Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is Hampton University's No-Cornrows Policy Oppressive Or Professional?!?

Any black person who has successfully navigated the world of Corporate America knows that assimilation is a necessary evil. Nobody likes having to suppress who they are to fit in, but it damn sure beats having an engineering degree and working the cash register at Chipotle. So to not scare off potential employees and advance once you're in the door, black people do a balancing act of speaking King's English, keeping ratchet behavior to a bare minimum, and never listening to 2Chainz in their cubes without headphones.

It's a somewhat large price to pay just to pay your bills, but it's not like black people are the only ones that have to assimilate. Pretty much everyone has to change a bit of who they are to fit in. It just so happens that standard Corporate Culture is furthest away from default Black Culture, so we have to change/adjust arguably more than anyone else. In my almost two decades of gettin' legal paper, I've damn near got the Corporate Negro steez down to a science.

With all that said, I'm a little uneasy about what's happening at The Other "HU".
Hampton University's business school dean is standing by a controversial ban on dreadlocks and cornrows for some students.

Male students enrolled in the school's 5-year MBA program who take the seminar class cannot wear dreadlocks or cornrows in class. The ban, which began in 2001, has been controversial over the years.

Business School Dean Sid Credle believes the ban has been effective in helping his students land corporate jobs.

"We've been very successful. We've placed more than 99 percent of the students who have graduated from this school, this program," said Credle

Credle said it's important for students to look the part when looking for a job.

"What we do is pay tribute to that image and say those are your role models. This is a way you will look when you become president," Credle added, "If you're going to play baseball, you wear baseball uniforms. If you're going to play tennis, your wear tennis uniform. Well you're playing that business."

Pat Woods owns a braiding salon called Just Braids in Newport News and says cornrows and dreadlocks can be a professional and natural look.

Dean Credle disagrees and says when people criticize the ban for denying cultural aspects of style, he believes cornrows and dreadlocks have not been a historically professional look.

"I said when was it that cornrows and dreadlocks were a part of African American history?" Credle added, "I mean Charles drew didn't wear, Muhammad Ali didn't wear it. martin Luther kind didn't wear it."
Credle is right: MLK, Ali, and Drew didn't wear locs. Of course, none of those guys ever worked for Pfizer either, but why let that ruin a perfectly good point.

I do understand the goal here: you want to graduate students who represent the University well, and whom recruiters find attractive. Without some level of guidance, left to their own devices some students may dress/talk/act in a way that doesn't give them the best shot at getting that job. I recall plenty of days when I showed up for an interview at my HBCU's Employment Services Office, only to find myself surrounded by fellow students wearing Girbaud Jeans, school athletic apparel, or fraternity sweatshirts.[1] The concept of getting a clean haircut, shaving, and wearing a suit is foreign to some 20-year olds. So on that account, I sorta applaud HU for insisting on standards.

That said, this might be taking it a wee bit too far. People (especially black women) choose hairstyles for lots of reasons that have little to do with aesthetics. Going natural/having locs is easier to maintain for some women, and for others, their hair is an extension of their religious/cultural beliefs. Forcing people to forgo individualism for the sake of getting a job seems a bit heavyhanded, even if it's coming from the right place. I should note, however, that this "policy" ain't exactly new. I have a colleague who graduated from Hampton in the mid-90's who says they had a "no straight hair, no job interviews" policy way back when. So maybe this is much noise about nothing.

What ya'll think?

Question: Is Hampton's "Cut Off Your Locs!" policy overbearing or is it in the students' best interest to present themselves in as professional and non-threatening a manner as possible? What's the real "HU"?!?

[1] It was the 90's, folks. And I'mma let you guess which frats/sororities were the most frequent foulers.

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