I am (still) not my hair

This is the second posts I have written about natural hair, you can find my original thoughts here.

So it’s Tuesday night, I’m doing my nightly scroll through Facebook when my finger slips and accidentally clicks on a video I had no intention of watching. It’s a black woman, a news anchor, and almost immediately I hear the words “natural hair” and “in the workplace” and as a curly girl new to the working world, I’m intrigued. The next minute and forty seconds is complete and utter bullshit to me, but for the sake of reference, here’s the video I am referring to.

Malcolm X once said “The most disrespected woman in America, is the Black woman,” and the fact that the video above even had to be made and published for all of society to weigh in on proves that statement, if only a little bit. I really don’t understand the obsession that society has with policing black women’s bodies, but it has got to stop. We cover up too much, we’re prudes, we show too much skin, we’re hoes and if we wear our hair the way it grows out of our head, we’re unprofessional and it’s a distraction.

This video and the way Corporate America reacts to black women’s hair upsets me because still, in 2015, people of color are scrutinized, ostracized and down right rejected because of things they cannot control. I understand that broadcast journalism is a different playing field, and no I have not seen a woman of color rock her natural hair on a newscast yet, and that is exactly the problem.

Natural hair is deemed unprofessional because it is unfamiliar, because this student’s (probably white) professor does not understand it, because they don’t have to. But it’s about time that society stops using a lack of knowledge as an excuse to police someone else and how they were created.

The fact is, there is NOTHING unprofessional about natural hair. In the past year alone I:

Represented Dell on the University of Missouri campus with natural hair.

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Represented Bud Light on the University of Missouri campus/in Columbia, MO with natural hair.

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Graduated from the University of Missouri while rocking my natural hair.

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And got a full time job in the journalism field all while having natural hair.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 9.16.35 PMFascinating, isn’t it? And would you believe that my hair has yet to disrupt the flow of a work day, crazy stuff.

If you’re reading this and you are perplexed, I want to help you: first, there is nothing wrong or unprofessional about the way hair grows out of a black woman’s scalp. Second, requiring a black woman to change her appearance, especially when it is something she cannot control is truly what is unprofessional. Lastly, think about why natural hair is unprofessional to many. What about it bothers businesses so much that they think it is okay to ask a woman with natural hair to potentially damage her hair in order to fit European standards of beauty?

Here’s a thought; instead of criticizing what you don’t understand, ask questions. Stop demonizing black women for how they choose to wear their hair. Stop pushing European standards of beauty on a group of women who were not made to look like that. And please stop associating black features with unprofessionalism and ugliness, doing so allows others to and continues the stereotype that black women cannot be beautiful the way they were created.

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5 Examples of the Racist Double Standards from the MTV’s VMAs

Well, another MTV Video Music Awards ceremony has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments from last night’s show that we can’t replay and learn from. We saw a lot occur on that stage last night (and to think we thought it couldn’t get any worse than Kanye snatching the mic from Tay or Miley twerking on a married man) but there were five moments in particular that perfectly sum up white privilege and the double standard of the entertainment industry when it comes to race.

  1. Media was quick to say that Miley was “rocking” fake locs, when just a few months ago, Zendaya was mocked for proudly wearing them at the Grammy’s.


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  1. Nicki Minaj was angry and “exploded” on Miley after accepting her award for best Hip Hop Video; even though Nicki’s frustration was completely justified because Miley spoke negatively about Nicki behind her back first.
  1. From the almost 10 minute speech Kanye gave when accepting the Video Vanguard Award, the AP reduced his entire speech to him being high, but Miley had multiple vignettes where she alluded to smoking weed and even proclaimed it proudly in her closing song.
  1. Nicki invited Taylor on stage to open the VMAs with her; she even let her sing “Bad Blood,” the song that got Swift nominated for Video of the Year. However, Taylor did not return the favor. When she did in fact win Video of the Year, even though it’s what she suggested when the Twitter beef between the two artists began.

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Photo: Time.com

  1. Miley called Snoop Dogg “Mammy,” a black stereotype that is still prevalent in black characters on TV today and dates back to slavery, but no one caught it or even understood it (except for Black Twitter).

After last nights award show I had just one question, how? How did MTV/Viacom/whoever allow Miley and others to get away with that much appropriation and disrespect all in two hours? How is it that black people cannot stand up for themselves without being labeled as aggressive or angry? How is it that I still allow myself to consumer this trash?

I was disappointed in MTV and the fact that they decided to ignore the problematic parts of the night all for the sake of ratings. Part of me thinks the folks over at MTV/Viacom will continue to cash their checks not really caring about who they hurt and another part of me believes they’ll hire a black person to host next years show to make up for the train wreck that Miley was this year. But that’s not enough. Nothing can replace the fact that MTV valued its ratings more than they value the people interacting with their content.

But hey, I can’t say I’m surprised.

-BK

More than meeting a quota

Yesterday, Twitter’s interim CEO released a plan to add more minorities and women to their offices, particularly in the engineering sector. Companies such as Google and Leo Burnett have been open and honest about the lack of diversity within their walls for the past year now, but Twitter has been the first to publicly set numerical goals for themselves on how they plan to fix the lack of diversity within the company, which I can appreciate. That means that someone, or a group of people cared enough to sit down and hash out a plan for fixing their problem. Cool.

But as a minority in the advertising industry (which I am of course very new to) I’m not very impressed with Twitter’s goals, especially the actions (or lack thereof) that they’re taking to reach minorities (going to 3 HBCU career fairs is not enough, it just isn’t).

I’m actually disappointed in these companies and plenty of others that pride themselves on culture and celebrating the diversity of their staff, when there is not much diversity in the first place. While I understand that as a company there has to be some sort of a starting point, there also has to be a thought out initiative as well. Leo Burnett’s initiative was the No2six6 campaign, which encourages individuals and advertising agencies to take a stance against the way things, used to be and pledge to add more diversity to the advertising industry now, not in 50 years when current minorities will no longer be minorities.

Companies should want to have a diverse staff because of the value it will undoubtedly add to the product they are selling or the work they are producing, not because society is jumping down their throats to hire more diverse faces. It’s more than just boasting about the fact that you went to an HBCU and hired three individuals from that visit, what are you going to do to keep them at your company and support their growth as minorities in Corporate America which is ruled by white men?

I’m not trying to dismiss the effort of these companies because I understand that to be the best, you want to hire the best, regardless of their race or gender. However, I am offering a different perspective that I haven’t seen executives of these companies address when speaking to reporters about their new diversity and inclusion plans.

It’s great that companies want to get serious about hiring more people of color to their business, but it’s got to be more than that. What’s the plan for getting minorities to stay at these companies? How are HR departments ensuring that racism, sexism and homophobia is not within the company? Will trainings on privilege, micro aggressions and how to respect someone different than you be provided?

That’s why I’m not impressed by these companies that are suddenly pro-diversity, mainly because I cannot understand how any company could be against having a diverse office when people of color have the largest purchasing power in the United States. This isn’t some fad, this is where we’re headed. And hiring a handful of black people who will be a gone in a year or two is not being pro-diversity; it’s putting a Band-Aid on a deep wound that needs serious attention.

If Twitter achieves their goals this time next year, and I hope they do, that will be awesome, but it doesn’t end there. You can’t be content with just hiring the black guy and thinking that’s enough. Learn from the minorities you hire, give them a chance to speak on their experiences in Corporate America, understand how as an entire office you can foster an environment of respect among all employees.

Maybe it’s because I’m such a futuristic thinker, or maybe it’s my millennial mind (kidding) but I expect more out of these companies, out of Corporate America in general. Large companies should not be the only ones tasked with hiring more minority talent, all companies should. It isn’t just HR’s problem; it’s the entire businesses problem. For me, it isn’t enough to just talk about it; you have to be about be about it too.

-BK

Post Grad Life

I’ve debated writing this since an hour after my family and boyfriend left me in KC almost 6 weeks ago, but I thought I was overreacting and that no one would care and six weeks later, I still feel the same way, but sometimes, you’ve just got to get things out.

I miss college. A lot of my friends are headed back to Mizzou this week and the snaps and “Back in CoMo” statuses started rolling in and honestly, I felt a tinge of jealousy.

I don’t miss the school part, the 10 page papers I wrote at 2 a.m. or the tests I barely studied for, or even the presentations, but at Mizzou I had an identity, I meant something to people on that campus and even though it’s a very large institution, I never felt like a number.

The real world isn’t like that. The world doesn’t care what I understand and what I don’t (see below) and they aren’t interested in helping me figure things out either.

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College came with Netflix binges and nap time, it was easy to meet people and make friends, mainly because everyone is in the same boat, so it was an even playing field.

But it isn’t all bad, I’ve learned so much at work, like so much. It’s actually kind of crazy. I’ve got a slightly better idea of what I want to do with my life and I took a chance on freelancing a few weeks ago and landed my first client recently!

I thought I’d have more time to update this blog, but that hasn’t quite been the case, but I’m going to start Freestyle Fridays that force me to write at least once a week. They won’t be cohesive whatsoever, but it’s not about that. It’s about just getting the words out (something my seventh grade English teacher always encouraged).

I’m hopping things get better, and I’m sure they will, it just might take some time. For now, I’ll just enjoy the ride.

Trusting God’s plan for my life (and yours too)

Last fall, I enrolled in a TV Criticisms class at Mizzou. After just one day, it quickly became my favorite class I have ever taken at Mizzou. My professor treated us like adults, we got to watch TV in class, like, all the time and the class landed me a job.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t care too much about details, I guess you can stop reading now, because you’ve gotten the point of this post. But if you’ve got some time, sit down, lay back and get comfortable because I have an awesome testimony and I cannot help but share it.

All semester long we were to work on a project where we took our favorite TV show and looked at it through a critical lens (using all the terminology and materials we learned). I was OBSESSED with this project, I got to watch copious amounts of Scandal and fangirl with my teacher during her office hours, it was awesome.

By the time December rolled around I was so proud of the research I had done and so excited to share it with the class (which hasn’t really happened during my time in college, awk). Turns out, my professor loved it too. So much so that I was chosen as one of ten students who would present their projects during Communication Week in April. I was excited to share my hard work with the department, especially since my research was a topic so near to my heart.

As my presentation day got closer, my professor mentioned that there would be cash prizes for the top three posters. My motivation doubled. I’m very competitive and I wanted to win. I needed to be the best. I was going to be the best.

Presentation day comes and I’m so pumped to wow the judges. I chose the first board to ensure that every single person who came in the door would have to walk by my project, I flashed my warmest smile and gave my elevator pitch again and again and again.

People loved it, I got so many positive comments and my project started an awesome dialogue about black women in television and how it effects black women in real life. I was so sure I had placed, if not won the entire thing. So you can imagine the sting I felt when the top three were announced and my name was not called.

I went home pretty bummed, I truly did not understand how I didn’t win. I mean, my project was fantastic, my speech was on point and I looked pretty darn cute too (just saying).

I didn’t get a check from the Communication Department that night, but I did get a business card from a recruiter at Barkley, one of the largest independently owned advertising agencies in the country. Their client list includes companies such as Dairy Queen, Sprint, Hershey’s and so many more.

I spent all night writing and rewriting my first email to Barkley. I didn’t want to sound too desperate, I didn’t want to come off nonchalant and I wanted to make sure my resume screamed “your company ain’t complete without a chief like me,” (the slogan I had put on my grad cap).

At this point, I couldn’t even tell you what my email said, or what I sent to back up that slogan I so confidently put on my grad cap, but damn was I nervous. The company seemed too good to be true, awesome clients, passionate people all wrapped up in a city that I love so much (that is also close enough to Mizzou so I can visit my best friends). It was perfect and I wanted it.

It wasn’t until I accepted the job offer about two weeks ago that I realized just how much God works in mysterious ways. I never would have thought last August that a class about television and a project about Scandal, would lead me to my first job at a company that fits my personality and skill set so perfectly. But that’s the thing about the Almighty, He works in ways we cannot even begin to fathom. He makes moves that we just could not have made ourselves. He has the final say.

Looking back at it, losing out on a few hundred bucks was well worth the career I am about to start at Barkley. I am so thankful for this experience.

But this post isn’t just about me, I wanted to leave those of you reading this with some encouragement. If you’re going through hell, if nothing is making sense right now, keep going. Don’t give up or stop because it’s hard and recognize that sometimes hearing no, is actually a blessing in disguise. Keep your head up. You didn’t come this far to be left alone. You got this.

The weight of the n-word

I have a confession to make: I grew up privileged. I grew up in a suburb of Indianapolis, IN called Fishers, which has been voted one of the countries safest cities multiple times.

I went to a public high school that’s one of the best in the state where for the first I was surrounded by white people. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me back track. While I’ve always lived in Fishers, I attended a private school in Indianapolis that housed grades K-8 before trekking out to the suburbs for high school.

My first month there was truly a culture shock. After being in racially diverse classes for the first 14 or so years of my life, I was one of maybe two or three black students taking AP and honors courses and I hated it. I wanted to be in classes where I fit in, where teachers didn’t talk to me like I was stupid.

For my entire freshmen year and honestly all throughout my high school career I felt like I had to choose between being an “Oreo” and being black. I chose to be an “Oreo,” but at the time I felt like I had no choice. I couldn’t help that I was smart, or would have rather written yearbook copy than played sports. I was still trying to figure out my blackness and where it fit in at a school as large as Fishers High School.

I never found it. At least not in high school.

In those four years I let a lot of stuff slide, but the thing I regret the most, letting people who did not identify as black use the n-word.

The word is rooted in hate. It has sense been reclaimed by the people it was once used against and to me there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with anyone using it, as long as they understand the repercussions of it. But so many don’t (or choose to ignore them) and that’s what I have a problem with.

A little less than 24 hours ago nine blacks were killed in Charleston, South Carolina for being black. How unbelievable. Equally unbelievable is the radio silence from my white peers. The same people that used the n-word consistently in my presence (and still on social media–yes I do still follow you) have nothing to say about the consistent slaughtering of Black lives that has always been happening, but especially since the murder of Mike Brown last August.

I have a problem with that. You see, when you choose to say the n-word you’re choosing to except all the baggage and history that comes with that word. You’re saying that you understand that blacks are systematically oppressed and the problem isn’t black on black crime, or a lack of education, but that this country was quite literally built by us, but not for us. You’re saying that you understand racism is institutionalized and goes so much deeper than a white kid not wanting to play with a black kid during recess. It is not a word that is exchangeable with “homie” or “friend” it is deeper than that.

My problem with this word and all who use it freely is that they don’t get what it means. You see you can’t use the n-word and then say Black lives don’t matter, you can’t use the n-word and then not stand up for your black friends when you see something unjust happening to them, you cannot use the n-word openly on Twitter and then have nothing to say when 12 year old Tamir Rice, 18 year old Mike Brown and too many others to name are getting killed every week in the country just for being black.

James Baldwin once said “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” Well, here I am, 5 years removed from high school and furious. I am furious that I never spoke up and let that hate speech slide. I’m furious that I worry about my boyfriend walking home alone at night, I’m furious that every day it seems like another black life is lost to police brutality and racism. I’m upset, I’m pissed off and I am tired. Because all I’ve ever done is live; and somehow in America, living while Black is punishable by death.

You’re missing the point, America

Trigger warning: incest, rape, molestation, assault

Just incase you missed it, the internet is going crazy over recent news of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting family, the Duggars. Last Thursday, InTouch Weekly published police reports from 2006 which showed that Josh Duggar, the oldest of the Duggar children had molested as many as five girls when he was a teenager. Even worse, plenty of people knew about it and either ignored it, covered it up or sat on it for years, while the Duggars rose to fame.

The Duggars are a Christian family from Springdale, Arkansas and first became popular in 2005 when a special called 14 Children and Pregnant Again! aired on Discover Health. The show was a hit and paved the way for many other specials and eventually a television show on TLC where the show has been running for 10 seasons (although since this story has surfaced the network has cancelled all plans to continue airing the show). Since then, the family has become pretty powerful. They’ve had appearances on the Today show, been huge supporters of the pro-life movement and have even made some lasting impressions on GOP politicians.

But I’m not here to read off the Duggar’s résumé, I’m not even here to chastise Josh Duggar more than he already has been (although I won’t say he doesn’t deserve it). I want to focus on the survivors and shed some light on rape culture in our society.

Ever since the story broke, the focus has been centered around Josh, and it makes sense, he messed up, he needs to own up to it and apologize. However, we are three days removed from the initial breaking news and I find it shocking that still headlines are centered around Josh: “Josh Duggar Accused of Child Molestation,” “Josh Duggar Investigation Record Destroyed by Arkansas Police,” all truly fucked up things, but what about the survivors? They’ve essentially been eliminated from the equation. People are so focused on the hypocrisy that Josh has exhibited that have forgotten that at the core, he hurt five girls, some of which were his sisters, and they will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.

Why as a society are we focused on what Josh will do next with his career, or how Mike Huckabee’s statement of support towards the Duggars will affect his presidential campaign, who cares.

What about the survivors? What about the fact that Josh’s sisters had to live under the same roof as their molester for years, or that once their family got popular they knew they couldn’t come forward. Think about the fact that the survivors have been living with this secret since 2002.

Rape culture focuses on the perpetrator and takes the survivors out of the equation. Rape culture shames survivors who do speak out. Rape culture shifts blame on irrelevant details such as age. Rape culture makes society believe that the actions of the perpetrator are okay if they apologize and deeply regret their actions.

But that’s not how it should work. As a society we should not be okay with this. So many rape and sexual assault crimes focus on what the perpetrator did and why, but they don’t deserve that kind of explanation or attention. What about the survivors? What about how they are dealing with the story, or how they have felt for the past thirteen years?

We’ve got the dialogue all wrong. Yes, Josh should be blamed, yes the survivors deserve an apology, yes the show should have been cancelled, but all the fuel being added to Josh is taking the attention away from the ones who have really been suffering. Accepting the stories focused on Josh and political candidates, is allowing rape culture to flourish in our society and it has got to stop.