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Sunday, June 2, 2013

I am not my hair

The popular debate about 'natural hair' among women and men of African descent is a sort of serious underground debate. So serious that some men may add this detail among their preferred criteria when they decide to choose their lifetime partners. So serious that some women have created blogs and YouTube channels on the topic.

India.Arie (Photo: myhoustonmajic.com)


A Google search with the question "Why I wear natural hair" comes up with 44,500,000 results in 0.45 seconds. Oh yes! You can say the 'natural hair' took the internet too! The five first results from the search include:
The 'natural hair' debate is indeed an emotional one. Even some artists did not want to be left out and sung their opinion. This is the case of Grammy-Award winning American singer and songwriter India.Arie who has her special song "I Am Not My Hair," with the following chorus: 
I am not my hair ; I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair; I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within 
In the song, India.Arie explains how her hair was a source of struggles since the young age. Over the years, her hair has somewhat defined her.  Now, she is a woman and she is wants the world to know she has control over the choice of her hairstyles. Oh well! She is not her hair!

 Akon, a Senegalese American R&B artist, shared his own struggle with his hair, as a man of African descent. He shared with his fans that he was unable to get a job until he cuts his dreadlocks. Is that right? The online article "Hampton University Business Schools Bans Dreadlocks" confirms Akon's statement.

The dean of Hampton University Business School is standing his ground on his controversial ban of dreadlocks and cornrows in the classroom. The ban applies to  male students who enroll in the 5-year MBA program's seminar class. The dean, Sid Credle, argues that the ban has been effective in helping students land corporate jobs and that they should look the part when searching for employment. While controversial to some students, Credle says that the style of dreadlocks in particular have not been historically considered a professional look. The business school ban is very reminiscent to reports of Six Flags Corporation banning employees from wearing the same hairstyles, which have long served as a conundrum for African-Americans who often find a wedge between their cultural conventions and the corporate world.




In my previous blog's post "Beauty: Does My Skin Color Really Matter", I reflected on the social issue and business behind skin bleaching. This time around, the intend is to approach the 'natural hair' debate that actually affects lives of millions people, particularly women of African descent. Why is it a big deal? As an African woman, I must admit that artists, celebrities and models of African descent will get away wearing  hairstyles 'au naturel' than most. 

What can  be done to make things different? This brings us back to the use of weaves and extensions by women of African descent. As they use weaves and extensions, does it mean they do not like their hair? Or social expectations keep them from wearing their natural hair?

One thing is for sure. The story on the Hampton University Business school  demonstrates that the business world is not ready for men and women of African descent to wear their  natural hair ... even though they may say like India.Arie:  "I am not my hair."