This is the question Black girls, teens, and women are asking those that perpetuate popular culture standards and ideals.
Just to be clear, this article will not fix the world’s problem: Hatred for people born and reflective of the African Diaspora. It is a commentary on the inferiority complex suffered by persons that want to exact dominance on Black people and people of color.
When the Newsweek article ‘War on Black Hair: Wearing Braids Gets Black Girls Banned From Prom at Malden Charter School in Massachusetts’, a report detailing why Deanna and Mya Cook are not being allowed to go their school prom, hit my email this morning, I was incensed. Do you know how infuriating it is to hear that girls and teens are being harassed, reprimanded, and downtrodden for wearing their hair the way that they want to wear it? And at school, for that matter!
You know… Black women and men have been forced to assimilate to the dominant culture for centuries, but now it is perpetuating itself in the minds and on the bodies of our children? Really?
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) May 12, 2017
I just need to understand why. So, let me ask it again: Why are you threatened by my natural hair? Black hair? Curly hair?
One Answer: Hair Politics
According to Janice Williams (Newsweek), “The dress code policy listed on the school’s website says students cannot wear “drastic or unnatural hair colors or styles such as shaved lines or shaved sides or have a hairstyle that could be distracting to other students (extra-long hair or hair more than 2 inches in thickness or height is not allowed). This means no coloring, dying, lightening (sun-in) or streaking of any sort. Hair extensions are not allowed. Hair elastics must be worn in the hair and not on the wrist.”
The language used in the school’s dress code “policy” is a part of ‘Hair Politics’ which is an attempt to influence or govern a person’s physical appearance and body based on negative assumptions about their hair. This disgusting form of control has been in place for centuries.
Don’t believe me? Just watch:
Why I Care
As a Black woman who writes for the largest natural hair care platform in the world, I would be remiss in not telling you, dear reader, that I am absolutely outraged by this form of image policing and institutionalized racism in schools – places where race and hair politics are more important than establishing a growth mindset and a hunger for knowledge in today’s youth culture. We cannot sit idly by and watch these children get harassed, emotionally trampled upon, and literally belittled for their inherent beauty. We have to change these systems of injustice and intolerance within schools, otherwise more occurrences of racism and discrimination toward young Black people and people of color will continue. It needs to stop. Now.
For those of you in the back, confused and a little uncomfortable, let me exclaim it from the soapbox: Why are you threatened by my hair?
If we are being honest, it has nothing to do with my hair.
It is my skin and the way I wear my hair, how I carry myself, and how my eyes gleam with the pride of my ancestors that scares the life right out of your body. Well, I am not sorry that you feel some type of way and I will never apologize to you for feeling threatened by my beautiful Black skin, Black body, Black mind, and Black SELF. Ever.
And to Deanna and Mya Cook, the young ladies who were discriminated against: Please move forward on your journey as unbothered by this situation as you can be. This is just one of many situations of indoctrinated discrimination and racism that you will endure in your life. The only words of comfort that I can give to the both of you are “I see you, I feel you.” I implore you to navigate this world being unapologetically Black and to wear your natural hair, your braids, your extensions, your blowouts with pride because your hair is your crown.
No one can criticize it, touch it, or take it from you without your permission.
As ever, stay curly.