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Dreadlocks Don't Make the Cut

June 23, 2006

Black Enterprise Enforces Its Dress and Hair Code

A couple of months ago, Susan L. Taylor, editorial director of Essence magazine, the nation's leading magazine for black women, said she had backed out of a speaking engagement at Hampton University after learning that "braids, dreadlocks and other unusual hairstyles are not acceptable" for majors in a five-year master's of business administration program at the university.


"Perhaps the greatest challenge . . . students will face in the work world is remaining whole and true to themselves in environments that are often hostile to African-Americans. Staying connected to our community and culture is critical. Trying to transform themselves to fit into hardly welcoming environments has scarred countless numbers of Black people," Taylor said in a recommendation to university President William R. Harvey. Her sentiments later were seconded by Essence Editor Angela Burt-Murray, a Hampton alum.

Photo credit: Darryl Smith/Black College Wire
Mashaun Simon in 2005


Their arguments don't wash at Black Enterprise magazine, as Mashaun Simon, the student representative to the board of the National Association of Black Journalists, found out. Simon, who attends Georgia State University, was told to cut his dreadlocks if he wanted to keep his summer internship at Black Enterprise. He said he happily complied.

"I never wanted my hairstyle to become an issue like it has become," he told Journal-isms. "Black Enterprise is one of the most widely respected magazines in this country and my being here speaks to the talent I possess as a student journalist.

"I am thankful to be here and blessed to have been chosen out of the many who wanted to be here. And so, I am very comfortable with the choice I made in cutting my hair. I understand what my position on the board of directors for the National Association of Black Journalists has brought to this discussion; however, at the end of the day I have to think about what is best for me and my still infant journalism career and govern myself accordingly. I have made that decision and stand by it."

Earl G. Graves, founder of the publication, outlined his philosophy in a February 2000 "Publisher's Page" column. "Simply put, we must remove every reason – including things as superficial as our style of hair or dress – that an advertiser, an event sponsor, a subscriber, a job candidate and even a co-worker might have for not wanting to do business with us," Graves said.

"What's alarming about the desire to subordinate traditional dress codes to personal preferences is that too often those who want to make the most radical departures are those who are the most poorly positioned, in terms of career survival and advancement, to do so: young, inexperienced black professionals who are in the vulnerable early stages of their careers. It's the equivalent of an unproven third-year player trying to enjoy the privileges accorded a 10-time All-Star."

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This issue, both at Hampton and at Black Enterprise is something that I disagree with, but I am pleased that instead of not telling a person that they don't like dreadlocks or that they are the reason that he will not get a certain promotion, they confront the prople up front and let them know their policy.

I can remember countless times where I have been told that I wasn't given public speaking opportunities because I wear baggy jeans. That always pissed me off cause its like people expect me to come to graduation in my new Levis.

But I can't wait to see what happens when more militant people start to hear about this. I can forsee some people calling Black Enterprise "Oreo's", "Sell-outs", and "Uncle Tom's". I wonder when people are going to call for an all out boycott on their magazine?
Why does wearing your hair different from what "white america" deems appropriateis all of sudden becoming an issue with African-American schools, institutions, and businesses? Why would you not accept your people whom are physically showing their cultural values? Why are our own people all of sudden denouncing racism and acting like it is commonplace, natural, and alright. Better yet, why are they enforcing values which mislead our young to believe they must appease a "white man" to become apart of the business world.

I am a black woman whom does not desire to perm my hair. I wear my hair in many natural hairstyles. However, I am supposed to perm and straighten the hair because the choice is no longer mine, but "white people" whom don't know who I am.

I am saddened Earl Graves has taken this position.

I personally agree with Susan L.Taylor. We should be supporting our youth to embrace their culture and differences instead of appeasing "white people" and conforming to thier fears and uncomfortablity.

I think it is time they accept us for who we are and we stop denying who we are for them. Only God will carry you through trials and tribulations, and grant you the "glory" to overcome. Yes, one must take the initiative, but inevitably, God will move mountains.

Our people are really busy trying to worship and appease the "white man" instead of loving ourselves and worshipping God (the most high and powerful)!
Simply put, we must remove every reason – including things as superficial as our style of hair or dress – that an advertiser, an event sponsor, a subscriber, a job candidate and even a co-worker might have for not wanting to do business with us," Graves said.

Graves is an idiot.

If we change our hairstyles to be more palatable to crackers, we minus well go the extra step and bleach our skin...

my bad...

Some of us are already there.

White folks and their fears are completely absurd. I prefer to keep my locks, my lips, and my nose. Cause if I give in, the next thing they will ask me to do is shave a few inches off my ------- ( shut your mouth)!

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