Black lives and experiences are often politicized. Black people are viewed as less than in the eyes of white supremacists and through systems of oppression built to keep marginalized peoples at bay. As a Black woman, in particular, things that may seem trivial to the rest of the world are incredibly polarizing.
The mere thought of Black women wearing their hair out naturally (as in the way it grows from our heads) is viewed as an act of activism.
The following are stories of Black women who have lost their jobs because they decided to wear their hair naturally, as well as Redditors from the 'Black Ladies' subreddit who responded to the question, "How did you guys break the news that you wanted to go natural to your family?
But, before we get into the article, here are a few disclaimers:
As you may (or may not know) Black women biologically have coily, kinky textured hair. However, it's incredibly important to note that this does not mean that we all have the same hair texture.
To describe hair textures, Oprah's personal hairstylist, Andre Walker created a hair type system for women of color to use and differentiate between hair types.
Before the recent wave of Black women making a choice to return to our essence and "go natural", a large majority would chemically modify the texture of their hair.
This chemical modifying treatment is interchangeably referred to a "perm" or "relaxer" used to alter kinkier hair types into loose, flowing, straight textured hair. As a result of generations of colonialism, a "European" look has been trumpeted as the golden standard for beautiful hair. Black women have been lead to believe our natural, kinky hair was (and still is) undesirable and unmanageable.
If Black Women having to deal with these perceptions is not bad enough, it gets worse. In 2014 the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a set of guidelines banning black hair textures and styles including dreadlocks, braids, afros, and twists larger than 1/4 in diameter. The policy was extremely controversial and heavily criticized, as essentially any hairstyle native to Black women was deemed unacceptable for professional workplaces.
A week after the announcement, 12-year Navy vet, Jessica Sims was fired for having dreads. Sims has had her hair locked since 2005 and wore her hair in a bun on the job. Due to the ban, she was instructed to cut her hair off by officials, as they believed her 'locks were too bulky to be worn with a gas mask. Even though Sims insisted she never had any problems wearing her mask prior. Sims went on to study at Loyola University as a biology pre-med student.
And then there was the case of former meteorologist for ABC affiliate, KTBS in Shreveport, Los Angeles. Rhonda Lee was not let go for her hair but for her response to a viewer in 2012. Referring to Lee's natural hair, a viewer commented that Lee "needed to wear a wig or grow some more hair". To which, Lee responded:
I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However, in my case, I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals. Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
Afterward, KTBS claimed Lee violated a social media policy that was randomly implemented at a meeting she did not attend and thus was not aware of. But no loss there, shortly after Lee was given a position at Weather Nation.