Dear Board of Education, Afro Hair is Not a Distraction


Imagine walking through school corridors. Suddenly you are stopped by a school administrator. The school administrator tells you that your hair is a distraction to the education of others and violate dress code policy. He or she gives you an ultimatum in which you must choose between accepting the way God created you or receiving an education. In other words, get rid of your natural hair or face expulsion. This is an experience students of color face in America.

For years, Black girls in America have dealt with school dress code policies that target their hair. Failure to abide by these policies resulted in punishment like detention, and even worse, suspension. Dorinda J. Carter Andrews is the assistant dean of equity outreach initiatives at Michigan State University (MSU). She researched zero-tolerance policies in American schools and concluded that outcomes of these policies enforce a marginalization of black girls in schools which could criminalize their black identity.

Why do institutions of education consider afro hair a distraction? This is the result of a hegemony in which one race in America control the narrative of what is considered professional and unprofessional. I also believe urban movies play a role in the demonization of Afrocentric hairstyles. In most instances, cornrows are associated with deviant and "ghetto" behaviors in urban movies. Therefore, persons who obtain their ideas of Black culture in movies may assume that people with cornrows fit the false narratives seen in movies. And then there is the afro. The afro was popular in the sixties and seventies. At this time in America, people of color rebelled against a society that oppressed them for centuries. During this phase, western society saw people of color armed with guns while wearing the afro. Hence, one might assume that individuals rocking the afro or cornrows are militant, rebellious, delinquent, or ghetto

Whatever reason people may have for ve may be, it does not justify the education’s system policies toward Afrocentric hairstyles. These policies augment the idea that African hair is bad, and that success requires a person to have straight, silky hair. This can produce low self-esteem or poor acceptance of self in girls. Embrace The Crown call on the public and private school system to recognize that their dress code policies and perceptions toward Black hair uphold whiteness as the epitome of good and beautiful. We encourage both systems to have dialogue and include persons of color when forming school dress code policies.

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