Not too long ago, I had a conversation with an individual who’s one of the “big wigs” of a particular corporation in Atlanta. She was telling me about the time when an individual was interviewed for a position at the company and although his interviewing skills were great, the only thing that was stopping him from getting the job was the fact that he wore dreadlocks. One of her colleagues was the one that interviewed him. Well, after she spoke to her colleagues during the decision-making process, she called up the young man and advised him that if he wanted the job, he would have to get rid of his dreadlocks. Although I don’t wear dreadlocks, I found myself feeling horribly offended.
So I asked her, “You mean to tell me that you and your colleagues wasn’t sure if you wanted to hire him or not, simply because he wore dreadlocks? Did they look dirty and messy?”
She said, “Not at all. He was well groomed and they looked very clean and neat. But when you are in corporate America, you can’t wear things like that. Everything has to be uniformed.”
“So what happened next?”
“Well, after I advised him to cut his dreads, he cut them and that’s when he got the job.”
I was floored. First of all, I have worked in corporate America for years and at every job, there were people who wore dreadlocks. So the fact that she stated that you can’t wear your hair like that was completely false. I don’t know which company that she worked for but that type of discrimination doesn’t hold weight in every company. I used to work for a company that was predominantly white and I saw a few men and women (both Black and white) who sported dreadlocks and they didn’t get treated like less of a person because of their hair. As a matter of fact, a few of them were in a higher position that I was.
Help me to understand something: Is this the kind of world that we live in where your hair determines whether you’re capable of doing a job? I do understand that if your hair is drawing way too much attention (ex: bright neon hair, fluorescent lights in your hair, glitter all thru your hair, a huge spiked Mohawk, a freaking palm tree growing out of your scalp), that it can caused a serious distraction and thus, it can cause a lil’ damage to the integrity of the company. However, if it’s a sensible hairstyle that’s neat, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Furthermore, a hairstyle doesn’t determine whether someone can do their job or not. There are quite a few people that don’t wear dreadlocks and yet they don’t have the skills it takes to land a job. More of the focus should be on the person’s intelligence, their education level, and their ability to learn. It would be an outright shame for someone to go to school to learn a trade or get a degree and then after all of those nights that they’ve studied and worked hard, it is now consider a waste of their time because of their hair. What type of message are we sending here? Are we saying that we’re more impressed with the quality of someone’s hair than the quality of their work?
Having dreadlocks shouldn’t determine a person’s future. If they keep them neat and nicely trimmed, leave them alone. Don’t lose a valuable asset to your company based off of narrow-minded thinking. For this individual to be a Black woman, she should’ve definitely understood that concept especially since unfortunately in this cold world, she already has two strikes against her; she’s Black and she’s a female. We already know that in corporate America, it is basically a white male-dominated industry and because you’re Black and you’re a woman, the people that you work for are going to automatically think that you don’t know as much as you say you do.
So yes, I was taken aback when she suggested that the young man cut his dreads. If a person is wearing dreadlocks, embrace it; don’t erase it. There are an astronomical amount of men and women that are rotting in prisons from all over the world. A lot of them didn’t wear dreadlocks when they were doing crime and a lot of them wasn’t wearing dreadlocks when they were put in prison. So my point is that a person’s dreadlocks doesn’t make this wise or unwise. It doesn’t determine whether they’re smart or stupid. It doesn’t even determine if they’re more creative and listen to poetry all day. It’s just hair. In the famous words of India Arie, “It’s not what’s on your head; it’s what’s underneath it.”
Copyright © 2014 by Sonica Jackson
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