By Minerve Jean
The reality of wearing your natural hair in a professional setting is often either called into question or prohibited. Countless stories of discrimination from elementary school, to wearers of natural hair in the workplace who are either fired or asked to wear their hair different from what they were born with, have saturated the news. A subtle effect of the lesser known Tignon laws which were passed in Louisiana of 1786 where free and enslaved black and creole women were ordered to conceal their hair. Black women’s hair was once illegal, and its lingering effects are still shown today.
For me, I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. It’s grown on me -- in every sense. It’s been more than an outside fight of broken combs and elastic bands. Angry tears when my ponytail won’t slick down or sad ones when I wished my hair was not a part of me. I thought it was a curse, because society told me it was. I would beg my mother to relax, straighten or even do a big chop if just so I can make my life easier and feel more accepted. My mother put her foot down resisting my pleads, cries and tears.
Looking back, I’ve never been more grateful for her refusal.
When it comes to black hair, there are two ends of the spectrum. Those who change it and those who embrace it. It’s a constant struggle self-acceptance and identity. Slavery is long gone but the effects of it still exist and the negative reaction to natural hair in modern day America is proof of two things. One is that generationally, we as black women have a long road ahead of us and two, America is still struggling to catch up to the importance of representation in the workplace.
With the recent natural hair anti-discrimination law passed in New York earlier this year and California moving to pass a bill known as the C.R.O.W.N. Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair). It’s a stepping stone in the right direction which has been long overdue. However, the battle is far from over.
The constant tug-of-war with my hair has made me stronger. To accept my hair is to accept myself, every inch of me. Something that my low self-esteem coupled with the media has not allowed me to do. The revival of the natural hair movement has encouraged the growth of my self-love journey. Natural hair has burst forth onto the scene and is here to stay. I only hope that the journey of little black girls everywhere won’t be so harsh.
That black girls find the strength to fight for who they are.
Follow Minerve at @minerverii and on Facebook is @writerminerve