Many young black men deal with scrutiny daily, but to be bearded, black, and in corporate America is a different ball game. Some men of color struggle with wearing their beard in the workplace for the same reasons some African American women struggle with their natural hair in the workplace; the fear of appearing too ethnic or too black. Looking at the history of beards and how it has always symbolized masculinity, aggression, and strength and considering that black men have always been perceived as aggressive and a threat; having a beard in corporate America doesn't help.
There are many employers that enforce a no facial hair policy and no beard. This rule that many employers enforce can be considered discriminatory towards black men because most black men suffer from a medical condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae better known as PFB. This is a skin condition that causes inflammation and bumps to develop on the skin due to shaving. In the early 1990’s one specific employer was Domino’s pizza. A man named Langston J. Bradley was hired as a delivery driver for Domino’s and was told after a few weeks to either shave his beard or lose his job. Bradley, who was also an investigator for the Nebraska Equal Employment opportunity office, thought this was discriminatory against himself and other black men.
What’s odd is that the year prior Domino’s put out a survey to their customers and a clear majority had a negative view towards delivery guys with beards. Nevertheless, judges Pasco M. Bowman, Roger L. Wollman, and Frank J. Magill stated that “We hold that reasonable accommodation must be made for members of the protected class who suffers from PFB. We note that the burden of a narrow medical exception for African-American males who cannot shave because of PFB appears minimal. ”They went on to say , “the existence of a beard on the face of a delivery man does not affect in any manner Domino’s ability or deliver pizzas to their customers.”
There have been other incidents where a “beard ban” has caused a man to lose his job. In 2015 officer D. Jemes filed an EEOC complaint against his boss siting racial discrimination as the cause. Officer Jemes was diagnosed by three different dermatologists with folliculitis and suffers from severe razor bumps. Eventually, the Atlanta police department did say that facial hair would be permitted only to those officers with medical documentation of a skin condition.
Present day, the bearded movement has grown and black men are wearing beards of all sizes and styles while excelling in the corporate world. The are many barriers to overcome in the journey of being a bearded black man in corporate America; it is beginning to look like being bearded is one less thing to worry about. Let us know in the comments if you've been discriminated against because of your beard.
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Article written by Lacy D. Colson III. Colson is a student at N.C. A&T State University, studying African American studies. Lacy is also a mentor for the African American male initiative program through United Way and is a loving husband and father living in Greensboro, N.C."