WFAA's Tashara Parker recently sat down with Judge Amber Givens to discuss the politicization of Black hair, particularly in professional settings.
Givens is a judge in Dallas County who has natural hair. She shared her hair story with WFAA on a segment of Rooted. Below is that story.
My name is Amber Givens, and I'm the presiding judge of the 282nd Judicial District Court in Dallas County, Texas. I'm one of the 17 felony judges in Dallas, the second youngest in Dallas County.
I thought straight hair was a standard because that's all I knew. No one ever talked to me about how beautiful my natural texture was or that it was an option.
All I ever heard was griping about [my hair.]
"Oh my gosh, it would take forever to do your hair if it was natural. You know, it's so thick, you need to get relaxer and tame it."
I didn't correlate the word "taming" until I got into the legal profession and realized what the message really was: that by relaxing your hair, you keep everybody around you relaxed, because Black hair has been so politicized.
You know you go back to the 70s, when you know people associated Afros with black power, and somehow that was a bad thing.
Running for office, I had a tiny Afro and it was a black woman in Dallas, actually 2 black women, they were political consultants.
They said "You better relax that hair to run for office. Your hair is going to offend voters."
I said, "So my hair is offensive. This is crazy."
You're telling me that people won't vote for me because my hair is coily kinky?
It's so absurd to me to think that because your hair grows straight out of your head that somehow I need to mask myself, tame something to be deemed acceptable.
Why in the world would I subscribe to Eurocentric beauty standards when I'm of African descent and my hair grows coily out of my head?
I never thought about it before, but just the idea of being comfortable and choosing to do what you want, expressing yourself— because my hair is an expression— you give people, strangers who you will never meet face-to-face, strength to be themselves and faith that they too can be in these roles that society has deemed them less than.
That's the lesson, that people are always watching. Right?
You never know who you inspire just by being your true self.
Share your "hair story" every Thursday using #WFAARooted on social media. Rooted airs Thursdays at 6 a.m. on WFAA.