Natural Hair Bans Target Students of Color

It has taken years for people of color, women in particular, to embrace their natural hair texture. In the past few years the natural hair movement has become the norm in the black community; and society is encouraging people of all ages and hair types to rock their natural hair. The pride in the versatility and beauty of natural hair is not shared by all in this world, however. In fact, this lack of acceptance has been seen countless times in the past few years, and children of color are discriminated against, punished, and threatened due to their hair type.

    The most recent story that has come up in the news was over the winter break when a high school wrestler was forced to cut his hair by a referee to avoid forfeiting his match. The student chose to allow his coach to cut his hair, which was then cut until the referee was satisfied with the length. The student then went to win the match, and it was later learned that he had wrestled with the same hairstyle and head covering in previous matches without raising any issues regarding the length or covering of his hair.

    This is just one of the many issues that has brought light to the obvious discrimination against students of color and their hair. A school in Kentucky came under fire with its dress code with banned all protective styles worn by people of color such as cornrows, twists, and braids. This caused the family to fight back, stating that the rules were specifically targeting the children of color. The two girls in the center of the argument were understandably surprised and upset when they learned that they would be removed from activities and possibly suspended if they did not change their hairstyle.

    This discrimination is a starkly different from the way that white students are treated. In most cases, students with colored hair, extensions, and other differing hairstyles were not punished or made to change their hairstyles because these styles were deemed ‘not as obvious’. This case highlights the blatant disregard for diversity and lack of understanding that is evident in schools across the country. Not all people have the same hair texture, which means that the styles and forms that people need to care for their hair are vastly different.

    To say that styles which are rooted in ancestral practices and are culturally known as acceptable styles for protection are not acceptable in schools puts a label across the backs of all students of color that their hair is not acceptable in today's culture. It comes across as an underhanded way of controlling and manipulating students into conforming to the stereotypical standards of society in the same way that the first settlers did with the the Native Americans.

    Americans preach that this country is a melting pot and that we love the differences between us, but the truth is that most people do not enjoy the differences that help make us all so diverse. These people show the world what the inner thoughts of our country truly are; that if you don’t fit the mold, you are deemed unfit, unacceptable, and not worthy of the same treatment or respect. Children go to school to learn and to be around their peers in a safe environment free of racially biased and insensitive actions, and the last thing they need on their mind is whether or not their hairstyle will get them kicked out of class or not. No child should be made to feel as though they are somehow not worthy of an education simply because their hair does not fit in with what the administration thinks is acceptable, even if it is not bothering or distracting anyone in the classroom. If an adult has a problem with the way a child has their hair the first question should always be about the environment of the other students, but the second question should be about if their unconscious bias about students and people of color is causing them to pass judgement on a hairstyle that is only causing an issue for them in that moment of judgement.

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