There is power in our hair. Our natural hair has been a source on angst for white people for centuries. First, they made a law for us to cover up our hair but then we got too creative with fancy head wraps, today they prefer we chemically relax it to make them feel more comfortable as if they should have some say. The saying is, ‘If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, they’re not happy.’
As adults, we can handle white people’s wonderment, hate, and appreciation of our hair, from ducking an unwanted touch to answering intrusive questions about our hair care regimen. But when the attacks on Black hair are directed toward our children, we as parents definitely have to stand up to protect them.
“Baby take care, there is power in your hair. “
In a recent incident in New Jersey, a referee demanded young Andrew Johnson, an African American wrestler to cut off his locs. He was given the ultimatum to forfeit the match or to cut his hair. This was an attack on Johnson. The referee who has been known to make racist remarks in the past, instead of allowing the teen to cover his hair, decided he would try to emasculate him as if that would weaken the wrestler like a biblical Samson, complete with a blonde woman as Delilah, who happily cut his hair. Except, the teen in all of his greatness, went on to win the match even with this egregious abuse of power.
This is just another child in a long line of Black students who have been discriminated against for their hair. In August, Clinton Stanley, Jr., age 6, was told he couldn’t start private school unless he cut off his locs, although there is no school policy stating that long hair is not allowed. Allegedly, even the school’s handbook shows white boys with long hair on its cover.
Later that same month in Louisiana, 11-year old Faith Fennidy was told that she couldn’t attend school because over the summer the school implemented a policy against braided hair extensions. Although her hair was in a ‘natural’ protective style, the school didn’t consider it natural. There are more Black children throughout the world who have experienced this type of discrimination and plenty more to come unless we make schools change their racist policies.
Cutting a minor’s hair, especially without the consent of their parents is child abuse and doing it in a public arena is a power play and is humiliating. It is an assault and it is unethical. Many prominent people came out on social media to express their discuss with the referee who cut the wrestler’s hair. One was Ava DuVernay who responded by saying, “I don’t just wear locs. They are a part of me…”
This incident launched the Twitter hashtag #WrestlingWhileBlack. The referee oppress the student’s right to free expression based on his culture. The student even had an approved cover for his head that he’d used before but this time, it wasn’t good enough. Every adult in that arena failed this student. The school is culpable, the coach and all of the administrators who allowed this to happen are also responsible. As Black parents, we must not only speak up to protect our children’s identity, our culture, and the way we wear our hair but for any child being violated. We can’t allow white people to continue making us conform to the beauty standards they’ve created and propagate. Our culture does not always subscribe to their standards and that is okay. Most of us don’t want to be the same because we’re just not. Our experiences are very different. If your child’s school discriminates, don’t take it lying down. Stand up and do something about it.
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT HAIR DISCRIMINATION
You and your child have rights, civil rights. No one can regulate your natural hair. Private schools can create policies on hair length, but you can file a grievance if their policies are racist toward Black natural hair.
Step One – Go straight to the principal and file a formal grievance. Put it in writing (always put it in writing), even if you have to email your complaint. Use the words, “This is a formal grievance…”
Step Two – If you don’t get any satisfaction from the schools’ administration, find out when the next school board meeting will take place. Request to get on the agenda and read your letter aloud at the meeting. End with a call to action and ask what the district will do about their racist policy. Be sure to record the meeting if it is allowed. If not, often school districts will professionally record their meetings and post the video of the meetin online. Ask for a copy of the video.
Step Three – While you are awaiting the date for the school board meeting, contact the ACLU by calling their national office at 212-549-2500 and ask for their help. They can assist you with contacting members of the press who can bring attention to your issue which will put pressure on the district to revise their policies.
Step Four – If an attorney hasn’t contacted you by this point, begin researching a civil rights attorney. The ACLU can assist you with this task as well.
Step Five – If you don’t get any satisfaction post your letter and your appearance at the school board meeting on every social media platform.
Step Six – Send your letter and the video to any news journalist who will listen to you. Follow up with them.