people stop asking questions, about appealing more to white people. Are Black people ever going to free themselves from the influence of white people to the point where they make decisions for themselves and not worry about what white people are going to think? I heard a conscious African sister talk about how Black people are running out of Africa, but white folk are running in. Africa is the richest Continent on the earth, but her children are disorganized and scattered throughout the face of the earth, in rags and abject poverty. The questions should be how do we establish Black Corporations and how do we sustain those corporations, not how do we satisfy white sensibilities.

    • zannadanna

      I couldn’t agree more! I don’t know why we as black people feel we need the support of whites to be successful. We’ve been in this country for over 500 years. When will we learn that this country was not built FOR us, but BY us.

  • At the instant, ask for natural hair care products! These products help keep both mother and baby safe. Natural hair products avoid harsh elements, gradually nourishing your hair to its healthiest state.

  • I decided to go natural two years ago and I LOVE my natural hair. The only reservations I had about going natural was 1) I was never taught how to effectively take care of my big, kinky curly hair and 2) What hairstyle I was going to wear. Thanks to natural hair blogs and doing extensive research on how to take care of black hair, I put together a hair regimen that works for my hair. It never crossed my mind what others would think about my hair. Actually, I could not have cared less what people thought of my hair. In fact, I wear a precision cut huge 70’s afro and will wear it anywhere, except to work. I used to live in a small conservative city where the blacks made up two percent of the population. I had a relaxer when I lived there. One day, I went to my old neighborhood to do some shopping and it did cross my mind how white people would react to my afro. To my surprise the conservative white people from my old neighborhood LOVED it! White women were tripping over themselves to talk to me about my hair. I couldn’t believe the reaction I got. I felt like a rock star! Now could I wear an afro to work?? Nope, but I can create another hairstyle that is appropriate for the work. I will never put a relaxer in my hair again.

  • Tracy Ellis Ross is biracial and looks it; she looks like this middle spectrum of both her parents, as does Maya Rudolph, Alana Davis, Barack Obama, Jennifer Beals, etc. Biracial isn’t this absolute, all Black or all White defining category. There is this middle grey area, and all the above folks clearly fit into it. I find it funny how loosely people define what Black or what White is, and yet folks only allow this teeny tiny margin for what Mixed or Biracial is to look like.

    Other than North Africans, I have never seen Black Americans (descended from Sub-Saharan African slaves) with hair like Tracy’s unless they were mixed, not necessarily biracial, but mixed.

    If you want to say that Black American women can have hair like Tracy’s, then you might as well say the same of White women too. I have seen many Jewish and Slavic women who have hair curlier than even Tracy’s hair. Women of all ethnic backgrounds can have hair like Tracy’s, but to truly know why, there would have to be some DNA study to help illustrate the cause of that particular hair type…but when looking at Black America, I seriously doubt that women identifying as “Black” got hair like Tracy’s without some sort of mixture.

    The United States is not the only nation with issues on textured/kinky hair. The Dominican Republic is notorious for having issues with natural hair like this. And I met a woman from Cameroon who says her friends and family look down upon kinky short natural hair, which is why she wears a weave.

    And lastly, America has such a narrow mind about Blackness and being Biracial. In the United Kingdom, you have like 4 options for what type of Black you are, and another 4 options for what type of Black/White mix you are. It’s definitely food-for-thought, as being mixed Black and something else is ever increasing, and yet, people are fighting for their lives to either claim mixed people as Black or to only let them be White.

  • I love my hair,and I really see no problem with our natural hair,I think they might be jealous because we get to wear our hair in all sorts of fashionable braids,afros, mohawks,etc.Most of them whites do a ponytail, bun,french braid or leave it straight .Why have straight kinky “fake” long hair full of chemicals instead of long luscious curly big fro hair?

  • MY OPINION: I am addressing this to young folk, on their way to the world of work. Step up your game. You need to choose a major in college such that your contribution to any employer will be critical to their bottom line. You need to be highly productive and on the cutting edge of your field. You need to on your way to being the authority in your field such that a group of people will remember what you say but can’t agree amongst themselves as to what you were wearing.

    If your skill as a subject matter expert, project manager, team leader,or decision maker doesn’t set you apart, you’re in the wrong job, wrong field, and/or wrong enterprise. As long as your clothes and hair style aren’t a distraction or safety hazard to other folk they should never come up in office conversation.

    Assuming you already work at a firm, if clothing and hairstyles suddenly enter the dialogue, it’s time (for somebody) to go. Someone is having control issues and they are trying to re-assert their presumed authority over you.

  • I’m a white woman, and I think natural black hair is lovely. It’s hard for me to gauge what “corporate culture” says about black hair, since I’m not part of it. I’m a social worker, so I get away with piercings and tattoos, where I would be frowned on in a very corporate culture. I’m inclined to agree with the OP, though, in saying that I’m for black people pushing the issue, and having whatever hairstyle they prefer. People don’t change opinions unless they are confronted with something over and over again- consider how average people’s opinions of gay people changed as gay culture permeated mainstream culture. Maybe the boardroom needs exposure therapy…

  • Anonymous

    It’s called fashion. The current fashion trend says that straight hair is better. Go back in time to the 60’s and afros will be all the rage. Wear one today however and you would get the same looks you would get if you were wearing colored glasses and tye-dyed clothes. Anyone who intentionally tries to lie far from the center of the curve of normalcy should expect the occasional comment or sideways glance. That’s humanity for you. Has nothing to do with Blacks or Whites. If a white woman goes into work after walking through a van de graaff generator she will get the same reaction.

  • Anonymous

    Well, this is my opinion. Its very straight , and to the point. It’s funny how we’re sitting here commenting on Black peoples hair being in its natural state and people being offended or unreceptive of that in the work place, regardless , ungroomed or not. However, white people, walk around with their natural hair, in its natural state all day long , everyday, go to work and don’t have to get relaxers or wear weaves, right? No questions asked.
    Ok, So If It’s okay for them to do it, then why is it a problem when black people start to do the same exact thing, just being themselves. Why does everyone have a problem with that? There’s something sorely wrong with this picture?

  • Even some black people have problems with natural hair.(Backstory: My hair was relaxed in the second grade after a about 3 it started to break off. my mom decided to cut it and ive been natural ever since my fully African aunt saw me rocking a twist out and squinted at me then proceeded to ask me if i liked my hair like that. i answered yes. she asked me if i ever got too hot and told me to relax my hair. i looked at her to see if she was serious then burst out laughing. even the mere thought of relaxing my hair again made me laugh.

  • Mae Francis

    I am a 53 year old black woman with relaxed, short, very cute is what I like and it is my choice. I think if people are flowing with “what is them” that’s where the level of comfortablitiy comes from. I have already been in corporate america for 30 plus years so my list of what i want to do is a little heavier than an other, however, I have a 27 year old professional and what I have taught her is “cultural intelligence”…assess your environment then go to work to do what it takes to get the most of it…after all why do we work? Stop fighting trying to prove that you are right…right about what? Get the goods and move around. If you find out who you are and why you are here alot of this other stuff won’t matter. Period

  • It is not only black people that have fro-ish hair. I am white and I have very curly curly hair, it is much more common in white and middle eastern people to have that hair texture than it is for east asians. When I wear it out it solicits a wave of remarks and jokes about whether or not I am mixed or not mixed. As far as I know, I am not even mixed, but I don’t see how that is anyone’s business or why it’s even an issue.

    I say wear your hair however you damn well feel. Discrimination will always exist, and if other people want to use cancer-inducing chemicals in their hair to avoid it and fit in, that’s their problem. And if other white people with curly hair want to straighten their hair (and I will bet more people do this than you think) to differentiate themselves from black people, that is also their problem.

    I have noticed that wearing my hair out (because it is so wild) requires that I dress a little bit nicer though to keep up the professionalism.

  • I’m 61 years young and I wish my hair was thick enough and not gray to wear my hair natural. I have a nice curl pattern, but it’s thinning at the top, so yes, I wear mostly wigs. I like the versatility. I’m looking for a wig that is natural with a natural curl pattern. I work corporate and I’m the only black person in my building. Only a few of my white co-workers know I wear a wig, and they thought it was my real hair because it look very natural. Lace front wigs rock! Anyway, kudos to you sistas that have gone completely natural. For the sistas that choose to wear weaves, braids, perms (I’m a former wearer of all three), I support you as well.

  • anonymous

    So true, well said!

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