Subscribe

login / sign up

close and back to page

Latest News

Latest News

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

Does this reader need to relax her natural hair to get ahead in the workplace? Read what the White Guy says.

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.

Answer:

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 DiversityInc.com. 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.

Middle School Student Arrested After Refusing to Recite Pledge of Allegiance

Ana Alvarez, a substitute teacher, asked the student why he continues to live in the U.S., "if it's so bad here."

An 11-year-old boy was arrested for not following orders and "causing a disruption" when he refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class.

Read More Show Less

TV Station Reports on Michigan Governor's 'Curves' and Gets Slammed on Twitter

"I've got a message for all of the women and girls like mine who have to deal with garbage like this every day: I've got your back," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tweeted.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) gave her first annual address to the state on Tuesday focusing on infrastructure, education and bipartisanship to reach effective solutions. But a local TV station chose to focus more on Whitmer's curves in her dress. It's "a cheap, sexist and indefensible shot at a strong woman in leadership," said State Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes.

Read More Show Less

White Supremacist's Apology Doesn't Deter Judge From Giving Him a Life Sentence

Family and friends said the apology was insulting, and that Timothy Caughman's death was their "life sentence."

CBS 2

James Jackson, 30, a white supremacist, killed Timothy Caughman, 66, a Black man with a sword. Jackson was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

His apology: "I just wanted to apologize to everyone who has been negatively affected by this horrible and unnecessary tragedy. If I could do it all over again, this never would have happened."

Caughman's friends dismissed the apology, as fake.

Read More Show Less

Noose Images Labeled 'Back to School Necklaces' Found in NY Classroom

The community is holding Roosevelt School District accountable.

Noose images labeled "Back to school necklaces" were found at Roosevelt Middle School in Long Island, N.Y. The school district is investigating.

Read More Show Less

California Governor to Pull National Guard From Border

"This is our answer to the White House: No more division, xenophobia or nativism," says Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Facebook

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday will order the removal of roughly 360 National Guard members from California's southern boundary with Mexico.

"This is our answer to the White House: No more division, xenophobia or nativism."

Read More Show Less

Toxic Work Environment at Amnesty International

Racism, sexism, and employee abuse rampant, according to a new report.

An organization that is about human rights seemingly has discriminatory and harmful practices.

KonTerra Group, a Washington, D.C.-based group completed a review of Amnesty International with psychologists, regarding the well-being of employees, and found appalling data:

"Given Amnesty's status and mission – to protect and promote human rights – the number of accounts the assessment team received of 'bullying','racism', and 'sexism' is disconcerting," the review of the human rights organization's management practices said.

Read More Show Less