RealTalk – I Am Not My Hair or Am I?

This past Sunday, The Vine Event Planning, hosted another intriguing RealTalk discussion titled “I Am Not My Hair or Am I?”.  The discussion highlighted the Gabby Douglas Twitter incident and Hampton University’s MBA program ban on dreadlocks and cornrows.

During the 2012 Summer Olympics, gymnast Gabby Douglas, was criticized on Twitter about her hair. Numerous people complained about how Gabby’s hair was styled. Our discussion participants unanimously agreed that the tweets were trivial and the focus should have been on her spectacular performances. When asked if they we’re surprised by the negative responses on Twitter, all in attendance were not. Some participants shared their own personal experience with similar incidents whether it was themselves or others. Our guest got a better understanding of why it is difficult for female athletes to maintain “perfect” hair with continuous performance and sweating.  “Most of the people complaining probably have no athletic background what so ever. True athletes are focused on the task at hand like Gabby was; her hair was not a priority,” said Michael Cross.

Recently, Hampton University has been in the news for banning dreadlocks and cornrows for male students in their MBA program. Even though, the majority felt like it was discriminatory toward the male students, they understood why the university implemented the ban. One of our guest suggested that acceptable “corporate look” should be taught by the university but, not imposed. Another guest quickly retorted the suggestion with the fact that the success of program is measured by the number of graduates who gain employment. The likelihood of a graduate with dreadlocks and cornrows getting a corporate position is slim; certain positions don’t allow facial hair, piercings, tattoos, etc. “College is a microscopic environment.  Hampton is preparing their students for the real world outside of campus,” said Willette Johnson.

Self-discrimination was also a topic of discussion since the majority of the people who found fault with Gabby’s hair were African American women and Hampton University is an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Everyone believed that self-discrimination was a factor in the Gabby Douglas incident; exposing insecurities that some black women have about “kinky” hair.  “Some of us [black women] have bought into the notion that straighter is better; if my hair will not lay down then something is wrong with me,” explained Johnson. Our guest agreed that Hampton’s ban was not necessarily self-discrimination but, more of a preparation for work environment in Corporate America.

We encouraged our guest not to end the discussion at the event but, to continue the dialogue with family, friends, and associates. They were instructed to share insights from our discussion and expand the knowledge of others. Most importantly, we asked them to also look within themselves and identify any insecurity they may have. In identifying and confronting these insecurities, personal growth is sure to follow.

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