Black Hair Policies At Work And School: Something Needs To Change, And It’s Not What’s On Top Of My Head
You being uncomfortable doesn't trump me being comfortable about who I am.
One thing that's for certain is, that black people are the only race of people who have been cut off from their culture, heritage and lineage. Today, we have made major strides to repairing and rediscovering the culture that was taken from us. We are rediscovering our roots. Because if we left it up to the school system, all we would know about our homeland is a barren wasteland filled with malnourished children and civil war amongst the residents. The beauty of our homeland and where we originate from is something we all have to research and see for ourselves. As we do our research, we begin to understand and celebrate the things of our heritage. We celebrate our cultures traditions and holidays, and some have even elected to change their names to be more in touch with their culture and lineage. The list continues, but one thing that has always been a subject of discussion is our hair.
When I was younger and in school, I don’t recall if our hairstyles were so much of an issues. Maybe it was and I just never payed attention and caught wind of it, but in today's society, schools and their new hair policies have reached a new level of disrespect. I’m sure many of you are probably aware of some these policies. And then again, some may not. But one thing is for sure: they are not for us. What gives you, the school teachers and administration the right to tell me how my child can wear his or her hair? That’s not your decision and shouldn’t be your worry. Your focus should be on their education. If I’m a parent and my child tells me they want to grow out their hair or start dreadlocks, it’s my decision to go forward with it or decline. As the parent, it’s my decision, and that’s all that matters. With the new addition to all of these school policies, it’s clear that schools don’t want to promote individuality. Many schools are already taking away the arts, so now you are limiting the kids imagination while they’re at school as well.
Why are schools threatening detention or suspension for black children and teens who are rocking their cultures various hairstyles? Whether it’s their natural hair or braids, long or short, that’s no reason to threaten punishment. In Boston, a charter school served twin girls detention and pulled them from their sports team because of their extensions. The school responded to many people who were outraged by the turn of events, but their reply caused more thoughts for me. The charter school stated, "extensions are expensive and could serve as a differentiating factor among students and their socioeconomic background. We want to create an environment that celebrates all that students have in common and minimizes material differences and distractions.”
As I read their statement, two things came to mind: You don’t want us to be black, to be ourselves, and you can’t say you want to create an environment that celebrates anything, if you’re discriminating against students because of their hair.
It’s many cases like this, that have surfaced lately. Also, they are not just here in the states; they are happening all over. From Pretoria High School in South Africa, all the way back here, over in the United States, to places like Texas, Seattle and, most recently, New Orleans. The situations and reports are the same. Reports of schools calling hair choices on black youth untidy or unprofessional, stating they should straighten it or put it in a ponytail. Some have even been threatened with being expelled if their hair isn’t changed. Is that what schools are aiming to do now? Bully and force parents and children into conforming to their standards? No, you can’t do that. It's unethical, and no one should ever break down and let them. These schools are promoting a ugly picture. Not only are some failing to provide proper materials and resources to teach our kids, but they are enforcing to our youth a “get with the program or be punished” mentality. Our youth shouldn’t have to face this racism and discrimination from the school administration system and their policies.
Of course this doesn’t just end with schools and our youth. In the corporate world, black people face the same issues. We come in being already judged by the complexion of our skin, but now they choose to use our hair as another excuse to deny us employment or advancement in careers. I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where either you or someone you’ve known has been passed up for a job due to discrimination over their skin color and/or hair. Black women receive it the worst. They can be well experienced in their field and position, but can easily be overlooked and undermined, dismissing the work they have put in for years to get to where they are, only to have someone else be chosen over them — simply because their look fits the companies image better, or simply because it’s a man. This has existed for far too long, and our women shouldn’t have to change who they are. Kill the racial discrimination and gender bias mentality, because the message you’re sending is loud and clear. You being uncomfortable doesn’t trump me being comfortable about who I am.
Kids go to school to be educated, not to be lectured or disciplined on how to wear their hair or what’s appropriate. Schools are supposed to be educational institutions that teach and sends the message that the possibilities are endless. But if you’re black and you wear your natural black hairstyles, there are limits. Schools are being molded like jobs more and more, so this type of discrimination doesn’t surprise me. But it speaks to a bigger issue.
Corporate America and their schools don’t want us to be us. They don’t want us to exist and they don’t want us to celebrate what makes us unique and magical — what makes us unique as individuals. You took our culture from us and now, you’re making sure we can’t exist and revive that lost connection.
I refuse to put my children in a school where they can’t be themselves. I refuse to work anywhere where I can’t be who I am. I’m black and our hair isn’t straight. I will rock my dreads. My daughters will rock their long hair whether it’s natural or braided, because they’re black and it’s their culture. We will refuse to let you control how we represent ourselves, because it makes you feel uncomfortable. Me and my blackness, with all its grandeur, are professional. There shouldn’t be children being sent home because of their hair. Their shouldn’t be people of color being overlooked and discriminated against at their job because of their hair and complexion. We shouldn’t have to conform to your rules and guidelines that hide us and our culture for you. It isn’t right, and I stand with any one who chooses to oppose these policies of discrimination.