How I Learned to Love My Natural Hair in a Society That Likes Straight & Blond

“Any further questions?” the interviewer asked as we reached the end of the Q&A portion of the interview. “Not at this time,” I responded. But that was only partially true. I did have one more question, one that wouldn’t have come to mind if I were a white woman: “Can I wear my natural hair?”

At the time of this interview, I was a recent graduate with a bachelor's in psychology trying to find a job in a new city. Adjusting to the culture of a new job is always challenging, but it’s even worse when you’re the only one with “kinky” hair. As a black woman, my hair is a significant part of my identity. For many black and mixed-race Americans, our hair tells more about our DNA than our mouths ever could. Centuries of systemic oppression have isolated us from much of our history, and our hair is the only connection we have to our place of origin. Also unique to black Americans is the stigma of our hair being labeled as “unprofessional.”

Interviews are often a source of extreme anxiety for me. “What will I do with my hair?” I often think up to a week in advance.