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Employers ain't ready for our natural hair

GOING NATURAL: Michelle Obama

I DO hope that the reveal of Michelle Obama's African hair roots will quench the debate of natural versus unnatural.
Now that she's no longer the First Lady of the United States she can let her hair down so to speak.

Or more precisely she can let it out. She can let it breathe. She can let it be. free. As it was meant to be. And that's what she's done.

The latest photos of her with her frizzy naps may surprise white folks who have never seen her like that. But it's not like WE didn't know that behind that relaxer was a real black woman with hair that filled her head from the day she was born with curls. We know, because black children are not born bald.


And even though it may look like that new born hair is like a European you can bet that within the first couple of days of birth that the naps start emerging and turning our somewhat pink babies into 100% 'afros'.

But it begs the question, why are we only now seeing the REAL Michelle Obama?

Obvious answer is that America isn;'t ready for REAL black people. After all, it's only existed as a nation for 240 years and it's history of enforced importation of Africans only stretches back 525 years. It just ain't ready. That's too short a time to be ready or to be used to REAL black people.
Especially in the work place. 

Now that the employment of Africans stateside is not the enslaved kind and people are no longer flogged to within an inch of their lives to wipe the behinds of the kidnappers, rapists and sadists (why on earth do we call them slave MASTERS?! when all they mastered was unprecedented evil), the workplace has been re-defined.


Re-defined but still controlled by the orientalism of the Western world that sees that nappy hair as savage if not exist. Either way this dominant philosophy sees what is natural to African peoples as not to be taken seriously. Particularly in the high-intellect, high-powered, high-bullsh*t domain of the work place.

GOING BACK TO HIS ROOTS: Author Dotun Adebayo with dreadlocks
Still, after all these years the 'workplace' as a concept comes under the definition of whiteness. Whiteness determines the parameters by which we meet at the coal face of the office or otherwise. And that determination does not include nappy hair.

You don't have to take my word for it, ask Michelle Obama.
She knew exactly what she was doing when she hid her naps from plain sight. She knew that America wasn't ready for that not in the high power, high intellect high bullsh*t workplace of the Oval Office or the West Wing of the White House. Or even in her day to day job as First Lady, visiting schools and encouraging young women to seize the time and suchlike.

Let's face it, Michelle Obama is smart enough to KNOW that her husband would never have been elected in 2008 if he had had some curly locksed Congolese on his arm as his better half or the power behind the seal of office.

That's why she purposely deflected from the issue by trying to look as white in the workplace as any dark-skinned woman could ever do. It's not that white folks are dumb enough to think 'she's almost like us'. But it's the fact that they demand in the workplace that you check your Africanness at the door as you come in and pick it up on your way out. 

And that's exactly what the former First Lady did.

That's exactly what we all have to do every day in the work place.

That's why you don't see that many dreadlocks in employment the higher up you go up the career ladder. 
Dem haffe trim, iyah. 

I don't care who you are and how deep your rasta conviction is, you're not going to make it to Downing Street with your hair like that. Look at me, I used to be a dread....

Now, please, don't get your Y-fronts in a twist about this. If 'going European' is good enough for the former First Lady of the United States, it's good enough for you and me. If for no other reason than to achieve what we have worked hard for.

If all we have to do is straighten our hair like Michelle Obama did for the duration of her husband's presidency or as Chuck Berry did to become the don dadda of rock n roll, what's the biggie. Or are you saying that we would have been better off with Michelle not going straight and us not having the Obamas as the First (black) Family in the White House?

Come on now. It's not like she sold us down the river by having her hair relaxed or blow dried or straightened some other way is it?

Of course, it begs the question of why white folks don't want us to be TOO black in the work place. Or to be as WHITE as possible in order to maintain the position that we have attained.


Maybe, just maybe, in their eyes black women look better that way. Maybe, just maybe, beauty is in the eye of the jobholder - he or she who has it within their gift to employ or not to employ. And maybe, just maybe, that jobholder is a bloke who fancies black women with straight hair. Or is a woman who fancies black women with straight hair. And doesn't fancy black women who have their hair nappy.

It is so easy to get all intellectual about it and try to get historical and cultural about it, but maybe they just prefer us that way and wish us to represent them, their company, their country or otherwise, that way.


Nobody harps on about Naomi Campbell and all her European weaves and wigs. If anything she set the standard for what black women should look like and I don't doubt that was for European eyes as much as it was for African eyes.

Besides, who really cares what a woman's hair is like. Surely it is what is inside her head that is more important.

Even though in my house black always moves first in chess, it doesn't mean that I say to my daughters to dismiss everything that the black women in the blonde wig says. Particularly not if she is a professor of maths from Harvard. Or a rap queen.

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