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Dreadlocks Get MBA Student Banned from Academic Conference

Avatar • Dec 5, 2014

I’d hoped 2014 would end without another case of discrimination against loose or loc’ed natural hair in America’s schools and workplaces. Sadly, there’s one more and this time, it’s a fella.

Tamon George

Tamon George, an MBA student and President of the Graduate Student Government Association at the University of the District of Columbia, was recently informed that his dreadlocks were not a permissible hairstyle for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Leadership Institute. The conference organizers informed Tamon that he could not attend due to his dreadlocks, in a ban that prevented male attendees from wearing the hairstyle. Damon’s decision to wear dreadlocks represents a commitment to his heritage, as several members of his Caribbean family sport the style and the former Canadian football player has had them for a number of years.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is a non-profit that supports students attending HBCUs — not a white private institution that we’d assume would hold the archaic notion that dreadlocks are unprofessional. They’re not the first black institution to do so, as Hampton University previously came under scrutiny for similar dreadlocks and cornrow bans in their MBA program. Ironically, Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court, was a staunch advocate of equality in education and was the lawyer behind the infamous Brown v. Board of Education case — so my guess is he’d be disappointed in the Fund’s decision to limit the pursuit of educational advancement to those with certain hairstyles. If you agree, you can sign the Change.org petition against Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s discriminatory ban on dreadlocks for males.

I’m in graduate school myself and just came back from presenting at a conference in Washington, DC on Minority Health. Many attendees and presenters were people of color and a number of the ladies in attendance had their hair in twist outs, updos and curled locs that nicely complimented their business attire. I don’t recall seeing any guys at the conference with dreadlocks, but I can’t imagine why wearing dreadlocks would make their research, knowledge or ability to network any different than the rest of the attendees. I know I’d start a petition real quick if I applied and was accepted to a conference only to later receive an email stating they changed their mind because they didn’t like my hair… #lordgivemestrength

Should black professional organizations have restrictions on hairstyles appropriate for conferences for either gender? What can realistically be done to lift such bans in spaces of higher education?

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About Klassy Kinks

KlassyKinks.com founder and editor, Ijeoma Eboh, is on a mission to change perceptions of kinky textured hair around the world. You can find her on social media @klassykinks.

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Tiffany
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Tiffany

WOW! This is disheartening to say the least! Since when did his locs define who he is and what he’s capable of?

suzie30
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suzie30

Lol I went to a casual interview with a company and they told me if I ever wanted to work their I have to get rid of my dreadlocks. I was like WTF. I worked for multinationals and all over the world with my dreadlock hair and no one ever told me anything about it. Do really think I am just going to change it for you?? I laughed and said I won’t be interested in working here. The funny thing is my locs are like reaaaly neat. So neat you can see my scalp. I just laughed and walked… Read more »

reasonbomb
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reasonbomb

Why have we been so brainwashed by the white establishment that we have to police our own for not conforming to those standards. #jesustakethewheel

Chaunta
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Chaunta

Part of it has to do with a man sporting long hair. Just part of it.

B
Guest
B

I wonder if it were a white man walking around looking like Repunzel would they still respond lke this?

HeavnsGirl
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HeavnsGirl

I think they would… unless he was in some hippy-dippy place.

SignedthatPetition
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SignedthatPetition

Is this rule for both men and women? If so the message is permed you’ve earned, loc’d you’re blocked. Sounds like another popular rhyme about skin color 🙁

SignedthatPetition
Guest
SignedthatPetition

Wow just read his change.org account. It is for males. Discrimination from our own people. smh

ML
Guest
ML

Thanks for the information and petition link. However, I was a little surprised at the use of the term dreadlocks on this site. The term locs or locks are preferable. They are locks of hair. There is a history behind the use of the word “dreadful” to describe them. That was a term given to the hair to ostracize the hair and people who wore it, and we still see behavior stemming from the notion of them being dreadful and unacceptable, hence why in 2014 we still have institutions judging people with them and banning them. So they are deemed… Read more »

B
Guest
B

I did not know that. I’m trying to google for more information but coming up with nothing. do you know where one could read more about the origin of the word?

B
Guest
B

I found something, for those like myself who had no idea of the origin of the word “dreadlocks”

http://racismschool.tumblr.com/post/40062198140/story-time-dreadlocks-and-cultural-appropriation

liz
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liz

YES! White people get “dreads”. We “loc”.

TS
Guest
TS

Excuse me, but *droool*

Ahem, but seriously this is embarrassing. Those schools should encourage us to wear OUR hairstyles, not ban them.

cindy
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cindy

a) This is a crock of $hit. It is 2014 and no one should be defined by their hair style. Bottom line.

b) Gosh… He is handsome.

Rubio
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Rubio

well

Darlyn
Guest
Darlyn

What does his dreadlocks have to do with his future ability to perform his future job?

Lisa
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Lisa

That is an actual picture of him and his hair. He looks very well groomed and his locks look great and well kept. I think if the over all appearances look good you should over look the fact that his hair is locked.

Bumper1959
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Bumper1959

Words fail me — I have signed the petition!

Herm
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Herm

You know, now that I think about it, the only people who have ever given me lip about my locs have been older Black folks. And like, I get it, you think you’re trying to help me be “more professional” or something. But you’re doing it wrong. No more policing of our bodies. Realistically what can be done? Perhaps if we could get some more progressively-minded people in these gatekeeper positions that’d be ideal. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. People who can look at the big picture, who can exercise a little critical thinking here and there.… Read more »

Elle
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Elle

Yes to everything Herm wrote! It’s the constant fear generations of Blacks endured over being VISIBLE. That fear was legitimate, we were tortured and killed because we rebelled daily and were competition for jobs, land, money, partners and power. So, to guarantee our survival we sought a truce. We believed White assurances that if we became LESS VISIBLE in our identical pursuits of middle-class life, liberty and happiness, that our loved ones would stop being murdered, our homes and businesses would stop being bombed, our land and money would stop being stolen, our loans would stop being denied, our women… Read more »

Nicole
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Nicole

This is really some slave mentality bullsñ$hit and it annoys me to no end that black people are the ones perpetrating it. Instead of uplifting a young black man you make a bias based on some superficial shit? Im through with them.

Ms. Vee
Guest
Ms. Vee

Such a fine man…

But on a different note: Here lies the issue with depending on ather groups. They set the stanard even if its complete BS. When we one day control our own infrastructure then no white mofo can tell us that the way our hair grows out of our heads is problematic.

Rahsaan J Coefield
Guest

The conduct described within this article may be a violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, a law enforced by the DC Office of Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination based upon personal appearance. One may initiate a complaint by completing the OHR questionnaire found at http://www.ohr.dc.gov/complaint. If Mr. Gordon, or any other person feels they have been discriminated against because of their hairstyle, they may file a complaint with OHR and possibly receive monetary damages.

VJ
Guest
VJ

I don’t think it’s discrimination when they specifically state certain rules and regulations must be followed. Others were told to accommodate and did so or was not selected to attend. You don’t see them complaining.

Veronica
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Veronica

I went to that!! As an attendee I feel obligated to say something. As an attendee, I can say that information gained was for our benefit. The atmosphere was one of tough love. I saw many natural sisters and their hair was gorg, but there were no brothers with long hair. I saw a few loc’d sisters, but their hair was pulled into an updo. Reason being, the recruiters there were looking for a certain image. The entire point of conference was to prove that African Americans can be and are just as qualified as our white counterparts. That being… Read more »

Bri
Guest
Bri

Our looks or how we wear our hair should not be looked upon as ‘not professional’. We should be considered for how well we are ‘qualified’. Whether it was done in love or not it hurts. He is striving for success, not committing crimes. Our brothers already have to go through enough in this cruel & unfair world. Why criticize our black men for wearing locs? It’s our heritage & we should not feel we have to conform to society to fit in. We have our own identities which God created us to be. Change for no one. Peace &… Read more »

VJ
Guest
VJ

I know people do not like what I have to say on this matter, but I stand by my comments. In theory this is so true and I agree with you 110%. WHOLEHEARTEDLY. I wear my natural hair to work intermittently throughout the year. I can def tell a difference when I wear straight weave vs. when I wear my natural hair. That being said, the world, namely corporate America which is majority white does not agree with our culture and our heritage. The only way to change it is from the inside out. Get in using their standards- change… Read more »

Steve Biko
Guest
Steve Biko

NO. You change it by CREATING YOUR OWN, thereby BYPASSING whatever inbred mutant albinos are doing altogether.. Whites aren’t going to let you change anything that they’ve created for themselves. You best get that into your head.

B. Chantel
Guest
B. Chantel

What kind of boss would take away clients from a perfectly well-working and excellent employee over a hairstyle? An idoitic boss, obviously. As if her hairstyle suddenly trumped her previous work efforts, lol.

Cre8ive
Guest

Thank you for your honest perspective from the inside. Although I don’t agree with the restriction, I understand that my viewpoint is limited because I am not privy to the details regarding the organizations policies.

Steve Biko
Guest
Steve Biko

Biggest load of manure I’ve read today. Congratulations!!
You’re an ASSIMILATIONIST, i.e, you’re of NO USE to INTELLIGENT BLACK SOCIETY.

You should focus on MAKING YOUR OWN, not conforming to some stupid standard set by SAMBO’s and Inbred mutant albinos.

KinkyKhemist
Guest
KinkyKhemist

Wow this truly saddens me. We are already in a racial divide & it’s more sickening when blacks divide us even further. The sad truth is he will more than likely have to cut his hair if he wants to get a job somewhere smh.

AdrieC
Guest
AdrieC

Screw them! I’m tired of people discriminating against us just for the way we look. If we try and style our hair in a “white manner,” we’re discriminated against. If we wear our hair in old school, traditional black hair styles, we get criticized. Everything we do is judged and I’m sick of this crap. Do you see us complaining when white people come in with crazy hairstyles? No! Instead other people will cite the hairstyle as being “creative” or “unique.” And the fact that we’re discriminating against our own is despicable. We should be rooting for one a other… Read more »

Edie
Guest
Edie

The quote: . The conference had strict rules and regulations. If you were not in compliance then you were rejected. The same as any employer would reject any employee who was not what they were looking for. He knew first hand of the rules prior to applying and if not , someone told him during the application process I’m sure. He didn’t comply so this is the consequence. There were many there who were called out because of appearance. But it was out of love. Not discrimination. LOVE! NOT DISCRIMINATION. You know, this sounds like the lovely garbage that Guilani… Read more »

NYCJuelz
Guest
NYCJuelz

I hear what you’re saying Veronica, but it’s not 1950-anything anymore. There’s no reason why a person can’t begin their career with a natural hairstyle. We should be past the stage of having to achieve certain professional milestones through conformity and THEN show our natural selves. If everyone decided to be natural and apply to positions as engineers, attorneys, etc., “the establishment” would have no choice but to accept that the hair on black people’s heads is not a defining characteristic or indicator of professional competence.…or else they’d just wouldn’t have ANY people of color in their employment. But first… Read more »

Lola Oye
Guest
Lola Oye

I agree he is fine! Smart too. I have to add to the discussion in that I believe the people don’t about themselves. Did you know that people are born with locks? The “hairstyle” is a mimicking of what comes naturally to some who are African. Look up Dada (Nigerian term) in conjunction with Nazarene. I don’t agree what the college did, but this would look a lot differently in the dominant white cultured society. No longer do they say we won’t let you in here because you look like such and such for the Civil Rights Legislation took care… Read more »

Jay
Guest
Jay

Fellow black people please WAKE UP. How can we require the world to treat us fairly when we cannot treat each other fairly? We set the standard for what is acceptable treatment and this sort of behavior lets the world know that it is okay to discriminate against us. The idea to bar this young man should have never left the decision-making room. Someone should have and could have prevented this. Set the example for how others must treat us and perceive us black people. As educational leaders representing a Black icon I hope that this institution will fix this… Read more »

AriesP
Guest
AriesP

This is stupid..especially being an alum of not one but TWO HBCUS in addition to being a doctor and have and am working throughout many industries with C Level execs that they would tell someone to NOT come to a place to receive information to help. Men with locs ARE accepted in the workplace as with any other organization IF men (of any race) has LONG hair it must be GROOMED. Locs does not indicate being UNGROOMED as with a white dude not appearing like a drugged out ROCK STAR with long hair. I was hired with natural hair with… Read more »

Veronica
Guest
Veronica

… Maybe I missed something along the way, but there is always a way to do everything. I love dreads and think a man with dreads is extremely good looking. Doesn’t change the fact that corporate America still views them as undesirable. I should also note here that there were white males there and they conformed to the rules just like everyone else. No long hair. You have to get in the system in order to continue to bring about change. Efforts to end discrimination against our people should come from both regular people and people “inside the system”. It… Read more »

Pennylane22
Guest
Pennylane22

Not always true about corporate america’s views of Locs on Men. My brother was hired as the Manager of a Bank with locs. When he cut them, his boss said it was a shame b/c they liked the diversity he represented.

SS
Guest
SS

I have no doubt that the intention of the organizers of the conference were altruistic. We are the only people who have to change our physical appearance to “make it”. It is an unfortunate fact, but very disturbing that it is being perpetuated by a black institution. I’m a natural and I decided long ago that I would not work anywhere that wanted me to tone down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being professional and appropriate but when you want me to change the tone of my voice, the texture or size of my hair or regulate me… Read more »

Mary in Md
Guest
Mary in Md

If the message of the conference was to edify African American professionals on the dress and groom that is likely to project the image that will be viewed most favorably, wouldn’t they want this young man at their conference to enlighten him? I’m not saying I agree with their assessment but I think their decision to ban this gentleman is at cross purposes with the objective of their conference.

killahkurlz
Guest
killahkurlz

It probably has more to do with men n business not having long hair and not so much with the locs

W
Guest
W

You & I both have both seen non-Black men with long hair in suits; what do they do? Gel it, slick it back, & put it in a low ponytail.

Janet Holmes
Guest
Janet Holmes

Asking our ancestors for help

Daniel Morgan
Guest
Daniel Morgan

I had a dread-locksed guy in or MBA class and everyone thought it was quite unique, in fact it was a hit with the girls we guys wanted to sport it too.

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