Thursday, April 28, 2011

natural hair experience #12,013

sooo...not too long i got fired from my job. but now i have another one. and yesterday was my 5th day at work. 3 of those days i had my hair in a puff and the last two, i had my fro out. yesterday one of my boss says "you need to put that up. it needs to be the other day...but you can't have it out like that."

it's one thing to read about the negative experiences in having natural hair on some of the blogs i get on, but it's another to experience it. and my response was one of compliance, but i suppose the expression on my face said otherwise, because my boss asked me a few minutes after her remark -"i didn't offend you did i?" fortunately for me, this is a job i plan on leaving in about 3 months after i save up a bit for college-this is NOT a career. what i thought most about throughout the day was the discomfort women with natural hair must have in corporate jobs or ones they consider the careers they want to be in. what does one do in one of those situations wherein if you don't comply with their policies, they're likely to be terminated? it's a bit uncomfortable feeling as though my boss thinks i look a mess, and based almost solely only my hair....which is based on her negative Western indoctrination of natural black hair.

but the most interesting thing of that day was the responses i got from different customers. one white guy asked me whether i was going after the Lauryn Hill look (as if he knows ANYTHING about Lauryn...), another screamed "Macy Gray" at me and asked if i could sing him a song. two guests told me they liked my hair, and another brother told me to keep it natural "cuz thats real".
the compliments are okay, however the other remarks are a bit annoying. it's as if my hair is a gimmick or a form of entertainment as opposed to being just what my hair looks like naturally. i'm not Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, Angela Davis, Jill Scott, Afro Samurai, or a character from Good Times. and my hair is not a show, a costume, a joke, or the manifestation of an attention-deprived black girl. i am just me and my hair looks the way it grows out of my scalp. nothing more or less. but i'm not surprised. i'm the only one i've seen down here with a real fro longer than a couple inches. and while people in the north are so used to it to the point at which they're starting to look at relaxed sisters a bit funny (maybe thats a stretch...), the south is still about 50 years behind with 100 naturals in Atlanta alone and about 6 scattered around the tri-state area.

i've yet to fully figure out what i'm going to do about my boss at work (because a puff gets a bit boring after a while...and because my fro has the right to do whatever the fuck she wants when she wants...). i may send some messages to some natural websites with my company name and a letter of the type of treatment natural hair receives in southern Alabama or i may just have a sit-down and ask to see the wardrobe and appearance policy with a special explanation on the hair. or i may just let it go. this is a temporary job and the customer comments do nothing but add unnecessary frustration to my day.

comment. think. criticize. encourage.


  1. Does everyone have to wear their hair in a bun? If not, I think you should walk in to work with your hair out just as you please and if your boss dares to comment again then I encourage to tell him/her that although he/her might not be a racist seeing afro hair as 'ungroomed' is a product of racist legacy, and definitely ask for the appearance policy. There are situations in my life where I wish I'd not been compliant to this kind of racism but highlighted it. Now I freelance so no one can tell me how to look or not look, but I do wish I'd told some of my bosses in the past to watch their tongue. Please please please do not let it go. This is completely unacceptable!!

  2. yea, i should definitely do that. thanks for that encouragement. as of now, i haven't mentioned it. one is because i'm leaving the job in like 2 months, and don't really want the confrontation (although i should just do it because the confrontation is THEIR issue, not mine), but also because of the ridiculous response i got from the customers at the place, acting as if my hair was a source of entertainment or exotic showcase.
    i have maybe 4 or 5 bosses, but the one that commented on my hair is an Asian woman. i've actually read the policy on discrimination and harassment and it actually says "hair texture".
    yes, i should definitely bring this up...
    thanks for that comment.

  3. A little late, but I think you should wear your hair any way you like. If you're planning on leaving soon, though, a confrontation might not be worth it unless your boss brings it up again (in which case definitely set her butt straight). You have a goal on which you should keep your focus. Pick your battles.

    I know where you're coming from, though. I had a job once where I got a fro-like curly weave--overworked and didn't have the time to style daily--and I was told I needed to "do something about that before Monday". I ignored them and just pulled it back a bit so it wouldn't bother me while I typed. I had another job in a 95% African-American office, but I noticed that my black male boss would be cool with me when my hair was in braids, but when I wore my fro out, he'd be a whole lot less friendly and made a few comments whenever I wore my hair out, like "why d'you go and do that?" I ignored him and just made sure I stayed on top of my work, so I couldn't be harassed. I haven't had the work issue since I left the corporate world.

    Attitudes and comments can be annoying, yes, but after 11+ years of being natural, they're now mostly amusing. Besides, I've figured out how to quickly and gently educate the innocently ignorant, while handling the idiots who think they're funny with sardonic little jabs that work wonders :-)

    I must say that it can still be annoying when those ostensibly close to you still make silly comments to you (e.g., the Macy Gray references because they still don't know the difference between her hair and mine) and to other people about you (as if you're an elephant riding a tricycle). It's probably because where I now live--Lagos, Nigeria--you stand out in social circles if you don't have a Brazilian/Indian/whatever weave or, at the very least, braids/cornrow extensions. (Key word: extensions.)