My Graduate School Professor Made Me Feel Bad About My Natural Hair

girl with an afroWhen I decided to go natural, I transitioned under protective styles for about 7 months, and then finally just decided to do the big chop.

My family wasn’t a huge fan of my short afro, but by this point I had pretty tough skin, so their comments didn’t really bother me.

However, what did bother me were comments made by one of my professors. I’m a full time graduate student at a predominately white institution, so it goes without saying that I don’t really see students who look like me, and I certainly don’t have any professors who do either.

But, to my surprise last semester I had an African American professor, Professor Novack*. I was really excited when I walked into the first day of class to see that she was black! I mean, it’s just refreshing to see African Americans not only in higher education but also working in higher education.

I thought that at least in this class I would be able to feel comfortable to rock my natural hair without getting sideways glances and awkward forced compliments.

The first day I walked in she gave me this quizzical look when she saw me, which was odd, but it was the same look that I would get from white professors. It was as if she was judging my fro. At first I kind of just brushed it off, but as the semester went on she would comment on my hair in front of the whole class! She would say things like, “oh, I see you’ve done something different to your hair.”

The odd thing about her comments were that they didn’t make me feel good, instead they put me on the spot and made me feel bad. I decided that I was going to stop wearing my natural hair to her class and throw on a wig like I do in my other classes, just so the comments would stop, and believe it or not they did.


That evening though, she sent me an email saying that she hoped her comments didn’t prompt the change in my hair, and that she really liked my hair and she looked forward to seeing it each week in class.

I was in total shock, because even if that was how she really felt, it certainly didn’t come across that way. For starters, she never gave me a compliment, just glances and comments.

I’m glad that she cleared up the confusion, but at the same time I was still so uncomfortable over the whole situation that I still didn’t wear my natural hair out the rest of the semester.

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About Brittany Waddell


Just a Southern girl taking life by storm in NYC! Oh- and I'm natural too:) Be sure to check out my posts to learn some tips and tricks on how I tame my natural hair!

About Brittany Waddell


Just a Southern girl taking life by storm in NYC! Oh- and I'm natural too:) Be sure to check out my posts to learn some tips and tricks on how I tame my natural hair!

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Laurie Ferguson

You should never let other people make you feel bad about anything you are doing for your self if that what you want to do too many people put to much on your hair it shouldn’t make or break you

Pamela Smith

I wish a professor would….

Pamela Smith

So someone that doesn’t really know you, doesn’t pay your bills, feed you, put gas in your car or shares the pillow next to yours, has that much influence over your life? Really? You should have looked the professor straight in the eyes and plainly said, ” you are paid to be here to teach right? Well, unless your unsolicited advice on my hair is part of your curriculum, we seem to have no further conversation then.” See? Plain and simple.

Laurie Ferguson

I agree with you

Yoli
Yoli

I really wished you didn’t let her comments get to you. You should have continued to wear your hair as you saw fit and when she said ‘oh, I see you’ve done something different’, you should have said (with a smile on your face) “yes, that is the beauty of my hair”. You also had a moment when she emailed you to (politely) let her know that it was her comments that caused you start wearing wigs. You gonna have to get tougher skin than that. People like her comment because they are too afraid to do what you did, remember that going forward. Don’t let anyone take away your shine!