Wearing a headscarf to work
I don’t feel any way about going out with my hair ‘unfinished’ and wearing a headscarf.
I recall a query and a question or two from my family. ‘You went to work with your headscarf?’. ‘Yes, I’d say proudly, defiantly’.
I’m not sure how much of an option that was for my mum’s generation. It wasn’t something that my mum ever did but she did wear an Angela Davis afro for years. It wasn’t something that my 40+ year old cousin ever does but she works in the corporate world.
I worked in health and social care at the time and most people think that’s why it’s possible – ‘You wouldn’t do that if you worked in a bank or in a corporation’, they say.
And it’s partly true, for all its inefficiencies and incompetence the social care sector preaches the embrace of diversity. So they are unlikely to make an issue of a headscarf-wearing staff member because they know they shouldn’t.
And the truth is I’ve never worked in a corporate environment so I can’t factually answer the question of whether I would wear a headscarf in that environment. Hypothetically I’d say yes. I’d wear my headscarf, but we all know that there can be a chasm of difference between what you say you will do in a given situation and what you actually do. But the older I get the more comfortable I am presenting my true self to the world.
But equally I’m not naïve…
I do know that wearing a headscarf brings out certain assumptions from people: that English isn’t your first language that culturally you are more African then European (and all the stereotypes that come along with that). If my headscarf isn’t dressed up ie it’s not co-ordinated to my clothes and or I’m out and about in my house clothes – then I’m an African. If I’m dressed and styled then I’m black British there is a world of difference in how I’m treated.
Wearing a headscarf marks me out. But it’s often a conscious and deliberate choice I make to wear one. Yes sometimes my hair is still drying under there – and I know not to do an afro when wet. But often I’m demonstrating my blackness.