How I Overcame Hair Discrimination To Find Confidence In Myself

Published on July 29, 2020

Imagine you’re going in for a job interview, meeting up with a client, building your brand, etc. You get up early to prepare yourself for the day. You get your outfit ready and spend hours on your hair—only to arrive at your destination and have your potential client or boss tell you that you didn’t get the job or that they don’t want to work with you because of your hair.

Imagine going to school—your mom has fixed up that beautiful afro of yours, or your hair is in faux locs box braids or cornrows only for you to get made fun of, or for your teacher to comment on how your hair is ugly and stinks and now you’re being sent home, you’re told. Just imagine being ridiculed for wearing your hair the way you want to wear it and for putting whatever products you use in your hair only to be picked on and judged for it.

You never had to imagine that? Oh yeah, that’s right, no. But in the Black community, that’s what we have to deal with every day: The fear of what someone will say if I put my hair in a certain style. Hair discrimination happens every day globally, and you don’t see it because it’s not happening to you—but it’s happening to many people in the Black community.

Just recently, four states announced that they would ban hair discrimination. Virginia, California, New York, and New Jersey have officially banned hair discrimination throughout their states. There have been multiple headlines in the news around hair discrimination recently, but it’s still not getting enough attention.

A high school wrestler had to cut his locs or forfeit a wrestling match and a girl was sent home from her Catholic school because she was wearing braids. These are only a few examples of situations that happen every day. It’s not just happening in work and school situations. It’s also those times where you are out and people ask “is your hair real?” or “why you don’t wear it like this other black girl I know?”

Even for me—when I shaved my head bald back in March of 2019—things were said to me for having no hair at all on my head. I was even asked to wear a wig to a job interview—and if you’re wondering, no, I didn’t go to that job interview.

Whether you’re bald like me, have a head full of hair to do many styles with or are just a guy who adores his locs or afro—the Black community can’t enjoy their natural hair no matter how they style it. The Black community is always subjected to wearing wigs, haircuts, and relaxers in order to conform to euro-centric beauty standards.

Growing up as a Black girl, and now living as a Black woman, I always thought putting a perm in my hair made me fit in and helped me feel prettier. As I grew up I went natural, rocked an afro, and then shaved my hair off entirely. I’m currently rocking my scalp and big earrings every day, I’ve never felt more like myself and had more confidence.

To the Black community out there: Don’t ever think that you need to change your appearance to fit anyone’s expectations. Ladies, If someone wants you to straighten your hair because “you will look more professional,” or men—if someone doesn’t like your locs or twists, then let them be upset because changing your hair will not change your work ethic.

Your hair does not only make you who you are; it enhances who you are as well.

Jori Ayers is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily based in Tampa, Florida. She was formerly with the editorial team at Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

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