CNN's "Black in America" page offered a chance for readers to share their stories on having black hair. They asked people to "show us how you choose to wear your hair and share your thoughts about the perceptions and misconceptions of black hair in America." Every story included expressions of pride in their chosen styles but many of them also included instances of discrimination or frustrations with corporate America. The comments range from the usual "that's not real hair" trolling to people claiming that there are professional standards that need to be upheld.

One of the stories that hit home with me was a black male telling how he had to cut his braids in order to get a job. He said they were well kept and neat, an expression of his own meticulous nature. How does an educated black man with professional qualifications get labeled as a thug? He got hit with the professional appearance answers from commenters, including other people of color.

Where do you draw the line? When does a professional appearance standard cross over into the realm of discrimination? Are there any styles you feel are unprofessional?

You can read some of the stories here.

From: [personal profile] sonjadenise

I think the standards for a professional appearance are inherently discriminatory. Straight hair is still associated with neatness and professionalism, and doesn't seem to be expected to be (as) contained as other hair types. Because curly and kinky hair "distracting," it's hidden away, making it even more distracting when it is loose, since Americans wind up walking around thinking most people have straight hair.

I could never understand how cornrows, braids, and locs could be considered unprofessional - in my mind, they're the height of tidiness. My gut reaction is that an afro would not be professional, but intellectually, I know that's quite ridiculous. And I've seen afros look professional. Beyond being neat and styled (and where it matters, out of the way), any professional standards for hair are entirely arbitrary. And in all areas of life, arbitrary tends towards discriminatory.


Natural Hair

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