Thomas (@RealAfroScholar) speaks: You don’t have to conform to standards of what success, intelligence look like

By Tom Bergeron
Newark | Aug 28, 2018 at 6:46 am
From our print edition

Jordan Thomas, Rhodes Scholar, has a (really big) Afro. You can’t miss it. So, we had to ask him about it.

ROI-NJ: Let’s talk about your hair. I love your Twitter handle: @RealAfroScholar. You’re coming right out there and saying, ‘Guess what, world: I’m African-American, whether you like it or not. I’m going to live it. I’m going to own it.’ Talk a little bit about the pluses and the minuses of that decision.

Jordan Thomas: It’s definitely something that comes up a lot in conversation. And I’m well aware that not everybody looks at my hair very favorably. They see that I have this big Afro and they’re skeptical. But that’s part of what I think makes it so beautiful, right?

When I think about why I wear an Afro and what it symbolizes, I tell people, ‘This isn’t a fashion statement, this is a movement.’ This is a statement by me in defiance of what I deem to be unjust social standards or norms. We have this standard and this expectation in society of what success looks like, of what intelligence looks like. And I try to show people, ‘You can embrace your heritage and embrace your race or ethnicity and wear it proudly and you’re still deserving of success and it’s all possible and achievable.’ That’s so much of what this is.

This is me trying to show people that you can be proud of who you are. You can wear the natural features of your heritage proudly and still achieve your wildest dreams. You don’t have to conform to the very strict standards of what success or intelligence looks like.

That’s why I make it my handle, that’s why I’ve had my hair like this for about 10 years now, because I realize that it’s so much bigger than just my hair. This is about trying to empower people and show that you can be yourself, be who you are, be proud of it and go on and conquer your wildest dreams.

Read more from ROI-NJ’s interview with Jordan Thomas: