Hair doesn’t define abilities
I have become very passionate about many things throughout my lifetime. After discovering my talent in drawing, I used my creativity as a child to put smiles on people’s faces by drawing whatever they requested of me.
After discovering my talent in singing and playing musical instruments, I followed my older brother’s footsteps by joining the high school band and church choir to stay atop of my musical growth.
However, these things do not compare to what I would consider as my No. 1 passion: my hair.
When every student reaches high school, they go through a stage of self-identification. By this, I mean they simply try to find themselves within the environment of their peers.
This is usually the time teenagers come to terms with their personality. They basically learn their place within the atmosphere of high school and whether or not they consider themselves to be a part of the “in crowd.”
As for me, I joined the high school band when I reached ninth grade. Therefore, I was instantly categorized as a “band geek.”
However, when I reached the end of my 11th grade year, I wanted to change myself. I did not want to change myself to better fit the picture of “cool” at my high school, but what I thought was “cool.”
One of my older brothers, Andrew Ivy, inspired me to grow my hair out and get dreadlocks. It was just something about his hair that made me want to have the same experience.
I was determined to grow my hair as long as his. His dreads became the very thing that defined his personality. Whenever someone referred to him, they could not describe him without mentioning his hair. I was drawn to the fact that Andrew did not consider his hair to be just a hobby, but rather a lifestyle.
Therefore, I started to grow my hair at the beginning of my senior year in high school. Not long after, I noticed everyone else began to grow their hair as well. I looked at myself as a trendsetter in the atmosphere of my peers because I was one of the first in my high school to wear dreadlocks.
When I began my first year at Ole Miss, my hair was a year long. Having dreadlocks changed my wardrobe, how I walked, how I talked, and even how well I took care of myself.
Initially, my parents did not want me to grow long hair. However, my mother told me that if I really wanted to grow dreadlocks, I would have to take care of them. I instantly began to wash my hair every week and keep them nice and neat.
My new passion flowed from within my dreadlocks. However, I began to run into problems regarding my hair. I was always told that some businesses did not favor long hair, especially dreadlocks. I heard that dreadlocks were seen as street- and gang-related symbols that were very unfavorable in the working world.
These things crossed my mind every time I received a job interview for a new job. However, I was never denied a job because of my hair until I applied for a job at the Turner Center on Ole Miss campus.
There were two round group interviews. The first interview, I was interviewed along with seven other students. Only three students were to be chosen to go to the next round. I was one of the three.
After my second interview, I was told that I could not receive the job because they felt that I would be better suited for another job somewhere else. I did not let it dwell on my mind for too long because I also felt that there could have been someone that did better than I did during my interview.
Later, during the same semester, my frat brother, Derrick Martin, received a job at the Turner Center. Due to his enlistment in the Army, he was ordered to always keep a nice shaved cut.
I told him I had tried to get a job in the weight room there but was denied. He told me that the man in charge of the weight room does not favor long hair, and that he probably denied me because of my hair.
Although I thought this could just be a crazy accusation, I received information that three other guys with dreads were denied the same job in the weight room for the same reason.
This struck a nerve within me because I realized that my passion had the ability to keep me from work. I have not had this problem again, but I feel that it will happen again in the real world. I just know that I love my hair, and it does not define my professional abilities, but it defines who I am.
AUSTIN IVY is a journalism student at the University of Mississippi.