“They Marched Black and Biracial Children Down the Hall To Check Their Hairstyles.”

| May 20, 2017 | 2 Replies

Every weekend, after Saturday dance classes and before Sunday ​evening​, the girls and I gather in the living room for a marathon of hair-styling.

One by one, Nia and Layla take turns sitting between Mama’s knees, patiently accepting my commands to ​”​turn here​”​ and ​”​lean there​”​ as I oil their scalps, detangle their coils and assemble the​ir locks​ into ​twists and braids.​ The styles are time-​consuming and wreak​ much​ havoc on the manicure, but since they’re ​both ​growing at warp speed, I​’ve come to ​cherish these moments. Even as they become​ more self-reliant, ​it’s sweet that Layla and Nia still rely on Mama to ​keep​ their hair ​fly.

There’s also another duty that ​our children rely on ​us​ for, Darius included​—-laying the foundation for self-knowledge, a love ​of culture and pride in their heritage. From the moment ​they were ​born, ​we ​wanted ​our son and daughters ​to ​prize their melaninated skin​, to embrace their Africanized features and to ​know that,​ no matter what, they are amazing​ beings​, as is​,​ and without apology.

Too bad that there are still institutions that ​apparently believe otherwise….including, unfortunately, the very schools that our tax dollars support. Last year, for example, Louiseville, KY’s Butler Traditional High School came under fire for their change in ​the 2016-2017 ​dress codes​ forbidding “dreadlocks, mohawks, cornrolls (sp),” calling them “extreme, distracting or attention-getting​.​” ​Then State-Representative elect, Attica Scott, a lock-wearing parent ​herself with a daughter attending the school​, used social media to contact the superintendent;​ “To me, the clear message is, ‘your culture and heritage are not welcome here, and we will police your hair rather than focus on your education,'” Scott said. In response, the Jefferson County Public Schools district’s Superintendent, Donna Hargens, contacted the campus’ decision-making committee and the policy was quickly revised.  

Then, ​just last week, two African-American sisters have been banned from sports activities for wearing box braids in their hair. Deanna and Mya Cook, twin sisters with an adoptive white mother, ​were remanded to detention and could likely become suspended over their unwillingness to remove the​ir​ very new and very neat (and likely, very costly) extensions.

Unwilling to ​explore the arrogance and bigotry involved in white officials designating ​how children of​ other ethnicities should look, ​the Mystic Valley Charter School ​defend​s​ their asinine ​stance in this press release posted on the campus’ website; “Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture (HAH!) that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism.”

So…. are they equally as concerned with white students w​earing​ ​expensive highlights or the costs of maintaining ​flat-iron​ed hair? ​With so many other pressing issues ​in education today, why the sudden and punitive focus on how ​these model students wear their hair?

As of today, the American Civil Liberties Union has officially filed a lawsuit against the charter school. One must question the veracity of a learning institution that touts high scholastic performance and the intent to “promote equity” when, according the twins’ mother, Colleen Cook, “they marched black and biracial children down the hall” to check their hairstyles, according to The Boston Globe. Another parent, Annette Namuddu, also called her daughter’s similar punishment  “discrimination. I see white kids with colored hair….and they walk around like it’s nothing.”

According to author and culture expert, Rajen Persaud, “the braids enhance their black features and their culture. Schools that do this begin when black kids are very young because, if they can change a person’s image early on and force them to acquiesce to their image, they can better control them.” 

It’s despicable that one’s version of “making America great again” equals the limitation and discrimination of others, but change is a slow process. As another mother of black daughters who adore their braids and twists, I hope that our weekend traditions will continue and the schools they attend will continue to respect their heritage and any reasonable expressions thereof.

Black girls deserve to learn free from bias and stereotypes. Share this video if you agree and visit www.nwlc.org/LetHerLearn to learn more.

Posted by National Women's Law Center on Thursday, January 5, 2017

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Category: Culture & Politics, DMN Briefing Columns

About the Author ()

Motherofcolor.com showcases the writings of an intelligent and socially savvy wife, mother and journalist who explores a variety of topics (culture, politics, race and gender issues, etc.) with a unique African-American/womanist perspective.* *COPYWRITTEN CONTENT, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (c) . "Melody Charles," "Chocolate Mama & "Le[e] L[e]e Symone" are writing alter egos/pen names*

Comments (2)

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  1. Melody Powers says:

    Great article. The barriers and obstacles continue to mount against our girls. We must be the one to fill the gap and support them in their cultural expression.

    • Lorrie Irby Jackson says:

      I TRULY hope that the lawsuit will get these morons in order Melody, the bigotry and entitlement are OUTRAGEOUS!

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