Navigating Corporate America with Natural Hair, in 2020
By: L. Renee’ Chubb
For those of you who work in Corporate America, we understand the challenges that you face with uninvited intrusiveness, that people tend to laugh off as “curiosity”. You know what happened to the cat right? Keep touching black women’s hair uninvited.
For the majority of my adult life, I’ve work wigs, weave and hair extensions. I would change my look like most people changed their underwear. At the time, I’ve always looked at it as a way to assimilate into European standards of beauty here in America. I no longer feel that way, for those of you asking yourself. But that’s for another day.
When you hear black women talk about their hair being natural, what they are saying is that they do not put any chemicals in it, nor do they do anything to alter the texture of their hair. Meaning they don’t do anything to make it look wet and curly, they don’t straighten it and they don’t blow dry it out for a faux straight look. Women who wear wigs and weave often shy from wearing their natural hair around their peer at work, for fear of getting asked the dreaded and obtuse question, “How did your hair grow so fast overnight?” If you are super unlucky, it’s followed with the dreaded, “Can I touch it?”
Too many times natural hairstyles are over exaggerated in the mind of those that don’t understand it, and more often than not, it’s misunderstood. Black women wear their hair in so many different ways that express who they are as individuals and black Queens. We wear braids, locks, weaves, cornrows, quick weaves, wigs, twisties, up-dos, messy buns, finger waves, clip ins (Yes, I saw a lady with finger waves in 2020) you name it. While the majority of women wear their hair to suit their style, there are some black women who wear weaves and wigs to protect their natural hair.
Why? Winter is harsh on our hair in its natural state. Someone like me, who has dry scalp, typically likes to keep it braided up under a wig during the winter months. This keeps my hair moisturized, since I can simply go in and grease my scalp at night, and it also keeps my hair from splitting at the ends which leads to damage and breakage. Joelle will fuss at you if you come to the shop like that, and she’s shown you how to take care of your natural hair. If she’s sewing in a full head of hair, she’s telling you how to manage your natural hair in the process. Alternative hairstyles are a way to protect the hair and keep from putting too much heat on the hair, which also causes heat damage. Nobody wants head damaged hair with split ends. Whooo chile. The debauchery!
If you are a natural hair guru or influener yourself, you might be aware of Social Media influencer Laila Amakye Mensah, 31. who stopped wearing chemicals and straightening her hair over 10 years ago. You can watch this thought provoking video on her experience here. For Mensah, it was more about having confidence from pride of self, vs. some artificial beauty standards set by God knows who. White women can’t even live up these expectations and it’s maddening.
“For me, the confidence I have in my hair comes from the pride I have in my cultural heritage and the joy and freedom I have in being my authentic self,”Braid Details & Care for Natural Hair | Let’s Talk
Despite the courageous efforts of the women leading the natural hair movement in the 22nd century, and even the acceptable of natural hair around the world, Corporate America is still standing on the sidelines watching the revolution happen, oblivious to their role and the affects of their silence.
A recent study by Dove found that black women are 80 percent more likely to change their natural hair to meet social norms or workplace expectations. Let’s also be clear in saying what the study didn’t. Black women don’t wear their natural hair not only from a perspective of trying to fit in, but also to avoid “microagressions”. These things that non BIPOC say at work that they think is cute, but is actually racist.
Dr. Derald Wing Sue, a professor of psychology at Columbia University, is a thought leader in the field of microaggressions. Along with colleagues, Dr. Sue has identified three forms of microaggressions: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. You can read more about what each one is, using the link above. Whatever you do? Don’t ask to touch a black woman’s hair at work. It won’t end well ONE of these days. In 2020, our passive aggression lies in the grave with our ancestors.
Until next time…take care of yourself and your crown. Everyone else? Hands off!