I am not my hair.

This post is something quite different from all my others. It’s more of a rant than anything else, but honestly that’s what I do best. As well as blogging about women’s health, mental health and beauty, I also want to focus a little bit more on society and what’s currently going on in the world, more specifically what’s important to me.

I recently went to a Black Lives Matter talk at Uni which was amazing and so inspirational. This was also where I first encountered the ‘white supremacist’ – some ignorant student who believed he had the right to shout out racial abuse and make everyone feel uncomfortable and nervous. Despite knowing racism exists in society, I was so shocked to experience that and, to be honest, I lost that little bit of faith I had left in humanity.

Since Trump & Brexit, these individuals have started to come out of their caves and spit hate and abuse to anyone who doesn’t conform to their standards; often ‘middle class white male’. This has had a massive impact on the lives of POC, and although I can only speak from personal experiences, I am almost certain that some people can no longer live the life they had hoped to and they are entitled to.

In the past, I have felt like I couldn’t speak on this topic as I know that many people have to suffer a lot more than I do/have, however, recently I have really been feeling the effects and I’ve had enough of keeping quiet.

On a few occasions over the past couple of months I have experienced what I can only refer to as institutional racism, and I have attended job interviews where I have been fully qualified for the position, have dressed smarter than necessary and have delivered exceptional answers to my interview questions, only to be met with no response/feedback whatsoever or an email simply stating ‘You have been unsuccessful on this occasion’. In fact, both of these interviews, the word ‘no’ was written all over the interviewers face the moment they saw me at the door.

Around this time as some of you may know, I had been rocking my natural hair after doing the ‘big chop’ around 9 months ago, and it is now what I can only describe as a small jerry curl afro (cue Darryl Jenks).

The main reason is because was because I couldn’t afford a new lace front wig, but also because it shouldn’t really matter what other people think of my natural, frizzy, afro hair – particularly at a job interview.

Nevertheless, it DOES seem to matter, and I wouldn’t make this claim if I didn’t have evidence to support it. At the previous 2 jobs interviews I mentioned above, I wore my natural, short hair, probably for the first time ever. I washed it, styled it and it looked neat and tidy. The first interview, I walked into the room and both interviewers looked totally shocked. They couldn’t quite fathom whether ‘Kirsty Fallowfield’, a suspected white girl was the girl now standing in the doorway with brown skin and poofy hair. The first woman stood up – “oh… are you Kirsty”… perhaps hoping that I was someone else, and the second woman remained seated, but had me approach her and shake her hand anyway. The only way I can describe how she held my hand when she shook it was as if I had wiped my hand in dog shit and then cleaned it with a dry tissue. I knew from the minute I entered that room that I didn’t have the job.

The second interview was a couple of weeks after and again I went through the same process – I styled my hair nicely, I wore a shirt, a blazer, a pencil skirt and tights and simple makeup. I had spent the previous day unnecessarily researching and making notes on the company, as I always do, and I used my ‘middle class white girl voice’ to communicate with the middle class white woman who was interviewing me. Again, confusion fell upon her face when she saw me waiting at the door, but she ushered me in to ask the interview questions anyway, even though she had already made up her mind. I told her about my experience, I told her about her company, I told her when I could start, and she appeared pretty much totally disinterested. The only thing she could focus on was whether I knew ‘proper English’ as apparently “most graduates these days don’t” (I can only assume she meant working class, non white graduates )? I was so shocked and confused at how she was acting, after this I felt disheartened and knew I didn’t want to be working there. Perhaps that was her plan all along, to completely uninspire me… or maybe I got the “wrong end of the stick” and perhaps this is simply her personality? Maybe she asks all of her potential employees these questions? I just couldn’t help but feel that she had a disliking towards me, I mean, why question whether a Philosophy near Graduate who achieved AAB at A Level can speak English “properly”?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand and accept the notion of ‘light skinned privilege’, and I am aware that those with darker skin will receive this kind of unjust treatment and far worse on a daily basis in all areas of their life, and it is completely unacceptable. I have found, however, that a lot of these ‘Brexit-esque’, Katie Hopkins sympathiser-type white people don’t really care what shade of brown you are. If you’re not white (or white passing), you’re inferior to them. They feel more comfortable working, living, breathing and just generally existing with their ‘own kind’, and those of us who don’t fit the bill are not welcomed into their space.

I am tired of this being seen as simply a ‘difference in opinion’, just as I am tired of applying to jobs and being invited to interviews, only to be met with disappointed faces and ‘no’s without explanations. I am tired of wasting my time on racist white people who are too ignorant to learn about and respect other cultures and other skin colours, and I’m tired of them wasting my time too.

I don’t know what the solution to any of this is…maybe there isn’t one? Maybe we have to wait until people like Donald Trump and Katie Hopkins stop getting a platform which allows them to poison the minds of those who are ‘on the fence’, or maybe we have to just keep trying that bit harder than everyone else just to be treated with an ounce of respect that they receive.

After University, I hope to work in the advertising industry, which is an industry dominated with white faces, where only 8% of individuals at the top of a company are from a BAME background. From my own research, I have found that 25% of those who answered my survey from BAME backgrounds wont apply for a graduate scheme or job if they do not see POC represented on the company website. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these websites will only feature maybe one female wearing a hijab, and perhaps one ‘token black guy’ on the “equal opportunities” page.

My plan is to apply anyway, try my very best, show them the qualities I can bring, and if they still don’t want me, I’ll take my skills elsewhere, and I encourage you all to do the same.

 

Love,

KG x

 

 

 

Photo credit to:

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

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