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.
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:
- To a Black Girl Whose Hair was Deemed ‘Unacceptable’ via Melissa Harris-Perry
- Shaming Young Black Girls: Tiana Parker’s “Presentability” and the Policing of Black Identity via ForHarriet.com
In light of all this, here are a few questions I have for the world: