Attempting to look and
act "white" was/is a survival strategy.
While enslaved, many Black women
used lye to relax the coil in their hair to appear more like their
oppressors. Looking like them gave them more privilege, sometimes bought
them favor as a possible mate so they could "breed children"
that would have Anglo (white) features and perhaps could assimilate into
the white world of privilege.
Anglo (white) men sometimes felt
obligated to free or educate these offspring because they looked more
like them. Lighter skin made those that called themselves master feel
more comfortable with the slaves around the "big house." Hope
was pinned on the fair haired and so looking white became a survival
If you look at it as a survival
strategy that was perpetuated by those of African descent it is no
wonder that still there are those that strive to be accepted by the
American aesthetic by emulating Anglo (white) hair texture. As we grow
we have evolved to look at other strategies of survival such as
acquiring marketable skills and education to allow us to be competitive.
We have reclaimed our entrepreneurial spirit which can allow us to focus
on creating a superior product or service rather than the comfort level
that others may have with our appearance.
Yet to ignore that our appearance
does not have career implications is naive. To be proudly natural is a
choice that requires a conscious acceptance that there will be
consequences. Whether we accept those consequences or challenge
them is also a choice.
We can move beyond that choice.
There are those who allow that
choice to permeate our thoughts which can sometimes be limiting.
For example, one sister with dreadlocks enters a business
meeting focused on her presentation to secure a $1 million
account. Her focus is on offering the best deal in her
industry beyond anything her competitors could muster.
Another sister with dreadlocks
enters the room and is unfocused because she noticed that one of the
clients looked at her head as if he didn't approve of her dreadlocks..
She takes this perceived disapproval and transfers it to presentation.
The client becomes the focus of her presentation. She spends extra time
attempting to communicate with him to get his approval or she may just
ignore him to put him in check. Either way her attention is not
productively focused because of what she perceives is a rejection of her
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