Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Man Is Trans-Racial, Or Something

Jill has a post at Feministe arguing that Black people are being forced to assimilate by adopting conservative, "white" hairstyles. Without a doubt this is true, but I'm skeptical of the thesis forwarded by Ms. Kaplan:
What's troubling is that, by being forced to change their hair, black people once again are being forced to shoulder the burden of proof: We're not as fearsome as we look. It's up to us to mitigate our dark skin and ethnic features by framing them with hair that's as neat and unethnic as possible.
This assertion seems to be vulnerable to the counter-argument that Blacks are not the only ones who have to put up with this type of restriction on their appearance in the corporate world. I would argue that Blacks are not being singled out on account of perceived fearsomeness or similar. Rather, they are just one of many groups of people who don't meet a certain, narrow standard of "professional appearance". Jill thinks otherwise:
Of course it's not racism when we're targeting hairstyles worn disproportionately by black people, and insisting that they take time-consuming and expensive steps to make their hair more like "white" hair.
But neither she nor Ms. Kaplan provide any evidence that targeted hairstyles really are disproportionately worn by Black people. Absent any evidence in this area I'll make a guess that the most targeted hairstyle is actually "long hair on men", which would seem to affect Blacks as often as other people. Admittedly this is anecdotal, but I can't think of any corporate environment I've ever been in that would accept long hair on a White guy but not dreadlocks on a Black man. Next time you're in an office play a little game: count the number of guys with long hair; you'll quickly find that the watchword seems to be "high and tight". Here is where I think Jill exposes her own biases by automatically associating the corporate look with Whiteness, as if our Corporate Overlords are somehow representative of the White race as a whole. This comparison is no more valid than saying that Al Sharpton is representative of all Black people. Rather, its important to remember that the corporate look is part of a global, transracial conspiracy perpetuated on the masses by business types. So really, I think the moral of the story is that The Man doesn't discriminate when it comes comes to appearance; he treats everybody like shit.

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