Being an adolescent, I’ve seen quite a few number of “distracting” hairstyles from fellow classmates. Needless to say none of those were natural hairstyles.
In the state of Kentucky which recently just abolished unnecessary regulations for hair braiders, there is a high school that just banned natural hairstyles mostly worn by black students. Louisville’s Butler Traditional High School rolled out the new rules on registration day.
Attica Scott, a female African-American legislature, had a daughter who returned home with a slip of paper with the regulations. She took to twitter to show her discontent with the situation.
— Attica Scott (@atticascott) July 27, 2016
One of the rules read as “Hair styles that are extreme, distracting or attention-getting will not be permitted. No dreadlocks, corn rolls, twists, Mohawks and no jewellery will be worn in the hair.”
— Haley Ballast (@haleyballast) July 28, 2016
After speaking with a member of the black community, it turns out that the “corn rolls” are supposed to be written as “cornrows”.
Now there is nothing wrong with a typo, it can happen. But it is very hard to make that typo as corn rolls actually has a space in it while cornrows doesn’t. One has to do with food while the other is a type of hairstyle. What you make of this is up to you, but it does come off as highly offensive to some people.
The flyer further on reads “We feel that a student’s academic success is directly correlated to appropriate attire and appearance.”
This also sparked quite a few number of tweets by Attica Scott, pointing out that these hairstyles were worn by music sensation Beyoncé, Oprah and Maya Angelou. The point being that the above statement made by the school was false when it came to these ladies as they had achieved quite a lot while also supporting these hairstyles.
— Attica Scott (@atticascott) July 28, 2016
Speaking to a friend, I asked her how would she feel if that happened at her school after responding with an enthusiastic and energetic response of “I’LL PROTEST”. Kaia then went on to say that those were the only hairstyles that made her look “pretty” and that she usually supported twists and sometimes cornrows.
It seems as though the school only banned natural hairstyles that were worn by black students, which Attica Scott said to be “institutional racism”.
This isn’t just regular racism, this basically profiles hairstyles, meaning it creates this sense in students that if they have these types of hairstyles they are either distracting to others or they’re not very good at academics.
Not only are these hairstyles mostly found in the black community, they also have their benefits e.g having dreadlocks means that hair that is grown together to form a tight lock (dread) holds more strength. Less damage can be done from outside elements like wind, heat, and sleet.
Not only dreadlocks, cornrows and twist are actually considered protective hairstyles, these help with growth as it prevents breakage of hair, they also keep the hair soft as they absorb all oils and natural moisturizers that come from hair.
If there are so many benefits to these hairstyles ant that they are not distracting nor do they affect the academic learning of students, then one has to wonder why they were banned in the first place, Attica Scott’s comment about “institutional racism” makes more sense now.
The rules were soon after voted out because of the public outcry and JCPS superintendent Donna Hargens had encouraged all schools in the district to review their dress code policies.
This wasn’t the first case nor would it be the last. It would be easy to blame the school and while the school was at fault it wasn’t only its fault. The society around us thinks that adolescents are very easily distracted, while that may be true for some, it is not true for the majority of us. Until there is some credit given to adolescents for their focus and willingness to work and learn and the collective mind of our society starts appreciating other cultures and styles, supported by students of different colour skins, we will keep arriving at the same conclusion: racism, be that institutional or otherwise.