There aren’t enough positive narratives of women with natural hair in the workplace. I decided to create content for myself and all those in the world that are questioning their right to wear their natural hair at work.
Stepping into an office looking like my true, authentic self shouldn’t be questioned by parents, friends, nor co-workers. Wearing braids, twists, locs, or rocking my natural fro is not unprofessional. As the more and more women ditch their perms (a.k.a. creamy crack) and the Black Lives Matter movement beats on, shouldn’t society be celebrating and embracing natural hair? Why are we seeing companies being able to legally banishing certain ethnic styles from the workplace?
Embracing natural hair should seem like the obvious choice. “This is America,” “I’m free to be me,” and “it’s 2016.” But unfortunately, many people are still threatened by Black women with non-straight hair. Case in point, just this September, the U.S. Court of Appeals deemed it legal for employers to ban locs in the workplace. According to the Wall Street Journal, Chasity Jones’ job offer was rescinded as she refused to cut off her locs to comply with the company’s “grooming policy.”
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, banning locs is racial discrimination as the style is “physiologically and culturally associate with people of African descent.” CMS, the company with the policy at question, stated that the hairstyle tends to get messy” and employees need to project “a professional and business like image.” The U.S. Court sided with CMS, the insurance claims company with the policy at question, stating that race is “a social construct” and “has no biologic definition.”
Is this case riddled with ignorance or should a hairstyle really make a candidate less valuable? A person’s hairstyle is not associated with their ability to do great work and excel. Unfortunately, there are unprofessional persons in positions of power that are unable to look past an ethnic hairstyle to envision how the person will be an asset to their team.
For the first time in my life, I have locs! They’re long and some are teal! In case anyone is wondering, my ethnic hairstyle and my affinity for having colored hair has no effect on my ability to excel in the office. Just so we’re clear.
Makeup and Photography: Shellanna James
Model and Styling: Janelle Clayton