Reader Submission: How I Use My Blackness To My Benefit In The Workplace
By Simone Boxhill
I am sure my colleagues have no idea how it feels to sit in an office filled with faces and races different than their own. Day after day I struggle to get out of bed only to get dressed and rush to an office where something or someone seems to be missing. The company claims to support diversity but I can count the few ethnicities we employ on one hand. Suspecting as much, I exercised my better judgement and interviewed for my current position with neat cornrows covered by a fabulous, blunt cut bob wig that even scored a few compliments from human resources. Little did the HR manager know that once I was hired all bets would be off and my fro was going to be free.
The first two months on the job with the wig were awkward and intense. I struggled with my ability to embrace the Barbie textured hair on my head that I knew wasn’t mine. One weekend, after hours of inner debate, I decided to burn the wig and reveal my healthy, natural hair in the workplace. The first day my kinks and curls were met with “ooooooohs” and “ahhhhhhs” and I was grateful for the warm reception. Secretly, I wasn’t sure if Becky with the good hair would approve of my new look without prior notice on a Monday morning. For that reason being a naturalista in corporate America was initially scary, but I quickly had to brush that off for the greater good of my locks which require daily moisture to truly thrive.
Fast forward to summer 2016 when I decided to install waist length box braids inspired by Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the water cooler folks were again shockingly pleased. One woman asked if I was going on vacation, another was gutsy enough to touch my braids without asking, and the other believed the extensions were my real hair. Despite those incidents, the overall response was incredibly positive, with a few employees excitedly asking questions about the installation and maintenance, and some even wishing their hair, too, could be protectively styled. Being one of the few round browns in the office, I realized there is something magical about me that draws people in. My coworkers really want to know how I spend my weekend, where I order a pair of shoes, and where I’m going after work if I’m caught applying lipstick at my desk, and it’s not because they think I’m some magical negro, it’s because I finally allowed them to see my true self.
Corporate America encouraged me to use blackness to my benefit in the workplace. Once I stopped caring how the masses would perceive me, I fully embraced being my authentic self and decided to let the world see just how great I am; how great we are. And trust me, they do.