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Thursday, January 22, 2015

BLACK GIRL WITH NATURAL HAIR AND MICROAGGRESSIONS

I
thought I did everything right.  I called ahead of time, made my appointment, printed off the requested documents, arrived early and waited patiently for my number to be called.

It was 3 days before my trip back home to Jamaica.  My passport was on the brink of expiration and I needed some expedited services from the Seattle Passport Agency.

The place was packed as are most government agencies.  Kids were running up and down the dull linoleum floors trying to entertain themselves.  Guards were on deck.  Numbers were being called and displayed on the monitors.

I looked around and found an empty seat to wait patiently for number C368 to be called.  Just as I was sitting there thinking to myself of ways this place could be ran more efficiently, I overheard a perturbed patron state:

So, basically there’s absolutely no point to making an appointment because we just have to pull a number and still wait?!

This is exactly what I had been thinking.  It really doesn’t make any sense.  My appointment was scheduled for 10am and I did not get seen until 10:45-ish.  All I had to do was drop off my documents and pay the fees.  

I just knew I had everything prepared.  I double checked my checklist.  What I didn’t expect was to be hated on for having long natural hair that can defy gravity in a super fly updo.  But they hated on me y’all.

The picture that the Walgreen’s Photo Specialist took weeks prior to my appointment, actually cut off the top part of my hair.  All passport photos must have a border of white towards the top of the image.  My hair in all its natural glory, dominated too much space according to their standards.  


Screenshot from http://travel.state.gov for educational purposes: no decent afro would be deemed appropriate for a passport photo under these current restrictions.


Perhaps, if I had taken it upon myself to oppress my own hair for the photo, that would have been a little more acceptable.  My old passport did a good job of conforming.  I had my hair chemically straighten in that picture and it laid down in obedience. That image was no problem.  But I am not that person today.  I have embraced my hair's natural state and love it to death.  None of that matters though when it comes to an image that represents who one is now.  Therefore, the passport agency would not accept me the photo.  I had to haul ass to the nearest overpriced Fedex and get my money picture retaken.  

Microaggression is a form of "unintended discrimination". It is depicted by the use of known social norms of behavior and/or expression that, while without conscious choice of the user, has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination.—Wikipedia

Did I mention that I was wearing your typical running errands during the winter Pacific Northwest attire??  Better known as college sweats, Ugg Boots, sweater and my hair wrapped to the heavens.  I had zero makeup on and my brow appointment wasn’t until the next day.  This was supposed to be an in and out operation.  Arrive, wait and drop off documents.  That’s it.  It was never meant to be captured in a Kodak moment.  

They made me wear my locks down so that my beautiful hair could be subjected to the 1/4 inch oppressive off white borders required on top of the photo image.  I am now stuck with a photo that clearly reads struggle, for the next ten years!!!  It doesn’t help that I was half sleep and clearly pissed in the photo either.  No one will ever see my passport photo unless required by law.  You all know I am a cutiepie in person!  This picture does me absolutely no justice.  Ha! 



I can laugh now and make jokes but this little incident has me thinking of things in a bigger context.  I just feel like nothing here in good ol’ Murica is made for my people.  I mean even something as simple as a passport photo requires one to conform to a government approved brand of blandness that literally can leave parts of you cut off and underrepresented

Today is Tendril Tuesday by Okdani.com!  Share your natural hair related content and support fellow bloggers by checking out their posts too!

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