This might turn out a bit "rambley", but having to deal with this BS in 2014 is absolutely unacceptable (to me). Read below the fold to discover reason #5,236 why being black in America means you have to work twice as hard.
I just got off the phone with my sister. We were discussing several things, including my move to New Orleans in 10 days (something to help help "un-piss" me off). She related to me that she was considering moving herself (to Atlanta, Goergia) in order to further her career in journalism. She then told me that things at her current job don't look promising in terms of her economic mobility.
She has had that job for several years and she is great at it. Her management must realize this because they send her all around the US (and some foreign countries) to cover various events in art, technology, etc. They prefer to send her rather than other employees because they know she will get the job done. Given all of this, she has been trying to get a promotion to a full time anchor because that is what she really wants to do.
When a position opened up recently, rather than promote someone, the management hired a new person for the spot. That alone doesn't anger me. It's their business and they should get to fill those spots appropriately. However, the key word here is "appropriately". She came to learn that the new girl, also African American, had the same if not worse credentials than she has. However, the one thing she had over my sister was "relaxed", more European looking hair (AKA "white people hair").
Now, since you probably already know what I am implying, you may then say that this is too big a leap to make. I would normally agree with you if it were not for the fact that the people who run these media companies (even the small local ones) do not even try to hide the fact that, as a black women, they don't think that her natural hair won't work on camera. They didn't say this directly to her face, but they didn't have to. They revealed it whether they know it or not and this is how:
When someone from management was reviewing my sister's recorded broadcasts, they paused the video when, on one of the broadcasts, she was wearing a wig (something she doesn't usually do). The manager said, "That's it! That's the look that works for the camera! The braids just don't work well for television. That's the nature of the business. Why don't you wear your hair 'naturally' like this?" It clearly wasn't her natural hair, yet the one day she wore that wig was the only time they liked her hair. You'll have to take my word for it that she wasn't wearing unnatural or bright colors in her braids, just her natural hair.
This may or may not sound like a flimsy connection of dots, but my sister lives this everyday. Many of you have read articles like this DailyKos one about the brave African American girl who was threatened with expulsion from school because she refused to change her natural hair. These kinds of thoughts are out their and given the history of this country, it's hardly surprising (although no less vexing).
She told me that at this rate, she'll have to relax her hair in order to further her career. This is the part that pissed me off. I can understand that anchors should have a professional look. That their hair should be well kept and not artificially dyed with bright and distracting colors. But when are black people (especially women) going to be allowed to be proud of their natural hair? When are they going to be allowed to wear their hair naturally, without having to soak it in damaging chemicals to "straighten it out"?
It's an interesting fact that back in the 20th century, many of the black men who could be seen in media were also forced to wear their hair unnaturally (in the so called "conk" hair style). Nat King Cole, James Brown, The Temptations, Little Richard, etc. The list goes on and on. This hair style lost favor in the 1960s during the black power movement and eventually gave way to the afro (of which I am a sporter of). What this all shows is that that black women were not the only victim of the hair “assimilation” left over from slavery.
However, it seems that for the most part, black men have been able to break this bondage. When will black women do so? I don't know.
What I DO know is that I that I am livid at the suggestion that my sister may have to, in the freaking year 2014, "relax" her hair to fit in. This would entail hours of work and the application of damaging chemicals to both the scalp and the hair itself. This is ridiculous.
Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 7:04 AM PT: Wow! Rec list! Didn't expect this rant (written late last night) to be here!
Thank you so much for the wonderful, thoughtful, insightful comments. Many of you are bringing up even more awesome points that never even crossed my mind. To a degree, this post could have been written about beauty standards in general, no doubt about it.
I KNEW Dailykos would be the right place to vent my anger. I didn't initially plan on doing so, but I think that I'll show my sister this post!