I’ve learned to purposely avoid certain conversations so as to not be seen as an angry black woman. I try to explain to people that I’m passionate about things and sometimes my passion and the expression of that emotion may seem like anger if you’re not accustom to a really good heated discussion. I get it. So there are conversations that I won’t get into on Facebook for example. I skip past any status about being a good wife (I don’t believe I’m quite qualified to lead that discussion). I avoid MOST parenting discussions and I have NEVER engaged in a political debate via social media. My blogs…up to this point have been primarily safe. I think, so far, I've avoided angry black woman….until now. Now…I’m angry and I’m black and I’m a woman so…try as I might to avoid this discussion, I’m going to go ahead and jump into it because well…it’s my turn to submit a blog.
Recently my social media, my colleagues, my friends have all been talking about Hampton University’s ban on braids and locs for their MBA students. There is a huge divide in the discussion. Many of my conversations have been led by individuals who believe that it is the University’s prerogative to arm their student’s with the tools that they need to be successful and to gain entry into the corporate arena. A great deal of my friends are upset by the school’s decision to not allow the student’s their right to explore their culture and express themselves. My conversation is a little bit different.
I am disgusted by this institution of higher learning’s ignorant and prehistoric views on what it takes to enter corporate culture. I admit to never having seen the school’s entire handbook, but if I were a betting woman I’d probably place a wager on the dress code being very white washed. Very “white is right.” The very assumption that wearing your hair in a style that is reminiscent of one’s culture is non-professional is such a sad expression of self-hate. Would you tell a Muslim not to wear her head garment once she enters the MBA program? The total disrespect of the African-American culture, by African-Americans is totally unacceptable.
Corporate culture is not some homogeneous space that African people can’t enter. I just remain baffled that students entering a Historically Black College/University are being discouraged from “showing their roots.” Pun intended.
If this were 1940 I would get it. If it were 1960 I’d get it, but in 2012 with corporations like Google, Facebook, Zappos and Yahoo being industry leaders in creating cultures that embrace diversity and empower employees, why is this school continuing to enforce such a short-sighted and oppressive code? Do we sing the song, but not truly believe that we shall overcome?
What Hampton’s program should do is educate students on the diversity of corporate culture. Hampton’s administration should ensure that students research the industry that they are pursing and are aware of the customs and traditions of their particular field and then assist them in navigating that culture. Instead the institution is telling their students that their culture is not acceptable if they want to succeed. Well career counselors, our work was just set back at least three decades!
I’m angry. I’m angry as a professional woman with long natural locs. I’m angry as a career development professional who tries to use awareness when discussing issues of self acceptance and self esteem. I’m angry as a person who works in higher education. I’m taking this very personal. The person is political and oppression is oppression anywhere.
Andrea Holyfield is a counselor specializing in career counseling and womens' empowerment. For more information go to www.LiveWellCPS.com