My Hair Is Like Your Freckles

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[Hair Stories]

The verdict? "Inappropriate work hair."

I wasn’t trying to make a statement with my hair. I really wasn’t.

But my large, curly, natural coif made its debut appearance at Court TV in October of 1995, sandwiched between the Million Man March and the verdict in the OJ Simpson trial. At the height of the debate, at the intersection history and analysis, race punctuated everything, and my hair, entangled in history, was an exclamation point to some.

I was told by a co-worker some water cooler coif controllers thought my hair was "inappropriate."

Maybe they saw in me a natural Afro wearing, gun-toting woman, in the same way that First Lady Michelle Obama was satirized on the New Yorker Magazine in July of 2008. Had they talked up a revolution on my behalf?

Over the years, I have always been unencumbered by any reaction to my natural hair because I have always had reactions. It is a sad observation, but one you can prepare for. Like OJ Simpson and the Million Man March, people regardless of race, will have something to say about your hair, especially if it’s natural.

While I was never told at that work place exactly who thought my hair was inappropriate, I simply told the messenger that like freckles or birthmarks, as God’s perfect plan would have it, my hair wasn’t going to grow out of my scalp any other way which made it aptly appropriate for me. I then welcomed the opportunity to politely discuss my hair with whoever was interested.

I never got any more messages about my hair. Most likely because my hair is so inextricably intertwined in race, it took a back burner to the other race topics of the day. More than a million men had, after all, marched peacefully in Washington, D.C. and OJ Simpson was set free.

It’s your hair. Don’t get into the habit of letting others define you or, little by little, you will eventually give up control of yourself. And that would be highly inappropriate.


Black Star columnist Candace Kelley is an Emmy-nominated journalist who has been natural for over 30 years. She also serves as the Creative Director or for the Follicle Chronicles, a multimedia website for all you need to know about kinky, curly and coily hair.


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