Assimilation or Self-Hatred?

In light of the dreadlock debacle in Tulsa, OK, as well as my own transition, I felt the need to really take a look at this hair situation.  Usually, I have something in mind about how I feel, but I'm really in a situation where I am befuddled.  

Now, the Tulsa situation where Tiana Parker found herself leaving her school over dreadlocks incensed me.  But when I looked at the school's website, and saw THIS:

This wasn't the decision of a non-person of color, this was a rule enforced by a Black woman!  I found myself very damn confused.  How could a Black woman, with her hair in what appears to be a natural style, put a rule in place that bans a style that is natural?  Though the policy has been amended to no longer be hairstyle specific, the pot has been stirred.

In the midst of it all, I thought back to about 13-14 years ago when I was going to a lot of programs intended to prepare Black kids for the professional world.  I remembered asking a Black professional woman about hair, and she pulled me to the side and laid it on me real.

"Honey, you don't have to worry about hair.  You have long, pretty hair...which is what professionals like to see from us.  As long as you keep the color natural, and keep it straight or neatly curled, you'll never have to worry about hair."

I then asked "so it's about length?"

She said "honey, as long as your hair is as close to theirs, you won't have a problem."

As long as it's "as close to theirs"...that's a damn profound thing to hold on to.

In the days since the drama unfolded with Tiana's dreads, I've seen a lot of bloggers and commenters say that this situation reeks of self-hatred.  I mean, it is a valid statement to have because..I mean..look at the principal's hair!  Her hair in itself doesn't even align with what I was told in 1999..because twist outs are NOT close to theirs!  

I sat and really pondered the things that I was always told by people of color as I expressed desires to be a professional in the corporate world.  I heard about the attire, how I needed to keep it as bland as possible.  "The corporate world is not the place to show off your individuality" and "keep yourself plain, from the hair to the nails".  Those were implanted in my head as being the Holy Grail of having a grown fokes' job.

Fast forward to 2013.  Now we have more Black women transitioning to natural, either by way of Big Chop or a gradual means (like myself).  There's nothing shocking about seeing a manager wearing dreadlocks or even a TWA.  Natural hair is now more commonplace, no longer being seen as what Jill Scott and Meshell Ndegeocello do and it's starting to become what a lot of Black women do.  

Excuse me...lemme play a lil' Meshell...

Okay, as we were.

So if natural hair has become so commonplace that it's no big deal, why is it still a big damn deal?  Why was that little girl subjected to all the drama because of dreadlocks?  Not George Clinton style dreadlocks, but just cute little natural hair that looked no different than braids.  

Some Black bloggers say that the rejection of natural hair and styles by people of color is about self-hatred.  They say that it's simply giving in to the white supremacist culture that considers our natural hair disgusting or unprofessional.  They say that it is all about adopting the white way of existing and slowly departing from the hair that we were born with.

Others say that it is simply assimilating...that certain hair has not been allowed in professional environments very often.  I was told by a Black manager "when you go higher up the corporate ladder, the afros turn into pressed styles and the braids seem to disappear.  Those in high paying jobs with natural hair are a minority".  Does it mean that we hate our hair or that we have to take that "L" for what we want?

With that being said...I really am not sure what I think.  I look at myself and I know that the Tam I am right now is not up to corporate snuff.  I have been rocking a wavy, unruly ponytail, I have tattoos, and I don't dress up worth a damn.  When I get ready to go back on the job market, I am most likely going to flat iron the hair, put on the khakis and the button down blouse and leave the New Balance in the box.  Does that mean that I hate myself and am rejecting the style that makes me most comfortable?  No.  It means that I'm 31 years old and want the job that'll help me pay Sallie Mae's ass.  Unless the people know of a job that allows me to remain relaxed and pays mighty fine duckets, I'm going to have to refine myself.

So I place this out there for the it self-hatred or assimilation to corporate culture?



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