Dreads & Tats In Corporate America?

Dreads & Tats

There is a old term that I’m sure that we have all heard, “You must dress for success”. Well I recently listened to the FROCAST Episode #57 (I know I’m late) and there was a serious debate about some comments that ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith made. In summary Smith declared that young Black people who would go out and get tattoos and dreads would not be able to succeed in corporate America.

Well there was quite a bit of uproar about this. Saule Wright seemed to be the most upset about the comments made by Smith. To Saules point, he is under the belief that people in corporate America who wouldn’t hire a young Black man with dreads, just wouldn’t hire a young black man period.

GQ-Blu seems to agree with Saule. He also goes on to make the point that Black people aren’t given the creative freedom to do whatever they want to express themselves as other races are. He explained that when “we” express ourselves in certain ways we are viewed as thugs and criminals.

King Jerm (#teamyoungnigga himself) actually seems to be more conventional with his thoughts. He believes that to be accepted into the corporate world you must fit a certain image. Although, he did admit that he is stuck in the middle.

Well I wanted to give my opinion, due to the fact that I now work for corporate America. I have a serious issue with the way that people took Stephen A. Smith’s comments. People, especially Black people, took his comments as disrespectful to his own race and felt that he had some kind of issue with Black people being proud of their ethnicity. I have to say that they are completely wrong about this man’s comments.

In all honesty, Stephen A. was absolutely right, but he communicated it wrong.

The fact is that when I turn around and have a conversation with a possible employee, I have been trained to look for three things:

  1. Appearance: There is a look that every big company looks for. Is this person someone who looks like they fit our image?
  2. Vocabulary: Does the person who I am speaking to make me believe that they are smart enough to do the job.
  3. Likeability: If you don’t think this is a major part of what an employer is looking for, you are dead wrong.

Now don’t try and turn around and slay me because like I said he communicated his thoughts incorrectly. When he mentioned the issues of dreads and tattoos he was really looking at the stereotype that comes along with it. Companies don’t want to have someone looking like Lil’ Wayne and Lil’ John walking around their corporate offices. Can you have dreads and get a corporate job? Yes! You have to beware that you are putting yourself at somewhat of a disadvantage (on top of being Black).

I’m not saying that this is fair, or even right. I’m saying that there is still racism and prejudice and you need to be aware of it. If you have the courage to fight the corporate monster, all power to you, but you don’t change the game without playing it.

  • P-Body

    Deep and on point

  • I stick by my stance. The issue I’ve seen with it is largely racism and stereotypes within our own community.

    Vocab is a no brainer, nobody is debating that you have to speak the part for any job.

    Likability, again, no brainer. Politics play a major part in any job. I’ve been laid off because I didn’t play the guitar and go party with the bosses like the guys who’s work I was constantly correcting.

    Appearance, THIS is what I have and will always disagree about. White folks have always thought my hair (in locs or afro) was cool. The idea that to get ahead in a company that you have to have short hair is outdated and is embodied and empowered by US. Now I’m not talking about Wallstreet, as again, I stick to my stance, they won’t promote you because they aren’t going to promote you. This is where the conversation goes in different directions. I’m not talking about this elite 5% of jobs where you make 7 figures for being the CEO of the top 10 companies in the world. Who knows what they are on and why should we give a shit.

    I think what you see normally is that because we have to work much harder to achieve these positions in general, by the time we get such promotions, we are either getting our haircut by Mother Nature or we’ve transitioned to a different look.

    But to sit here in 2013 and say that “James would be a great exec for the company. His numbers are great, he’s always improving, his sales are through the roof…but those braids or dreadlocks he has just aren’t a good look for us as a company so we’ll have to pass him up” is some archaic bullshit that I don’t believe is an issue. It’s not something you should concern yourself with. If you have locs and you have the goods, you will do well in a company that is about the goods. If you work for a racist company, you could be bald and they won’t hire yo move you….probably won’t hire you.

    • DuB

      I completely disagree with the fact that this is a racial issue on our end. The fact that there are black people with good jobs who have locks doesn’t mean that the stereotype that many people who live in and control corporate America believe. If you think otherwise than you are mistaken.

      The issue that we as black people don’t seem to realize is that we do is keep these stereotypes alive. Older people who associate Locks with Wayne and Waka Flocka is because BET shows the negatives more than the positives.

      • What white people have you heard say this about black hair outside of a TV show and in this decade? It doesn’t happen. It’s this mythical thing that we BLACK FOLKS keep telling each other but it never happens. I posted a story of such an example above. I’ve seen friends get promoted as well with locs, some down past their waist. We perpetuate this myth more than they do.

        You’re saying that there is no real evidence that it exists, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t. Well, unless it’s manifested somewhere outside of the barbershop, our communities and our own HBCU’s then what the hell are we talking about outside of a antiquated theory?

        You can’t even apply your own experience to this belief because you work in the military and their rules are a complete separate entity in itself.That’s the other thing too, it’s the people without locs and tattoos trying to tell people with locs and tattoos what the reality is.

        I, with my locs, had worked for the top travel company in the country for 8 years with promotions every 2 years. I, with my locs, worked for the top souvenir company in the country I was constantly face to face with the clients right along with the sales people and there were never any issues. These clients were entire museum buyers, Six Flags merchandising coordinators, top tourists sites merchandising personnel including companies like Reece’s, Nestle, Hard Rock Cafe, etc. I watched my boy, with his locs, go from one top ISP company to another in a promotion. This is what happens, nobody was denied because of their locs. That’s all I’m saying.

        We’re not talking about working as a top financial adviser for Trump or some specific job like that. The conversation is speaking in generalities and it’s just not the issue that the conservatives on ESPN and the media keep pumping out to keep making us make changes. “Kapernick looks like a felon” but I guess Kyle Turley looked like an all American? Propaganda I say. Check the rules of “appearance” at our HBCU’s compared to the appearance guidelines at most other Universities. It’s us, not them.

        • DuB

          How often do I hear white people talk about black hair? Regularly! I’m on a team that is responsible for hiring employees for one of the most successful businesses in Las Vegas that has over 15 different properties. I explain how big it is so you get that it isn’t just a few people.

          Fact is you would have to be in a certain position to hear some of the ignorance that I do. If you would like to believe we live in a world where that ignorance doesn’t exist, then this price isn’t for you.

          • So what do you do when you hear the convos come up? Do you just agree with them or do you confront it?

          • DuB

            Oh I most definitely confront it. Problem is that a lot of young black men fall victim to the stereotype. If I have one young black guy come in and he acts completely ignorant and has the tattoos and and dreads, in their mind the prejidous that they have is justified because of it.

          • …and what do they say about the ones that come in with tattoos and a short cut? I’m jus saying.

          • DuB

            Ok, I see what you’re saying. My thing isn’t the hair, it’s the image. If you come in with a Caesar and you’re tatted up, they aren’t going to have the best first impression either.

            It’s not strictly about the hair. You have to sell yourself and understand that they have an image that they are looking for. All I’m saying is understand that and if you are willing to try to prove your worth with dreads and tattoos you are starting with a disadvantage

    • thatboy

      I completely agree. I’m a black man with dreads and I keep them groomed and dress professionally. I did a bunch of interviews and every black person I interviewed with I didn’t get a job offer, but every white person I interviewed with I got a job offer. I hardly think this was just a coincidence. Our people stereotype us more than white people. White people don’t even have a problem with dreads like that, but somehow we do.

  • “our” HBCU’s present the same stereotypical rhetoric and keep the bullshit alive. Here’s an excerpt:

    Brian Terrell, a graduate of Morehouse College who works at a legal

    and civil rights firm in Chicago said he too was faced with the dilemma
    of cutting his ‘locks, but ultimately decided against it.

    Terrell, who locked his hair for spiritual reasons, said he was once
    pressured to cut his hair by a Morehouse administrator at the college’s
    career services office. “It’s my hair. It grows from the scalp of my
    head. Why does it bother you?” he recalls.

    Terrell says contrary to the universal idea that dreadlocks are
    career killers for African Americans, his ‘locks have never prevented
    him from landing a job. Since graduating, Terrell has interned at the
    White House’s Office of Presidential Correspondence and has worked for
    Jen Mason, who serves as the deputy chief of staff for the Office of
    Personnel Management.

    Terrell also argues that when it comes to Corporate America’s
    acceptance of ‘locks and natural hair, African Americans have to begin
    to speak up and set their own standard. Ultimately, he says, your job
    should come down to your professional assets and not what’s on your
    head—though he admits the only people to ever express contempt for his
    hair has been other African Americans. His boss, who is white,
    compliments him on his locs, which are often styled up. “White people
    are fascinated,” he says.

    • thatboy

      Yep this is exactly what I’m saying in my post up top. It’s our own people who have the problem.

  • B-Easy

    Neck tattoos?

  • DuB

    I’m not saying if you have locks you can’t get a good job. I’m saying you have more to overcome as a black man if you don’t already fit into a certain image.

  • QAK

    This is an old article, but I would like to chime in for a few reasons. Mainly, I have worked in corporate america for over 12 years and I have dreadlocks and tattoos. For the first few years I did present the clean cut look with a low cut Caesar. After about five years I started growing my hair out. First a little fro and once it reach the length of being able to braid it I decided to loc my hair. Now, I’ve had tattoos since I was about 16, not really visible since I always wear long sleeve dress shirts. For the company outings when you wear the company t-shirt the tattoos come out. However, at that point my colleagues had already taken the time to get to know me as a person, but more importantly recognized my work ethic, quality of work, and professionalism.

    I don’t advise any young person of any race to get a neck, face, or very visible tattoo and expect to be greeted with open arms. Unless you are woman, it’s not going to fly (and even then it has to be the lower back, ankle, cute tattoo). Tattoos have a stigma all of their own beyond the realm of race dating back to pirates, bikers, and other 1% fight the system groups. I do agree that today most of my colleagues do not give my locs a second thought, unless it’s the ‘your hair is so beautiful can I touch it’ line that black women have endured for decades.