As an aspiring journalist, Michigan’s premiere student journalist organization – the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association – disheartens me. Recently I read its “Best Practices” in video journalism:
“On-air talent … female: avoid trends and wild colors, most women wear hair down, should not overlap eyes/face or impede with microphone.”
I run my hands through my kinks, wondering how I should achieve getting to lay my hair down without harming its texture.
Does only flat hair deserve to be on television? Is Black hair bad hair? Is “white hair” the standard? If so, we’ve got a problem.
Telling a Black woman to straighten her hair for “best practices” is like telling a Woman of Color that she should use whitening cream to appear professional. Although said person could whiten her skin, changing races denies her, her identity.
Black hair in its natural state is not altered by flat irons, pressing combs, or chemicals. Natural Black hair is curly, sometimes described as “kinky,” and it rarely appears naturally flat.
The natural hair website, Natural Haven, highlights how prolonged heat exposure can cause irreversible changes to the natural structure of one’s hair. The protein that makes my hair curly, keratin, is melted when pressed/blow dried/flat ironed.
According to MIPA, and based on what I see on television, to be a “good” broadcaster, I must literally melt the protein that makes my hair unique. I am stripping myself of my identity, and it would be very hard to “bounce back.”
For many, it takes months, even years, to transition back to the natural state (or years growing it back after cutting the damaged hair off).
It is not possible for a Black woman to abide by “best practices” in video journalism if she wants to retain her natural hair. It’s prejudiced enough to consider straight hair the only “good hair,” but telling races of curls and waves to physically or chemically alter their appearance for the sake of “best practice” is flat racist.
Natural hair is equally professional, insofar as black and brown skin is equally presentable. A woman with curly hair is just as capable of reporting with style as the woman with the straightest hair in the world.
My kinks don’t make me less of a journalist.