In the News: Tiana Parker’s Dreadlocks & a Few Responses

A few weeks ago, yet another young girl was forced to leave school for her natural hair style; this time, the style under fire was a neat set of dreadlocks pulled in a ponytail, accessorized with a very cute headband that any little girl I know would proudly wear. The dress code policies at Tiana Parker’s former Oklahoma school prevented “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles,” and resulted in Tiana’s father withdrawing her from the school. After widespread (surprisingly) news media coverage, the school revised their policy, and Tiana has received overwhelming support from the black female community. I hope the positive feedback Tiana has received will help her internalize and never again question the beauty of herself or her hair, in spite of the prevailing ignorance in some (many? most?) members of our communities.

dreadlocks-school-policy

I originally wanted to write this post more broadly on the policing of natural hair, particularly from a young age, and what that does to little black girls’ self esteem. I wanted to discuss how this policing not only occurs through official measures, but also through whispered and unspoken rules of being that come from both outside of and within the black community. I thought about highlighting the trajectory of this policing throughout a woman’s life, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, and the way it is embedded in nearly all aspects of life: school, work, play, relationships. I also wanted to talk to my 6-year-old cousin, who often wears her hair in beaded cornrows, and ask her if anyone at school ever said anything regarding her hair. I couldn’t think of many objective (read: nice) things to type (or in my cousin’s case, to do in response to whatever she may have shared), so I decided against all for the moment. Instead I’ll leave you with some other responses on the issue:

In light of all this, here are a few questions I have for the world:

Why does society still think loose or dreadlocked natural hair is a fad?
How can the hair that grows out of our head be distracting?
Why are little white girls allowed to wear feathers in their hair or dye it pink and still go to school?
Why are little black girls allowed to have relaxer scab burns or weaves and still go to school?
How do people–in 2013!–not have the foresight to critically examine their policies, no matter how meaningless or meaningful, for racist or discriminatory undertones?

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Comments

  1. I think it’s appalling but I’m glad that people were upset, made it known and influenced the school to amend their policies. It’s totally offensive to say that someone is not allowed to wear their hair the way they were born with it. America thinks this “natural hair” is a fad. All we can do is continue to speak out about these injustices and they will see our hair is not a fad, it’s simply our hair. Get over it! It tells you nothing about my character, dreams, personality, aptitude for success, etc.

    1. I agree Milan, the “fad” part really got to me. That and questioning her presentability… getting at what you said about people making assumptions of our (fill in the blank) based on our hair.

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