Thursday, August 23, 2012
Hampton University business school bans locs and cornrows
Photo courtesy Kura Magazine
I was close to cutting my locs when I got the news. Oh, for those who don’t know, I don’t call them dreadlocks. I’m told they’re called dreadlock because when white people saw them they called them “dreadful locks”. After 9 years, I was prepared to chop them off to begin a new journey.
That was before I got the news that Hampton University has imposed a ban on business students wearing locs and cornrows. It’s safe to conclude that the folks at Hampton consider them dreadful. Administrators at the business school claim those hairdos aren’t appropriate for the world of business. What better way to prepare students for a competitive business world than by forcing them to chop off those afrocentric, too radical for the white world manes?
“When we look at the top 75 African Americans in corporate America, we don’t see any of them with extreme hairdos,” Sid Credie, dean of the business school says. The fact that he calls locs and cornrows extreme is enough to force me off the sideline into a kick your butt position. The fact that the ban comes from Hampton speaks to a problem deeper than how a person wears their hair.
Black folks have a problem with embracing the fact that we will never be white.
The black community’s fascination with hair, and the ridiculous thoughts about how we, the black people of America, choose to style our hair, has become the measure used to define legitimate movement toward ridding oneself of the last strand that says we are different. Folks get embarrassed when they see a black person accepting all of that history and culture connected with that permanent tan.
So, it’s not enough for a person to bring grace, intelligence and substance to the table. You have to look good when representing black folks. Maybe that’s why so many people had their panties up their back crack when Gabby Douglas won Olympic Gold with messed up hair. People wanted to know how her mama failed to check that mess before letting her represent the rest of black America.
Hair is a reminder that a black person can’t make it in the “real world” by being overly black. What Credie and the administration at Hampton assert is an unspoken expectation that their policy confirms – stop being black. Get rid of that nasty, dreadful hair and act white. The top 75 black folks in the world of business don’t look like that, so play by the rules son. Get with the program girlfriend.
I really can’t blame Hampton for telling the truth. Shucks, one has to play by the rules if they want to make it in the real world. Most people have to conform to the culture that comes with getting that fat paycheck. I respect Hampton for being bold enough to protect those who want a job with a Fortune 500 company. I get it, but dang it hurts when a historically black college informs the world that being black is no longer an option.
I hear you screaming at me now. Go ahead and tell me it’s just hair dude. Cut the darn locs and get with the program. That may apply with those who approach hair as hair. If it’s a hairstyle chosen to embrace thug life or to morph into Little Wayne, cut the locs and get a low cut fade to go with the blue suit, white shirt and red tie. Play the power game. Feel me?
But folks like me do it for other reasons. The truth is I get pissy when I see a young dude wearing locs with no clue about the history behind it all. It makes me want to take scissors and chop them after a long lecture about stop making me look bad by pretending to be like me. It makes it harder for those who are making a point beyond looking cool and radical. It’s not extreme; it’s a way of life.
Hampton had to do it, because if Duke, UNC or another school with a majority white crowd had ruled the same, black folks from Los Angeles to the motherland would be holding signs while screaming “we shall overcome, someday.” We would call it racist. Russ Phar, Tom Joyner and the crew and Al Sharpton would all be camped outside the dean’s office demanding a change in policy.
A national debate would take place about legitimate black expression. We would revisit Don Imus and his “nappy haired-hoes” comment from 2007. Discussions would be had about changing the way people think about black hair styles. None of that will happen because Hampton has ruled based on an opinion that is rampant within the black community.
If it ain’t white, it ain’t right. Get rid of those extreme hairdos if you want to make it in the “real world”
At least there’s a place in the business world for a man with thick lips.