Hampton Waves Goodbye to the ‘Corporate Thug’

Hampton University has officially banned cornrows and dreadlocks for their Business School students. I know that Black people in general are pretty conservative, but as I would like to think that conservative does not equal dumb [in most cases]. Unfortunately, this might be such a case.

I’m sure there are plenty of people that think this is no big deal. They think that this is simply readying these students for the future realities of corporate citizenry in this country. They say that such styles are immature and make you look less intelligent and/or presentable to your potential employers. The story states Business School Dean Sid Credle’s (pictured here) motivation: “When we look at the top 75 African Americans in corporate America, we don’t see any of them with extreme hairdos.” Pardon me, but what is an extreme hairdo?!?!?!?! Who defines that? Black people? White people? Rich people? Poor people? Employers? I guess this guy would have thought that Madame C.J. Walker’s improvements to the metal straightening comb were bad because at that time “straight” hair was an extreme hairdo for black women.

You know where their notion of an extreme hairdo comes from? It is the result of staring at today through the lens of the supremacist, “Good Ol’ Boys” network that dominates american corporate culture. I am led to believe that because of the following statement from the article:

“Afros are OK but cornrows and flowing dreadlocks are not…’We don’t have problems with Afros,’ business Dean Sid Credle said Friday. ‘A nicely tapered Afro – that’s fine.'”

I’m not that old, but I’m sure there was a time not-so-long ago when the “nicely tapered Afro” was considered extreme. What is different from yesterday’s afro and today’s cornrow? Why is this formerly extreme hairdo now mainstream? Because white people think it’s cool. Period. Why do they think it’s cool? We will save that question for another day. Anyone who knows anything about hair knows that a caesar with a bad line up looks 1 billion times worse than newly braided cornrows. So why doesn’t the Hampton B School just take a look at EVERYBODY’S hair when they enter the building, and give them the go or no-go. It would go something like “If you don’t have waves homeboy, go get a brush before entering my school,” or “I’m sorry ma’am but you perm has not made your hair straight enough.” What’s their policy on facial hair I wonder? That wasn’t all that acceptable a short while a go in contemporary corporate america either, but I digress.

What kills me about these sorts of stupid policies are their selective nature. There have been lawsuits filed against other educational institutions for similar policies. I know that somebody in the Dean’s Office had to have known that there was some precedence with these sorts of policies. So either they disregarded that knowledge, or they felt that their policy was different. Maybe it was “different” because this is a policy at an HBCU. You know the theory: it’s not racist or culturally insensitive or prejudiced if it is done/said by a Black person or institution.

Maybe I wouldn’t have a problem with this policy if [it actually made sense, or if] the B School at Hampton took a multi-pronged approach to addressing the problem it is trying to “solve.” In addition to suggesting non-extreme hairstyles why not educate their corporate partners on what is and is not extreme and begin to change their ignorant perspective? I guess this can’t happen because the administration is too afraid of biting the hands that feed them.


That sounds familiar…Black folks not speaking up because they are afraid of being reprimanded, rejected, or punished…I think that that is an image we need to try to destroy and not repeat.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

7 responses to “Hampton Waves Goodbye to the ‘Corporate Thug’”

  1. No Life Girl says :

    Corporate America was created by the white man for the white man. They set the rules and will use any excuse to keep blacks out.

    It’s the American Way.

  2. Garlin II says :

    I feel you, and that is sad. That is why we must change the system both from the outside and from the inside. I feel you, and that is sad. That is why we must change the system both from the outside and from the inside.

  3. Prince Akbar says :

    I guess I won’t be enrolling at Hampton. The black bourgie upperclass wants assimulation at all cost.

  4. Steve says :

    Even Corporate America has stopped beefin about cornrows and dreads, viewing it as an expression of diversity. I have met numerous individuals in professional settings with “extreme hairdos”. Higher learning is an opportunity to explore indivduality inside and out. It should not be a platform for total assimilation. Therefore, it is equally disappointing that we would do this to ourselves. It is more important what is under the cornrows.

  5. Y says :

    I read this post earlier and it’s been on my mind all day. I am not completely in agreement with you Garlin on this one, however, I am curious to hear how Hampton could possible begin to educate their corporate sponsors as you suggested. Do you, have any ideas as to how they might go about changing the ignorant perspective?

  6. Garlin II says :

    My an example of what I suggest that Hampton do is the following:

    Many companies now operate internationally, being part of the “global” economy. As a result, they have to do business with individuals in parts of the world other than their own homes. In order to do this effectively, employees must be equipped with a certain level of knowledge of the people and culture(s) that they are dealing with. This includes words that it may or may not be alright to say in certain places, customs regarding guests accepting gifts (it is considered offensive to reject gifts in many cultures), hand gestures and other body language that may be interpreted negatively (e.g. the interpretation of the Texas Longhorn hand signal is was offensive to some in Europe during G.W. Bush’s innauguration in 2000), greeting/salutation customs (e.g. in some muslim cultures, women do not greet by shaking hands), the list goes on to infinity.

    I propose that any institution that presents itself as one that educates people for survival in the “global” economy broaden its scope. I suggest that they do two things at once: educate their students, and educate the members of the “global” economy with whom they have working relationships. These companies have internally-conducted training [or outsourced training] on culutral sensitivity already. Why not add to that training a module on “extreme” hairdo and why it is a symbol of self-expression, not stupidity.

    I did not go to an HBCU. I do, however, know that HBCUs have always taken my suggested approach to breaking down barriers to our brothers and sisters. While educating them on how to survive and compete, they have also challenged the world to accept and welcome us as more-than-equal participants in society. I see the banning of “extreme” hairstyles as a half-hearted, lazy, cop-out approach addressing the lack of Black cultural acceptance in american corporate culture.

  7. Anonymous says :

    I just heard about this policy from the NPR News and Notes program; even the Black conservative on the roundtable panel had a big problem with this policy, but once I heard it was at Hampton I was not surprised. Hampton is one of the most conservative Black colleges in the country> I work in journalism and Hampton has been under fire for years from professional Black journalism organizations for blatent censorship of the student newspaper and the School of Journalism which was funded by the Scripps-Howard foundation. The administration censorship was so bad that Hampton lost several major journalism grants. Hampton threatened to kick out Black students who organized an anti-war protest last November. The only reason the students didn’t get kicked out was because of nationwide protests, including from fome alumni and funders. Hampton also threatned to kick out students who organized a protest when Bush spoke on campus a few years ago. I’m in California where I often interact with high school students and spend time on the major college campuses in the area, which also have some of the country’s top law and business schools. I have yet to see any students in any type of Business dress, with students usually wearing jeans, t-shirts, polo shirts and tank tops. All Stanford, UC Berkeley and other top schools care about is that the tuition check clears, students come to class and do the assignments and maintain a good GPA. At a time when it’s almost impossible to find Black male students at college campuses, Hampton should be happy if a brother has dreads, braids or even that crazy mohawk style Sly Stone wore at the Grammys. Actions like Hampton’s policy make it nearly impossible for me to recommend to high school students that they attend HBCUs.

    HC in SF

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