LP has been stoushing over whether schools are in the right to exclude devout students wearing a kirpan (Sikh short sword). Are expressions of ethnicity, race, identity and heritage more slippery – or less? What about when the expression is completely harmless and non-threatening? What about when one set of students’ natural bodily attributes are privileged over others – and that set is defined in racial terms?
ETA: another picture of the child which gives a better idea of his natural hair.
A Maryland three-year-old has been threatened with expulsion from his preschool – over nappy hair.
Jayce Brown is an African-American boy with short, natural dreadlocks. Nothing was said when he first enrolled at the school. But the Southern Maryland Christian Academy has turned around and threatened to expel him now, over his hair, claiming that his hair violates this policy:
male students are not allowed to have ‘”extremely faddish styles including the use of rubber bands or the ‘twisting’ of hair.'”
What are kids whose hair naturally twists supposed to do? Women of colour are already spending a huge amount of time, money, and pain getting their hair straightened, or they risk facing sneering and sanctions for wearing “political hairstyles”.
Now the bigots are extending this to three-year-olds. If you’re not the default Aryan kiddo or military-regulation shaved, you get expelled – from PRESCHOOL. World gone mad.
The WaPo writes:
Since the dispute between the Browns and the school became public, the family has received hate mail from other residents. One letter said African Americans are “ruining Waldorf” and instructed them to “go back” to the District and Prince George’s County.
David Rocah, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said, “I don’t disagree with [Brown] that specific prohibitions on locked hair or twisted hair have a racially disparate impact, but I can’t think of a specific law that would cover her.”
In the newspaper advertisement, Southern Maryland Christian Academy administrators said that they hope the case does not go to trial but that they are confident they would win if it did. Meanwhile, Jayce is attending another Christian preschool in White Plains that has no restrictions on hairstyle.
“He has no idea what happened, but he keeps asking when he’s going to see his old teacher again,” Brown said. “I don’t really know what to tell him.”
World. Gone. Mad.
Categories: social justice
Head, meet desk. Desk, head.
WTF is that school THINKING?
The School think they would win. I hope if it does go to trial they get a stinking big rude shock.
They may well win in court. That doesn’t mean they’re not racist arsehats.
I think it is a little mischevious to link the kirpan to the hair affair. The one seems to be a personal (political) statement, while the other is the same mind control crap that’s been rolling around from organised religion for eons.
Not only are Sikhs (male only of course, the women just hush up and do) expected to carry a dagger (Kirpan), they are never to cut their hair or shave (go figure)i.e keep their Kesh, wear a solid metal bracelet – a Kadha, carry a comb (Kadha) for grooming said uncut hair and beard, and wear long underwear (Kaccha).The holy five K’s.
And we are to believe that god wants this? I can see Him getting his Kaccha in a twist that I don’t carry a comb. Given I am now bald it is a moot point but hilarious nevertheless. Organised religion comes to these arguments poorly prepared because of the absurdity of the claims it makes – whatever the religion it might be.
Apu, I think Lauredhel made the point in her first paragraph distinguishing the religous act of carrying a kirpan and the natural hairstyle of this boy. The point is that he and his parents are NOT trying to make a political statement, although the boy clearly lives in a world where his hair is politicised, just as women’s bodies are politicised no matter what we do with them. I can’t speak for Lauredhel, but the way I read it was that this boy’s hairstyle (the most practical hairstyle for his type of hair) is being treated as though it was an attempt to make a voluntary political or religious statement, even though this is clearly not the case.
That’s not to say that people don’t have ill-founded and racist reasons for banning voluntary religious attire– plenty of people do want these things banned out of racism (though I do understand that in the case of the kirpan there are safety concerns– if another student stole the knife, for instance). It’s just that in the case of this boy, there is no comfortable screen behind which the racism can be hidden.
Just three letters:
Can americans be any MAD-ER?
Hair is part of the body. Is not demanding this child’s expulsion comparable to other violence against anyone’s body? I will pass along this story for encouragement to the parents and outrage as a black mother of a son.
My 15yo son faced this same dilemma over two years ago when he applied to go to boarding school in Atlanta. We received a call to inform us that he had been unanimously accepted under blind review (gifted/talented academics, civic engagement, social aptitude)BUT upon matching his picture with his person on paper, they demanded that for him to be accepted he would have to shave is shoulder length locs before coming to campus! My then 12yo Prince of a son himself informed the assistant dean that such a request was a violation of his person — comparable to talking about his mother, his religion and his politics! Without hesitating, my son spoke up on his own behalf before I had to intervene with my Mother Bear response! I had always taught son that his words and thoughts were important, and that as long as he didnt whine or blame others for his decisions, I would stand by him. I gladly informed the dean that although that school was our first choice, it was never our only option! Within two weeks we had to East Coast schools battling for our time and attention with dollars and hospitality! He is in his second year there as a minority scholar — seems at times he is schooling them on culture as much as he is enjoying the academic challenge!
Be brave, bold and encouraged! Be outraged and out loud about the reality of colonialism in the 21st Century! Insist that our sons are not up on the auction block anymore!
Prayerfully and Actively yours,
What a beautiful child. What an insane world.
I used to live near there.
Completely off-topic except to make the point that Waldorf is not a total backwater (in fact, it’s close to DC), Good Charlotte is from Waldorf.
Or does that prove that it is? 😉
Unless they require other male students to have shaved heads, I don’t see how the school can say their policy isn’t racially motivated.
Because there’s little other choice for this kid’s hair to meet their requirements.
I think you (commenters) are missing something; it’s a private institution. As such, they are free to say that your hair (or dress) must look a certain way. My high school required that men’s hair had to be cut above the collar, men needed to be clean shaven and sideburns could not descend below the bottom of the ear. In going to that school I agreed to abide by these guidelines. If the policy of this child’s school that hair styles must be of such and such a form then the parents need to either oblige or (what seems to be the case) take their son somewhere else.
RevSisRaedorah, asking your son to cut his hair was ‘a violation of his person — comparable to talking about his mother, his religion and his politics!’ What if he didn’t like one of the other rules? If, for example, the school in Atlanta had required uniforms would that have been a similar violation?
Long story short, private (and this point is important to stress) institutions have the right to require their students behave in certain ways. If a child, or his or her parents, do not want to act in accordance with that then there are other schools both public and private which will accommodate you.
Did your school require that, over and above these guidelines above, that anyone with naturally nappy hair straighten it chemically or else shave their head? Because that’s what this school’s guidelines amount to, over something the child cannot help: that’s what his hair does naturally. Nobody is twisting his hair artificially.
It is ethically wrong and discriminatory to require one kind of naturally occurring hair to be chemically altered or simply removed when other kinds of hair of the same length are allowed.
Can they legally require it? Perhaps so. Should they be immune from community criticism just because they may be acting within the letter of the law? Hell No.
Natural dreadlocks? Those look like cornrows to me – definitely not natural.
I don’t agree with the school, but let’s not twist words here to bias readers.
Cornrows are just a style of plaiting which is particularly helpful in keeping nappy hair untangled.
Are any other kids being told that they can’t plait their hair to stop it tangling?
Nice country y’all got going there. Glad I’m not part of it.
Patrick: This all happened in the USA, so I’m not sure who your “y’all” refers to. But welcome to HaT!
Hi DevilsAdvocate. Your post is in moderation. I’d appreciate it if you’d cast your eyes over our Guidelines page, which includes the following:
Am I missing something? I don’t see anything like ‘anyone with naturally nappy hair straighten it chemically or else shave their head’ mentioned in the guidelines. I see where they forbid the male students from having ‘”extremely faddish styles including the use of rubber bands or the ‘twisting’ of hair.’”
What’s bigoted about that? I know plenty of men of color who have natural hair cuts. They don’t have to braid their hair up into cornrows or form dreadlocks. As a matter of fact most professional organizations don’t allow it either. Are they racists for wanting to maintain a standard among their employees? Of course not, and neither is this school’s administration. They want the same thing, to adhere to a standard of propriety, not demand black children shave their heads. How ridiculous.
I think it’s a stupid rule and I’d never in a million years send my kid to a private religious school, but it’s their school, their rules. Get rid of the cornrows or find another school. There’s no racism here whatsoever and I’m baffled by the parents’, authors’s and commenters’ belief that there is.
So if a white kid showed up with a “extremely faddish styles including the use of rubber bands or the ‘twisting’ of hair.’” and he was told change his hair or get expelled, would we be having this conversation?
This just goes to show that some of the most intolerant people are “people of faith”. The basic concept that “my religion is right and everyone else’s is wrong” shows that religion is based on intolerance.
This is a private school. If the policy is no “twisting” of hair and then the ignorant parent sends their son to school with twisted hair, what do you expect? This is the parents fault, not the school’s. Send your kid to a public school if you don’t like the policy.
It seems we have a few visitors who are profoundly ignorant about the history of American racism, and more specifically about the denigration of the natural attributes of an African-American body as “inferior”, “political”, and in need of changing in order to “fit in”.
The style this boy is wearing is in no way “faddish”, and to claim it is speaks plainly of white-centrism. It is a style worn by African-American people for many, many years. It works with the natural attributes of the hair instead of against it (a painful, time-consuming, expensive process). His hair twists naturally, and this is one simple way of keeping it neat and tidy.
Feminists of colour have been speaking out about nappy hair and beauty culture for a long, long time; this is a related example. There’s a reason Dom Imus thought it was perfectly ok to denigrate women of colour as being “nappy-headed hos”, and why the public perceived his description of their hair as more insulting and outrageous than his labelling them “whores”.
Some reading for you:
The unfairness of having political hair
(Also read Monica Jackson’s other related posts, and the comments threads, here and elsewhere.)
”Race Relations 101 – Let’s start with hair.” (and all the links therein)
”Black Hair Is Political”
”Good Hair, Kinky Hair”
”Mamas, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Hate Kinky”
”‘Glamour’ Editor To Lady Lawyers: Being Black Is Kinda A Corporate “Don’t””
”Why ‘nappy’ is offensive”
”‘Nappy’ Has Long, Hurtful History”
I agree with Liz. lol
As an American, a Southern American at that, I am well-versed and educated on the racist history of this country. What you seem to be missing is that the kid’s hair is BRAIDED. That does not occur naturally, ever, with any race. It may be helpful to keep his hair, which has specific characteristics due to his race in check, but it is not an acceptable method according to the school guidelines. There are plenty of ways to keep African hair tidy without resorting to braiding or dreadlocks. Trust me, I work, relate to, and speak with women and men of color every single day of my life and not a one of them has unruly hair, chemically treated hair or braids or dreadlocks.
Twisted hair is vastly different from naturally curly hair, and I think you’re having issues understanding the difference.
The issue here isn’t that his hair is ‘faddish’, it isn’t, that’s clearly obvious. It is braided, or if you’d rather, ‘twisted’, and for whatever reason is unacceptable to this school. This PRIVATE school.
Racism isn’t helped any by creating it where it isn’t. That only perpetuates the divide between the races. And this sort of knee-jerk emotional alarmist reactionary garbage doesn’t help any either.
Now, if you’d read the article without the OMGRACIST!!11!! blinders on you’d see that the parents may actually have a case, but not because the policy is racist, but rather because they caught the school in a contractual technicality.
i think the picture of jayce with his backpack may be confusing people, because his hair does look more like it’s in cornrow braids rather than dreadlocks. i think the picture in this article is more representative:
Just to make it easy for everyone, I’ll post the picture la doctorita linked to above (as only admins can post images here):
Clearly you all are missing something here.
This child is a CHILD. How do you explain to a child (a three year old at that) that the hair he has had all his life is unexceptable to the nice rich white people. And just how is this child’s hair effecting anyone? Have the teachers started doing a poor job of educating the students because this three year old’s hair is so very distracting and outraging to them? Do you think that any of the kids that are attending this facility think anything of one boys HAIR? For godssake what has the world come to? Clearly this is a problem that shouldn’t even be a problem except one person along the way pointed it out and since it’s a technacality someone had to say something about it.
I hope their judge is black.
look, i’m black and proud of it. i don’t go to ‘their’ private places and i don’t want ‘them’ barging in on mine.
as a member of a despised and denigrated race, i need time *away* from ‘them’, and if i have to go to a private club to do it, so be it. if that PRIVATE club has rules about not having blonde hair, no lips, or a flat behind, so be it.
i’m not happy with the family because there are *so* many more important things to deal with in ‘our’ community: pretext stops by out-of-control racist cops, deep pockets of despair in the inner cities and some outlying areas as well; the refusal of ‘our’ churches to stop giving the damned lying preacher all their money & start giving it to families in ‘our’ communities who need it (and by the way, using the same $$ to build private schools of our own, including American Muslim schools).
no one is ever going to change how white people feel about themselves in relation to the rest of the world. get over it, and move ahead DESPITE them!
let’s get on with OUR desires for decency, strong families, and neighborhood educational institutions where our kids will be treasured, nurtured, and EDUCATED. and those that don’t wanna go to college can become the decent cops and talented technicians we so desperately need in our communities.
“short, natural dreadlocks”
Look at the picture of the kid. Those are NOT natural dreadlocks.
It’s a private school. Don’t like the rules? Leave. Go to another one, or go to a public school where they have to put up with socialist ideals.
It’s not political hair ist black people hair. Thats some racist crap. Haven’t they ever seen a black person before? and a preschooler non the less. Shame..
“Extremely faddish styles” is a very subjective term. They need to come up with something more specific than that. I’m not surprised that people don’t know how to interpret that. What is extremely faddish to one person might be commonplace to another.
The School think they would win. I hope if it does go to trial they get a stinking big rude shock.thanks for sharing
I’d appreciate it if commenters would cast their eyes over our Guidelines page, which includes the following:
You’d think that people posting to say “They should of read the rules before they enrolled!!1!” would be the sort of person to read a blog’s discussion ground-rules page before posting, wouldn’t you?