Since the universe sent HULU for a low monthly cost, my nightly self-care routine after work starts with pouring a glass of the finest $3 red wine from ALDI, then sitting on my couch to tune into the next episode of Living Single. It's one of my faves for getting a good laugh and restoring the hope of having a good job, good friends, and my dreams of living in a non-gentrified affordable brownstone in Brooklyn.
Last night's episode in Season 2 struck a cord with me in it's messaging. Living Single always dropped gems, but this episode captured something that I believe is relevant today. In this episode, Kyle is up for a promotion at his firm and successfully completes a business presentation to the higher ups. In anticipation of their thoughts and decision, he consults the only other black male exec on his advancement. In traditional "all skin folk ain't kin folk" fashion, the colleague tells him that he can increase his chances of promotion if he would simply change one thing. His hair.
Now this experience is not unique to Kyle as many members of the diaspora have been challenged in corporate settings about hair, fashion, etc. I think what's a damn shame is the fact that it was another person of color that is encouraging him to conform. What in the borrowed Caucasity is that about?
It's about this idea that black people somehow seem smarter and will perform better if they maintain a look closer to the Caucasian/European persuasion. Other black people have bought into that idea and feel a Sambo like responsibility to spread the good news to the other blacks at the office.
Every weekend black people have to make a decision at salons and barbershops on if their choice of self-expression through hair, will cause them their livelihood come Monday morning. Not only is Connor, Katie and Megan gunning for me, but now Donnell? There's not enough break rooms or water coolers that can create a safe pace and mental solace from opinions what's "good hair" for corporate.
As the episode continues, Kyle is literally brought to nightmares about changing his hair in order to secure a bigger bag. Like most would, he's wrestling with the thought of how despite his work ethic, education, and impeccable 3-piece suits, his advancement is being determined by whether he's rocking kinky twists or a low fade?
He seeks wisdom from his Brownstone, brown-skinned tribe and ultimately decides to stay true to self. At the follow-up meeting with the higher ups, including "Donnell", Kyle anxiously awaits their decision about the promotion. To his surprise, the white partners actually gives him the promotion even after he expressed the concern he thought they had about his hair. They re-assure him that he brings too much value to the company and his hair doesn't need to change.
The end of this scene wouldn't be complete without the necessary clap back to "Donnell" and his attempts to "look out for a brother". Kyle won this round of corporate microaggression, dealt with his peer and secures the bag while still maintaining his kinky twists. There's not a more moisturized situation than leaving the office with everything you know you deserve.
Whether you're rocking kinky twists, box braids, or locs, take note from Kyle Barker. You can come up in corporate world while living natural.