By Norm Bond, BlackEconomicDevelopment.com
In 2001, Sid Credle, Dean of the Business School at Hampton University mandated a ban on cornrows or dreadlocks for male students in the MBA program. The controversial ban continues even today.
In his world, cornrows and dreadlocks, which have been worn for 35,000 years in African culture, are not a part of African American history. Credle says, “I mean Charles Drew didn’t wear it, Muhammad Ali didn’t wear it. Martin Luther King didn’t wear it.” His response to critics? “I said when was it that cornrows and dreadlocks were a part of African American history?”
This from the Dean of a “historically Black” Business School? Somebody needs to help ‘ol Dean expand his knowledge of African American history. It doesn’t begin in America. He’s obviously not familiar with the African Dynasties, Rulers, Kings and Queens who brought culture to the world stage.
He’s obviously ignorant of the 3,200 year old locked hair of Pharaoh Ramses II which is on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Nor has he visited the Altemps Museum in Rome to see the locks wearing King Amenemhat III of Ancient Egypt. Surely he has not attended any current business events where African American leaders, entrepreneurs, and CEO’s, both men and women, can be seen proudly wearing their natural hairstyles and successfully navigating the terrain.
Nope. It appears Dean Credle is too busy taking the easy route. He’s dictating that male Hampton University MBA students check their uniqueness, diversity, and culture early on — before they even sit in a class. The lesson being taught? Learn to assimilate into the dominant white culture while ironically attending a “Historically Black College”.
The danger of this limited thinking is that it disconnects these African American male students from the very roots of their culture. A literal part of them, their hair, they learn should be viewed as a liability, if they want to “succeed” in the business world. Discard this — in order to fit in. What’s next for them — skin bleaching?
Credle says, “We’ve been very successful. We’ve placed more than 99 percent of the students who have graduated from this school, this program.” And HU spokesperson Naima Ford adds, “These students choose to be in this program and aspire to be leaders in the business world. We model these students after the top African-Americans in the business world.”
Really? Is it any surprise there are so many African American business students who are of no value to the Black community? In a world that moves on innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking they’ve been taught to assimilate, be risk-adverse, and de-value your cultural tradition. How many of these students will open their own business in the African American community, which generates $1.2 trillion in consumer spending?
Pat Woods owns a braiding salon called Just Braids in Newport News and says cornrows and dreadlocks can be a professional and natural look. “That’s the first thing that mothers do to their son’s hair when their hair is long as babies,” said Woods. Stylist Essence Neal agrees. “It doesn’t affect the way you work and how you are in school.”
Of course there are other options for aspiring MBA students. I hope they will boldly pursue them in environments that are more supportive of their culture.
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