I’m a certified “Googler.” No, that’s too simplified…I’m a “Professional Googler.” Yep, I use Google (and its family of user-friendly apps) more daily than any other search engine and definitely more than any other app on my laptop or phone. Interestingly, a couple of days ago, my cousin, RJ, texted me, “Google professional hair and take a look at the images. Then Google unprofessional hair.” So, using my trusty smartphone, I followed his instructions. Under “Professional Hairstyles,” I saw several images of primarily Caucasian celebrities, model-types, and one recognizable brown face, actress Zoe Saldana. Most of the images displayed conservative hairstyles, coifed on very fair-skinned adults, mostly females with shoulder-length or longer tresses. I was like, “Okay…” So, I navigated to “Unprofessional Hairstyles,” and I immediately noticed the stark difference-hair and lots of it! Black hair, super’fros, twist outs, crimped hair, textured hair…4c hair…but wait? Unprofessional? Not only did I see several hair images of African-American female or dark-skinned adults, I saw comparison screenshots of “professional vs. unprofessional hairstyles” as Google images themselves under the search results, and I am saddened.
So, right now you’re asking me, “Girl, why are YOU so surprised? You know…” You can check out both screenshot search results below.
At my age, I just can’t pretend to be naive about how people’s perceptions shape their beliefs and worldview. However, in 2016, I am shocked that these images would be so prevalent, and it makes me wonder…who in the heck compiles these images? Does Google compile them, a techie somewhere in a dark room just sitting there uploading pictures? How does a “face” or “hairstyle” become a Google image, an exemplar, a model of a search engine word or phrase? More important, how is the designation of “professional” vs. “unprofessional” assigned to a mere hairstyle…and by whom? Yes, I’m even shocked that Google didn’t assign an initial full page of scroll results with singular images of people of color, with their “unprofessional hairstyles.”
It made me wonder…if I were a Google image, would I, with my TWA, be a model of “professional” or “unprofessional” hair? We truly live in a sad world where a woman, who identifies as African-American, doesn’t have the luxury of presenting herself to the world as a “professional” because she chooses to wear her natural hair…well, naturally curly, kinky, coily, locked, wavy, frizzy, or nappy. If she does choose anything but the bone straight route, her own hair, that grows out of her head, brands her as “unprofessional.”
The pearls, yes, the pearls make me “professional.” Say what?!
Here’s a question for you: How many of us have straightened our hair to “soften” our image, appear more “put together or polished,” or allowed ourselves to be convinced that to be successful in mainstream industry, we must straighten our hair?
And here’s another question: How many of us long to wear our natural hair but fear the multi-textured reality of the hair we were born to embrace? If I can overcome that fear, so can you.
“There is a negative stigma attached to natural Black hair in the United States and frankly in most places of the world.” ~http://www.blackenterprise.com/lifestyle/natural-hair-and-professionalism/
Check out #5! She’s my undergraduate chapter Soror and a corporate executive who is wearing her natural hair beautifully and unapologetically: ~http://blackgirllonghair.com/2015/01/8-top-professionals-and-ceos-who-wear-their-natural-hair/
An example of our fears being much larger than our reality: “It was then that I realized that a lot of time we as naturals often put parameters and limitations on how we think our hair should look and be styled. I realized very quickly that I had the problem with how my hair looked thinking that it wasn’t “professional” enough, inappropriate or too “wild” for the workplace.” ~http://www.curlynikki.com/2012/10/natural-hair-in-corporate-world.html?m=1
We still have so far to go as it relates to diversity education, racial and ethnic tolerance, cultural misappropriation…and well, just acceptance of and respect for the choices of our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members, our lovers, our friends. And I ain’t even talking about hair.