Full disclosure and a caveat: the following commentary about hair comes from a guy that barely has any.
So get all your “Kane, if you’re so smart, why don’t you have hair?” wisecracks out of the way now, and read why Hampton University School of Business Dean Sid H. Credle is absolutely right in banning cornrows and dreadlocks for male students enrolled in the institution’s five-year master of business administration program.
Credle imposed the ban way back in 2001. Apparently, it’s taken those opposed to it 11 years to find their sense of outrage.
According to various news reports, Credle sincerely “believes the ban has been effective in helping his students find corporate jobs.” Several of those news stories have quoted Credle directly:
“We’ve been very successful,” Credle said of Hampton University’s MBA program. “We’ve placed more than 99 percent of the students who have graduated from this school, this program.”
You’d think a 99 percent placement rate would quiet the critics; you’d think it would give them pause and make them inclined to shut the heck up.
But you’d be thinking wrong.
Controversy still rages about Credle’s ban. Google key words about this matter and you’ll find plenty of commentary on Web sites telling us how oh-so-wrong Credle is.
Here’s why the man is right.
1. Dreadlocks and cornrows might have, at one time, been a legitimate expression of African-American cultural identity, but these days the styles are just a fad.
Yes, I can hear the yelps from protesters now. But I guarantee you this: there’s a conk-haired brother out there somewhere who, if he hears the names Robert Franklin Williams, Medgar Evers and Harry Moore, can tell you who they were and what their significance is to the history of black folks.
Mention those names to some of these brothers rocking dreadlocks and cornrows and you’ll get nothing more than a blank stare.
2. Credle’s ban shows that Hampton University is willing to impose limits and standards on a younger generation accustomed to neither.
Were Credle to cave in on the demand to allow dreadlocks and cornrows in HUSB’s MBA program, you can rest assured that the next demand would be for Credle to allow students to attend class with tattoos.
Or to allow guys to stroll into class rocking the pants down over the butt look.
Could I be wrong? There is that possibility, however remote. Andrea Travis is vice president of the Flair Studio of Dance and Modeling in Baltimore. Her mother, Willia Bland, started the business in 1968 just after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Bland said she wanted to do something positive in the wake of King’s death.
Travis is co-owner of a business that’s been around 44 years, so she knows what she’s talking about. She lectures in area schools and libraries frequently on the subjects of etiquette, courtesy, decorum and how young people should dress for job interviews.
Travis is also the author of the soon-to-be-released book “Don’t Wear Those Pajamas To The Mall: Tips For Today’s Teens On Etiquette And Manners.” Oh, and she DOES have hair.
Here’s her take on what’s being called Hampton University’s “Braidgate.”
“There are exceptions to this idea of hair. In certain industries, such as entertainment, retail and computer technology, one tends to find more employees with cornrows or dreadlocks. In industries such as banking and the legal fields, you may not find employees with braids or styles that are more ethnic.
“Also, demographics make a difference. In East Coast cities – such as Atlanta and Washington, D.C. – where the population is more black, it is more common to see more employees with braided styles, as opposed to mid-west or western cities or states, such as Wyoming or Colorado.”
Fine points, indeed. But the final argument is one in favor of Credle. On the business school’s Web site, readers will learn that “the School of Business is among the top producers of African-American undergraduate business baccalaureates. Students command excellent salaries and ARE ACTIVELY RECRUITED BY FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES.”
There might be some Fortune 500 companies that will allow employees to rock the dreadlock and braid look, but I’ll bet you could count them all on one hand, even if you were missing a finger or two or three.
“Some companies believe wearing ethnic (hair) styles affects the corporate image of the company,” Travis said.
She’s got that right. Now name the Fortune 500 Company that has, as its corporate image, a chief executive officer wearing the dreadlock or cornrow look.