I finally pressed submit on the application for the first job I’ve applied for while two months shy of graduation. I go back to my daily scroll of looking at protective hairstyles on IG I want to get within the next two weeks because a playa’s tax return is on its way and it’s time for this hair to be tied up. I’m trying to finish this semester strong and because my assignments are piling up, I simply don’t have time to do all this hair every single day. Besides, however I can shorten my “getting ready” time in the morning, I’m all for it. I decided on some box braids since they have been my go to style since 2013 when I started my natural journey and has yet to steer me wrong. Cute, simple, and helps your real hair grow should you oil your scalp and moisturize them strands like you supposed to. Anywho, I started going through my planner to look for a free weekend to schedule a braiding appointment and then it dawned on me, “God forbid, or God-willing, I get called in for an interview for this job I just applied to and I walk in with this head full of box braids. Damn, now I gotta wait.” Granted, people who know me well would probably tell me, “Alana, you out of all people shouldn’t care about that. You’ve been bawsin it up with that red hair so what’s so different now?” Part of me is like “true, true, you right” but the other half of me is saying “it’s not that simple.”
The environment I’ve been in for the past two years (Masters of Social Work program) encourages “acceptance” and “recognizing biases” to a certain degree, so I’ve been sitting comfortably. Graduation is two months away and my student status is dissolving so I no longer have that protection and have to now consider things I didn’t have to consider for the past two years.
This isn’t the same kind of anxiety that the feeling of being unqualified or not being offered a sufficient salary would bring, but a fear that consumes you when you already know your resume and qualifications will be dismissed once you walk into a room and show your Black face with that protective style.
The natural hair conversation is talked about a lot and people’s opinions are scattered across the spectrum on whether they feel natural hair is or isn’t professional. Based on this article alone, you can probably see where I stand on this issue. When did natural hair get placed on the unprofessional side of the spectrum and why is it taken into consideration over degrees, certifications, skills, and competencies?
I remember I used to hate being required to swim during P.E. in high school and how my grade depended on it. Granted, I do know how to swim but the idea of having to go about the rest of my school day after saturating my hair used to urk my soul. White girls in my class brought in them little bottles of shampoo to wash their hair in the locker room shower, and place their hair under the low pressure hand dryer and their hair would always go back to its natural state – all in enough time to make it to the next class without being tardy. Meanwhile, me and the rest of my Black & Brown classmates looking at each other like “we know damn well our hair aint gone dry under this dryer and if it did, it aint gone look like it did before we got in that pool. And I’m bout to go to class hella ashy.”
Small instances that play a huge adverse role in how Black women are able to go about their day whether it be going back to class after swimming to avoiding protective styles until after the job offer is made.
Tips I receive for entering the job market post-graduation go way past negotiating my salary, revamping my resume, and building my network. I’m told to straighten my hair before going into an interview, put makeup over my arm tattoo, pronounce my “ing” and “ers” with my words and practice getting rid of that “urban twang” in my voice, and feel free to change all that up once I get the job. “Alana, play the game. When you are in a position to make decisions, then change the game.” Why TF do I have to play a game in the first place!!!!
Having to decipher between employment and convenience in your everyday life by protecting your hair shouldn’t cause this much anxiety but it does. What causes more concern is I allowed my 7-year-daughter to finally start her loc journey just 3 months ago and unfortunately, I know we’ll be having this same conversation when she’s ready to apply for jobs. Hopefully by then, all this hard work I’m pumping out will place me in a position of 100% entrepreneurship and open that same door for my daughter. #UnashamedPlug shopmaescloset.com
I digress. If you know of any jobs that are looking for a natural hair influencing, social justice advocating, social working, college access advocating, policy-oriented, lover of tattoos and body piercings professional, let a playa know.