“Can you do something else with your hair?”
I always thought that I’d know what to do if something like this happened to me. Always thought that I’d know how to react. I thought that I’d never let anyone police my natural hair. Because I was so proud of it you know?
So naïve of me. So naïve.
My supervisor asked me this question. I could tell that he was uncomfortable. It seemed to be hard for him to just look me in the eyes. I know it was not his initiative, this order was coming from someone in a higher position. He was newly named supervisor, so of course he had to do the dirty work.
“It just that you know….you are at the front desk so….”
He was so uncomfortable. This whole situation was freaking awkward to be honest. I decided to act like it was no big deal. I was not about to cause a scene. And maybe lose my job. And be labelled as the “angry black girl”. Even if this anger was more than justified. Did they asked the white girls with messy ponytails to change their hair during a shift?
I didn’t tell him this of course. Instead, I replied with calm:
“No, I cannot…”
And it was the truth. I was not trying to be difficult. I had not the necessary tools to change the up-do that I did this morning. I was wearing two puffs, and I had no combs, no brush, and no gel, to change it up.
But he insisted.
“I know how hard it is for you I dated a black girl before…”
Oh shut up. I know that you are trying to relate but this is not helping at all. Just hush.
“Well….I think I could pin them down. Do buns instead of puffs? … anyway I think I can do something”
I did not understand myself. Didn’t know if what I was saying made any sense. I just wanted to get it over with.
“Okay just go ahead, I am ready to give you a whole 15 minutes to do this…”
HAHAHAHA this has to be a joke! 15 minutes?? With no comb?? I should be grateful I guess! And he thinks he understands…
“Perfect!” I replied, keeping my thought to myself.
While I was looking for my debit card in my locker, to buy some pins in a store nearby, I overheard my manager talking to my supervisor;
“Did she understand? …..Ok good the only thing that matters is that she gets it…”
So. Freakin. Humiliating.
They were talking in the office about my hair.
Seriously I felt like crying. What was the problem exactly? I already came to work with my two puffs before and nobody said anything. I did this up-do multiple times actually. The worst part is I used to be anxious about my hair when I first got this job. They insisted on the importance of wearing “professional” hairstyle.
But what does that even mean? For weeks I had been careful. Since I have natural kinky hair, I just didn’t know what I could or could not do. Being the only black girl in the workplace, it was hard to figure it out. I always made sure that my edges were laid.
But this morning….I knew my hair was not as laid as usual. I didn’t think it mattered though, they were okay. And who at work had their hair laid all the time? Nobody!
Nobody…and still….I was warned.
And it made me question my hair all day.
And I hated this feeling.
I was anxious the rest of the day. And for the next shifts I was anxious as well.
The next day my mom and my sister teased me on the fact that my hair wasn’t as laid as they usually are.
And I almost cried.
Plus that same day, it started snowing and I had to put a hood over my head. I couldn’t help but thinking “Will I mess up my hair?” It was getting ridiculous.
I love my hair so much. I am so proud, of what it represents. Wearing my natural hair, is going against the European standard of beauty. It makes me feel powerful…
Black and proud!
Am I really? Why did I care so much all of a sudden? Why does it makes me anxious? Why am I about to cry? Why didn’t I screamed to my supervisor that nothing, absolutely nothing was wrong with my hair? Why didn’t I confronted my manager? Why did I try to make THEM comfortable when I was the one experiencing the shame?
So many whys…
Until I realized that I did nothing wrong. I am just trying to survive in this white supremacist and capitalist society. I am trying to keep my job. And there was nothing wrong with that. THEY should question themselves and their actions. Not me.
My hair is beautiful. My hair defies gravity. My hair is magic.
And being a black girl in the workplace ain’t easy.
I didn’t know if I’d ever share this story. But I think it is more than necessary. Black women bodies are constantly policed and it is not okay.
It is racist.
I am more then aware that we are not all in a position that allows us to speak up.
That is why I decided to share it.
I want you to know that you are not alone. I am here. We are here. Let’s take our place.
Regardless of who gets uncomfortable.
This is a message from your sista,