Some of you guys were your barber’s first customers in three months and it shows… some of the cuts I’ve been seeing on social media is like you were trimmed by your arch-nemesis. Those ‘get a bowl and shave around’ type trims. I can picture it now, the barber’s hands trembling as he’s lining you up, your heart beating out of your chest praying he doesn’t make a mistake. One false move now your trim is looking like Jada and Will’s marriage. One slip of the hand now you’ve got to self-isolate for another fourteen days whilst that part of your hair grows back. I’d imagine that after a three-month hiatus anyone would be a tad rusty at their craft let alone a barber and I just couldn’t take that risk. Had to wait a lil’ longer just to make sure he’s got his mojo back. I’ve survived the last three months looking like Chewbacca’s nephew so another week or two won’t go amiss.
As barbers open up, thankfully here in the U.K. restrictions on a whole are being eased and things are getting back to normal… well a ‘new normal’ anyways, whatever that means. Restaurants and bars are opening up and gyms are being pencilled-in, in a couple of weeks. Whilst things around us are rapidly changing the one mainstay I’m seeing is the momentum of the Black Lives Matter initiatives. Since the George Floyd tragedy we’ve been forced to have some uncomfortable conversations with one another to challenge the issues at hand. For the most part it’s opened up much needed dialogue but as with all movements, its also been met with hostility. The one place I felt the dialogue wasn’t being had though was at work. I’m lucky enough to work in quite a diverse environment from gender, race, creed etc, but with all that was going on in the world, I expected more of a pro-active response. Whilst I’ll never back a company using BLM as a virtue signalling mechanism, it’s quite reassuring to open up these lines of discussions.
I was in two minds about taking this any further but eventually I decided to chat with my line manager about the BLM topic and how we could spark the conversation within our department. Of course, discussions went well, and I even volunteered to host a panel session with the rest of my team which equally brought about healthy discussions. Although… after listening to some of the experiences of the panellists, it got me thinking about the office environment a bit deeper and the microaggressions people face on a regular basis – that being the indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group. I bet you’ve all heard the “I’m nearly as dark as you” line from a colleague returning back from their holiday. Or how about the “where are you from… where are you REALLY from” retort. Intrigued, I took to Instagram Stories to ask for examples of when my followers had experienced microaggressions in the office and I can unanimously conclude from my responses, “b*tch, don’t touch my hair”!
I don’t even want the barbers touching my hair so why would I want you?? Didn’t Solange tell you guys already lol. Unwanted hair fiddling was literally the response from every other person, especially black women. The lack of black faces in corporate places has made the texture of our 4c hair something to be curious about. But your curiosity shouldn’t lead you to invading someone’s personal space. And even if you seek permission, read the room! More time black people will allow you to touch their hair just so they’re not stereotyped as “unapproachable” or “not a team player”. When the Eurocentric standards of beauty have excluded your people, the touching of ones hair is less compliment and more uncomfortable. Afros, twists, locs and braids have been seen as unkept or unprofessional for so long yet some people can’t seem to stay away… the irony. Whilst there may not be any mal-intent, a simple Google search will highlight the historical context surrounding black hair and how we’ve been marginalised as a result. Admire from afar, let’s not claim entitlement for something that doesn’t belong to you.