Even in 2017, Black women's hair is still up for public debate. Job security can still depend upon your hairstyle rather than your resume. This was most apparent when a Banana Republic employee was allegedly singled out for wearing box braids, and the reason will infuriate you.
"He told me that my braids were not Banana Republic appropriate and that they were too 'urban' and 'unkempt' for their image," she said in the Facebook post.
After she shared that she wears box braids as a protective style, the manager decided to give some unsolicited hair advice. "When I tried to explain to him that it was a protective style for my hair [because] it tends to become really brittle in the cold, he recommended that I use shea butter for it instead," she said in the post.
Tompkins' manager also said she wouldn't be scheduled for her shifts until she removed the "unkempt" braids.
"I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person. In that moment, I felt so uncomfortable and overwhelmed that I didn’t even finish my work shift and ended up leaving," she said in her post.
Sadly, this is one of many occurrences when stores have singled out their employees of color. In 2015, a case even went all the way to the Supreme Court when Abercrombie & Fitch wouldn't hire a woman who wore a hijab since it didn't fit with the brand's aesthetic, according to The New York Times.
"There’s no reason why a white person should feel allowed to tell me that I can’t wear my hair the way that I want bc it’s too black for their store image," Tompkins said in her post.
In 2017, what's deemed professional in the workplace is often combined with white standards of beauty. Tompkins is right that braids and other protective styles aren't purely aesthetic, but can strengthen coarser hair textures. Weaves can be expensive and relaxers can be damaging, and certainly aren't for everybody!
Beyond one's beauty regime, Tompkins and other Black women working in mostly white spaces shouldn't have to fit a standard of whiteness to stay employed. They should be valued for their work and dedication to the job, than just fitting a "look." It's 2017. We should be beyond this.
We've reached out to Tompkins for comment and will update as needed.