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Successful Black Parenting

Back-To-School: Is Your School’s Dress Code Racist?

Most of our parents or guardians would agree that dress code in schools is of many great benefits for students experimenting with their identities and looks. It keeps some crazy clothing most students would consider wearing to school to a minimum and tries to switch people’s’ attention from what some students are wearing to what they are meant to be learning.

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The idea of uniformity was entirely taken too far by Ohio-based Horizon Science Academy (HSA. African-American hairstyles were banned by the school. In a letter sent to parents and guardians detailing the updated dress code for the school, they included the line “Afro-puffs and tiny twisted braids … and rubber bands of any sort, are NOT permitted.”

For those individuals who are not familiar with the aforementioned terms, the term Afro-puffs is what happens when natural black hair is pulled into a ponytail. Small or tiny twisted braids could refer to several different African-American hairstyles, including box braids; a style that protects natural hair, which is easy to maintain.

These hairstyles are often worn by Black children (girls) because hair extensions and chemical processing are not involved. By banning these natural hairstyles, what the school is advocating implicitly is that African-American children process their hair chemically in such a way that it resembles White hair, to comply with the Horizon Science Academy’s rules. To help you understand the implications of this policy, it would be equivalent to the school’s administration telling White students (girls) that they could not put their hair in pigtails or ponytails and that they must all dye their hair to an unnatural color. This is insane and worst of all, it’s racist because it’s pushing White hairstyles on Black children.

Giving the school the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that this rule was created out of a deep ignorance and not a deliberate act of racism. Either way, it remains that this policy is packed with bias. It is giving African-American girls the impression that the hair they carry on their head is wrong or that without their hair undergoing a vat of chemicals first, it’s not good enough. Such messages are devastating to a child’s self-esteem and is harmful to their hair.

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There was yet another school in South Africa where the police were threatening to arrest some young ladies who protested the dress code of their school. Administrators of the said school called their natural hair, “untidy.” There have been several cases of this in the United States and there was even a case of a ballet school kicking a young Black girl out of her recital for her natural hair. When these dress codes were created by the administrators, they are invariably insinuating that there’s absolutely something wrong with Black children’s hair matching their DNA. We don’t want our children getting the message that there is something wrong with them from an early age, and especially not from school.

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Est. 1993 | The First National Magazine For Black Parents
Janice Celeste
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Marta Sánchez
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