Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Getting what you ask for

Black Enterprise isn't what I would call a bastion of activist journalism, and I suppose that there is nothing wrong with that. The magazine is tailored to keep the black middle class folk "middle", and use middle-class status to reach "upper-middle class". BE feeds off this type of code language--and makes very little apology for ascribing to a bourgeouis black aesthetic.

So when Mashaun Simon, National Student Representative for the National Association of Black Journalists, learned that he would have to cut his dreadlocks in order to comply with the company's "corporate" dress code or leave, he did not hesitate. He walked into a SoHo barbershop and thirty-five minutes later he was looking like DJ Clue.

Low cesar.

Imagine my surprise when the Advertising Age published a report yesterday in which Butch Graves Jr. criticized the advertising industry "at an event sponsored by the magazine to promote its annual '40 Best Companies for Diversity' special report."

Talk about a staged rant.
"Earl "Butch" Graves Jr. said agencies that specialize in targeting blacks often are not responsible for media buying and planning for products bought by blacks. One source, he said, is 'basic racism. This is one of the most racist industries in this country. Period. I'm angry about it. Agencies are licensed to practice racism, not just in hiring but also in investing in these media.'"
When a black-owned company speaks out against what they feel is a racist practice, am I wrong to be under the impression that they embrace liberal ideals of expression, acceptance and tolerance? Well clearly not Mr. Graves, and not BE.

Institutions that look down on dreadlocks are really bad at explaining exactly what it is they are trying to conform to. Practical justification also escapes them.

"In their eyes they honestly feel like by requiring their employees to dress a certain way they are benefitting the community and the way members of the community see and carry themselves," Simon said. "[There is] nothing wrong with that at all.

"The BE corporate culture is one that has been in place for 30-plus years, and I can respect Mr. Graves and his desire to have his employees look and dress a certain way," Simon continued.

Full disclosure: I don't have dreads, and I never will. It's the Tyrese look for me for the rest of time. If the folks that do have them are willing to comply with getting rid of them in order to be a better person, then fine.

"Cutting my hair was, and is, a sacrifice. Under different circumstances, would I have cut my hair? I am not sure exactly," Simon said.

I find it odd that BE is worried about what's on the tops of their employees heads, rather than what's inside of them.

And yet, there they were the other day, claiming to be the victims of racism.

Posted by Darren Sands at 11:55 AM | link

Read or Post a Comment

hott ish man ... i am impressed with this and your writing.

just fyi i am coming out with my own response to the BE issue and hairgate at the end of the summer, will keep you all posted!

its going to be good, pbi!

Posted by Blogger *Madosi @ 2:15 PM, June 14, 2006 #

Leave it you to set the standard. Great post.

Posted by Blogger Chris @ 2:20 PM, June 14, 2006 #

That seems like apples and oranges to me. Not saying that corporate uniformity isnt bullshyt at most, but Earl Graves is speaking out against institutionalized racism. It's kinda like homosexuals comparing their struggle to that of Blacks. You know what the stat quo is beforehand and those with dreads and piercings and tattoos voluntarily buck that status quo. Those are kind of the consequences. Unfair, stupid, and illogical consequences but them the brakes nonetheless. Conform and you'll still be able to break bread. But the system Graves is speaking out against is an oppressive system that fucks with his and the future generations of black media entrepreneurs' money. My money.
But have you seen Earl Graves' hair? That shit is fucked up. Of course he's gonna hate on people with nice-looking hair.

Posted by Anonymous RJF @ 8:54 PM, June 14, 2006 #

this bothered me on a very deep level because i have natural hair and am considering locking it. i could care less if someone decides not to give me a job based on my hair unless it is really, really interfering with my ability to go straight to the top. but my work and references speak for themselves so i will know when i'm being discriminated against for "what's on my head and not in it." yes dreadlocks and piercings may buck the system, but they are also an expression of self. i do not have to look like everyone else to get my point across. as a matter of fact, why would you, as an employer want me to be a conformist? i'm not saying i'm coming in there with wild hair and colored neck tattoos. doesn't every company have standards and shouldn't they? absolutely. however, being the company who bucks the trends, or starts them is what rockets them to the top. idealist? perhaps. but i won't be bullied into straightening my hair.

Posted by Blogger jameil1922 @ 1:18 PM, June 15, 2006 #

like HC pointed out what wyclef said, fuq that. get yours. i ain't cutting shT for nobody but me and my SO. word to big bird.

Posted by Blogger POPS @ 1:48 PM, June 16, 2006 #

Wouldn't this have been safer to post on the web...but not using real names...considering someone works there right now.

Posted by Blogger spchrist @ 5:58 PM, June 17, 2006 #

thank you, blog police...

Posted by Blogger Vandy @ 1:53 AM, June 18, 2006 #

I have locks and I know for sure that my hair has been the reason why I have not gotten jobs. Interviewers have even made slightly slick comments about it.

I can understand if they are worried about the hair. I feel as long as the locks are neat and clean, then they should be allowed. By telling people to cut their hair, I believe they are saying that one cannot be taken seriously if they have locks. That is a no-no. BE should definitely reconsider the hair policy.

I know I would not cut my hair. As India Arie says, "I am not my hair".

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 7:48 PM, June 19, 2006 #
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