By Sacred B. Huff
During my first year of law school, I wore weave the entire year. Not once did I ever wear my natural hair. The reason why was simple: I had grown to believe that, as a black woman, my natural kinky hair was “unkempt” and “unprofessional.” I even felt less beautiful whenever I didn’t wear weave. Fast forward to today, and I can confidently say that all of my prior sentiments were absolute bullsh**.
It’s easy to understand how those prior beliefs permeated my mind. After all, anyone who watches television or scrolls through the internet is subtly reminded that long flowing hair is America’s beauty standard. Plus, when I see black women in professional roles—lawyers, doctors, and Congresswomen—they are often wearing hairstyles with weave or chemical relaxers. In the US, almost 6 out of every 10 black women wear a wig, weave, or extension. To be clear, this is not a condemnation of those women. I wholeheartedly believe that no woman’s hair should be regulated. Yet, such a principle must also apply to women who choose to wear afros, dreadlocks, or braided styles.
Even with that said, habits aren’t easy to break. When I finally decided to rid myself of the weave, I was hardly enthusiastic. I returned to school after doing the “big chop,” and a friend of mine worriedly asked, “what are you going to do during your job interviews?” I knew she wasn’t coming from a place of scorn. Instead, her question highlights a genuine concern that many black women are faced with: the disapproval of our natural hair. According to a study done by the Perception Institute, black women feel twice as much pressure to straighten their hair in the workplace than do their white peers.
Despite this, later that same day, something unexpected happened which changed my entire outlook. I was walking to class when another student stopped me in the hallway to say that she admired how “bold” I was. This took me by surprise because I didn’t think of my decision as bold. It was merely a single step in the direction of me learning to accept my authentic self. However, the description as “bold” inspired me. I suddenly realized that choosing to wear my natural hair was more than a personal decision, I was taking a stand against society’s narrow definition of beauty. Each day I grew more confident in my decision. I walked through the halls with my head held high. I went to meetings, banquets, and—yes, even job interviews—with my afro on full display. And I’m not alone in taking this step: the Boston Globe reported that “sales of hair relaxer dropped from $206 million in 2008 to $152 million in 2013.”
Black women who choose to wear weaves and relaxed hairstyles are not any less beautiful. I want to set an example that black women do not need to compromise between professional careers or choosing to be natural. Both are possible… you just have to be BOLD! I invite you to join me: be bold and embrace whatever makes you feel good, no matter what the beauty standards may be.
Sacred B. Huff is a J.D. candidate at the George Washington University. Originally from Alabama, Sacred graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.A. in sociology. Sacred was a 2018 Graduate Public Service Scholar at Bread for the City, a non-profit organization that provides legal services to low-income individuals in Washington, D.C. Upon completion of law school, Sacred intends to practice in civil rights law, primarily focusing on economic justice.