As I walked into my parents’ house last night, my father took a quick stare at my unconventional appearance. My partially locked afro of curls. My half-inch-plus length beard that canvases my entire upper-neck. My lack of care about the coordination of my wardrobe for the day.
He says to me… “Son… you need to fix that shit. There are opportunities that you don’t even know of that you could be missing because somebody doesn’t enjoy your appearance…”
Now… If I come to work to do ABC and get paid for it… and I successfully do ABC… why do i need to shave or cut my hair? Why do I need to impress upon opinions that don’t have anything to do with my job performance or work ethic? It’s not a part of the company dress code… so I should be cool right?
Not necessarily… even in a world where the average male’s haircut is 2 inches long, I [as a Black Man] am expected to have hair no longer than a half inch. It’s because the corporate definition of “groomed” means “tamed”…
[As a Black Man] I have issue with non-performance based company standards trying to “tame” me. If it’s not one form of control, it’s another. You would think that having the power to revoke my paycheck would be enough power/control for our jobs. But the truth is that even since slavery, capitalism has allowed those in power (the wealthy) to control the behaviors of those seeking power (the working class).
Stuck in a world of never-ending labor just to make a check that meets/misses the minimum requirements for independent living… Looking for upward mobility, yet no raise is given until the dollar loses more of its value. Gas continues to go up in price, making it more expensive just to get to work, only for you to make the same pay that doesn’t go as far anymore.
Tell me, what about this situation is appealing? Appalling? Is this the American Dream we speak of? How much should I/we appease the wealthy just so we can “survive” in America?
If I make $1000 a paycheck ($26K annual, which is sadly above average), I can expect taxes to take $200. If I’m lucky enough to capture health benefits, at least another $100 disappears ($175 if you have a child like I do). If you live 20-30 minutes from your job, you’ll need to factor in an additionally $50/week for gas (another $100). If you are living “healthy” and eat 3 meals a day, you will spend at least $10 a day on food (another $140, and that’s a modest estimate… unless you skips meals). That leaves roughly $385-$460 per paycheck… about $900 ($700 if you tithe) left in the month… that you have to pay rent, utilities, car notes, insurance, phone bills, and [if you were fortunate enough to go to college] Sallie Mae.
I don’t even think “savings” can be a part of this discussion… thus you will ALWAYS need a job. The only solutions to this conundrum would be to find a better paying job (not likely), decline health benefits (not so smart), or decline eating consistent meals (not healthy). It seems what’s (not) in my paycheck keeps me “tamed” enough.
This is what we live with…
So when I realized I work in a place where it is acceptable for grown men to wear blush, with butterfly earrings and jeggings, I decided it is my right and responsibility to make a cultural statement at work with my Afro…
My current value in life may be capped, but who I am will not be compromised in the process.
Now some of you may say… “Cutting your hair isn’t that big of a deal”… However, [As a Black Man] I must disagree. My hair grows at a quicker rate than most. The cost (in time, or money) of keeping my hair short when I don’t prefer it that way doesn’t seem like a fair trade-off (that’s an additional $30/month)… Not to mention those ugly shaving bumps that I get [as a Black Man] when using a razor sharp enough to rid my beard.
Besides… if I cut my hair, they aren’t going to give me a raise… so what’s the point?
KING’S LAW: Define what makes you happy, and live for it…
Otherwise what’s the point of going through the motions? What good does it do for us to survive, when our happiness is dying?
“You are not your Job”
– Tyler Durden from “Fight Club”
The content of your character is not determined by and will not determine how much money you make. But we must not lose sight of the intrinsic benefits of living life in the process of just trying to survive.
Off my soap box… Happy Martin Luther [the] King day.