Hair Discrimination is Not Imaginary

Hair Discrimination is Not Imaginary

This picture popped up on my iPhone and it triggered me.

This picture took me back to a day I have not really spoken about much, because quite frankly, how many of these days does one want to talk about. I relegated my experience to another microaggression that black women in corporate England deal with daily.

I went into the toilet immediately after the incident to gather my composure. I took this picture after I had regained my composure. I took this picture to psyche myself. I took this picture to convince myself that there was nothing wrong with my hair or appearance contrary to the

comment I had just received.


So what happened?

I was working in financial services and I had a big board meeting. As the main policy advisor to the board, it was literary my meeting, if it went well it was on me, if it did not go well it was on me.

On these days I always made sure I got into the office early, certainly no later than 8:30 am. I read all my papers again, spoke to the senior secretary about the rudimentary but important aspects of running a board meeting, called all the guest speakers with that gentle undertone of ‘don’t come and f*** up my zone’ – then I was ready for the 4 hours intellectually tasking meeting.

Fifteen minutes before the meeting starts, I go downstairs to the huge suites of conference rooms and make sure that all the food was set. As board members arrive, they grab some food, say hello, we have a little chin wag before we move into the board room for business.

Titi what happened!!!!! Okay, don’t rush me!!!

I was in a little circle of board members when it happened, honestly, I can’t tell you what led to the statement. But all of a sudden a senior board member turns to me and she said “ I always find your hairstyles quite severe”. I was stunned. I mumbled. Ermm ermm. I didn’t come up with anything witty, no clap back, nothing. Although I can’t remember what had even led to this hair comment, I remember how I felt. I felt small, I felt crushed, I felt reduced, I felt highlighted, I felt othered. I mumbled something and made it towards coffee, then snuck into the toilet to calm myself, that was when I took this picture.

When we got back to our desks, I vocalized my feelings to my manager who was there when it happened. He shrugged it off as an unnecessary comment yeah, but not too much of a big deal. The senior secretary offered a solution, she said: “why don’t you go back to the extensions you used to wear, they are pretty”. I sat down and just erased this day from my memory until my iPhone threw up this picture.

Hair discrimination exists, a lot of times it’s as subtle as what the secretary said to me ‘why don’t you go back to the extensions you used to wear’. I don’t talk about it much on my platform because I’m clear that my role, for now, is to shine a light on the internal discrimination we ourselves have internalized and perpetuate. I believe once we get our own mindset right, we are able and better empowered to push back on external forces and better equipped to respond to discrimination.

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