Over the recent years I have noticed more discrimination against Afrocentric hair. This discrimination takes place everywhere such as grocery stores, banks, and schools but it commonly takes place in a secular work setting such as corporate jobs. Recently, two black fifteen year old twin sisters went viral for the discrimination against their Afrocentric hair from their school. Malden Charter School in Boston Massachusetts has been receiving backlash for their decision to punish two young girls for wearing braids. The Cook sisters were told by school officials to take out their braids and when the girl’s didn’t, they served daily detentions for two whole weeks, were kicked off their sports teams and banned from going to their school prom. The Cook sisters weren’t the only ones being threatened by their school officials; many other black students attending Malden Charter school also served multiple detentions and even faced suspension. The school punished these African American students under the violation of dress code. The school upholds a strict dress code policy that includes standard dress code policies such as unnatural hair colors that can be distracting to the student body. However, Malden school dress code policy also includes the prohibition of “extra long hair” and hair extensions. The mother of the Cook sisters told news sources that all the black students had to get a hair inspection, rather they were wearing extensions or not and they were asked, “are those extensions and are your braids real or not?” This interrogation humiliated and offended many of the African American students and the parents of those students who did not agree with their children been drilled and embarrassed at school. Sadly, Malden Charter School is not the only school enforcing dress code policies that prohibits Afrocentric hairstyles. Many other schools have banned African American students for wearing ethnic hairstyles such as cornrows or dreads.
Afrocentric hair has been a controversial topic for decades, many of the majority and even minority oppose the expression of one’s own hair. As a young black girl, I have to face such discrimination. For a year I wore my hair and braids and my mother hated it because she used to work in corporate jobs and she watched as employers wouldn’t hire or would fire a black employee on the basis of their hair. Young girls such as myself are told to change their hair which represents their cultural identity so that they can assimilate and therefore have a better chance of furthering in life. By means of relaxing or weaving one’s hair, African American women can achieve the Eurocentric hairstyle. This process is demeaning one’s own identity and culture, forcing them to rid themselves and conform to society. Asking an African American woman to change her hair from Afrocentric hair to Eurocentric hair and banning ethnic hairstyles is similar to asking a Muslim or Middle Eastern person to discard their turbans and headscarves; which is something that represents who they are, where they come from and their cultural beliefs. During this research assignment would like to know more about why the majority discriminates against Afrocentric hair, the effects it has on the black community and look into historical events that has lead to this stigma.
During this research assignment I would like to look up articles from both sides, the minority and the majority. In order to better understand why this stigma is so prevalent, both sides must be heard and history of both sides must be taken into account. To acquire more knowledge and understanding on the topic, it is essential to look into case studies, prior research studies and even research experimentation that assess how and why both parties involved think the way they do. Kenneth Burke’s “Unending Conversation” metaphor illustrates a scenario of walking into a parlor late, listening briefly to what’s being said and forming your own opinion. The discussion never ends, no one can come to an agreement. In order to fully understand all sides, you have to take in consideration the research first before forming your own opinion on the matter, similarly I have to set aside my bias so that I can research and understand everyone else’s bias.
As a person of color, this is a situation that I will encounter as well as those dear to me, therefore I would like to be fully aware of the history behind it in order to better prepare myself for times where I encounter someone who discriminates against me. As Burke’s metaphor brings out, it is vital to thoroughly education yourself on the matter so that you can be prepared to discuss the matter.
In an article a black woman by the name of Stacia shared her experience of how one summer she cut her hair, the hair that has been chemically damaged to relax black hair. Stacia was it of twelve inches, leaving only an inch left of her hair in its natural state, a small Afro. (Brown.) This is a process known as transitioning which is common and recently popular among black girls and women who choose to no longer assimilate and embrace their natural hair. Stacia further shares her experience, stating that when she returned to work, she was fired, leaving her to start job hunting which was a now challenging experience for her. The stigma against Afrocentric hair dates back to the 1970’s when wearing an Afro was more than merely a hairstyle. “The Afro was a symbol of black pride, a silent affirmation of African roots and the beauty of blackness.” (Brown.) To better understand why the corporate world is against Afrocentric hair, a study case was performed by scholars who did multiple surveys with men and women to determine if their hypothesis was proven correct. One of the hypothesis is that Afrocentric hair as been associated with militancy, dominance and resistance. During the 1970’s the Afro had close association with male militant leaders of Black Panthers. Ever since there has been a negative response to women wearing afros. “In particular, when worn by Black women, the Afro connoted a dominant woman who would engage in racial rebellion with employers. ”(Opie, 2015.) Given the history of what the Afro stood for, employers connect dominance and rebellion to the Afro.
Individuals bearing Afrocentric traits were routinely denigrated and excluded from prestigious organizations and networks as a way to maintain social, economic, and educational structures that privileged White created. (Maddox,2004.) Therefore, black women who wore Afrocentric hair are viewed as more dominant and less professional than those who wore Eurocentric hairstyles. “The system promotes hierarchy among African Americans that suggest that the European one’s features- the straighter and longer one’s hair – the greater one’s social value.” (White.) During a research experimentation, researchers collected feedback from participants of a survey to assess whether race affected the importance of hair when evaluating job candidates. The participants of the study were shown multiple pictures of both white and black women, the white women wearing Eurocentric hairstyles and the black women wearing both Eurocentric and Afrocentric hairstyles. They then were asked what advantages and disadvantages do you think the candidate has when seeking employment? “Participants were more likely to mention Afrocentric hair as a disadvantage as compared to Eurocentric hair. Interestingly, in the Eurocentric condition, hair was not mentioned as a disadvantage even one time.” (Opie, 2015.)
Works cited :
Brown , Stacia L. “My Hair, My Politics.” EBSCOhost, EBSCO Industries Inc., web.b.ebscohost.com.chaffey.idm.oclc.org/ehost/detail.
Brown explains her personal experience in her article about how she lost her job the moment she cut off her relaxed hair and wore her natural Afro. Brown found a hard time finding another job, no one wanted to hire her because she wore her natural hair. Brown’s experience was used within my essay to give an example of this sort of challenge for the black community. This source is from the Chaffey Library Resource; only scholars post article and are peer evaluated.
Maddox, Keith B. “Perspectives on racial phenotypicality bias.” Personality and social psychology review : an official journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2004, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15582860.
Maddox ideas are the bases and foundation for further research in the recent years. His research is thorough and well put, truly elaborating on the ideas of why the corporate world bans ethnic hair. I use Maddox as a platform for explaining the research and experimentation given by Opie. This is is a government sponsored source.
Opie, Tina R., and Katherine W. Phillips. “Hair penalties: the negative influence of Afrocentric hair on ratings of Black women’s dominance and professionalism.” Frontiers in Psychology, Frontiers Media S.A., 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553896/#!po=6.86275.
This source is a research experimentation; researchers take the ideas and history of Afrocentric hair, make hypotheses and test those hypotheses. By means of surveys, researchers were able to prove the stigma against Afrocentric hair. This experimentation allows researchers to dig deeper into the meaning of ethnic hair discrimination and focus on how history of the Afro effects society’s view of it today. I use this source within my essay to back up the ideas of Afrocentric hair discrimination. The experiments allows me to put theories into contexts by means of application. This source is credible and reliable; it is government sponsored.
White, Shauntae Brown. “Releasing the pursuit of bouncin’ and behavin’ hair: natural hair as an Afrocentric feminist aesthetic for beauty.” EBSCOhost, EBSCO Industries Inc., web.b.ebscohost.com.chaffey.idm.oclc.org/ehost/detail/detail?
This article explains through personal experience and research, the effects and cause of prejudice of ethnic hair. White ties in how Afrocentric hair effects the person wearing it and how the feel to embrace their culture. This article is resourceful for explaining why embracing Afrocentric hair vital among the black community. White uses other sources such as books throughout her article to better further her points.