I swear to Sweet Baby Jesus in the Manger, after that whole Sheryl Underwood “afros are nasty” debacle earlier this week, the absolute last thing I thought I’d be writing today was another post about some grown ass Black people tearing down African American children who wear their hair in its natural state, but damn if we ain’t here again: a Tulsa, OK charter school sent a 7-year-old girl home in tears for wearing dreadlocks, a hairstyle administrators said violated school policy against “faddish” hair.
School officials at Deborah Brown Community School told Terrance Parker that his daughter, Tiana, the sweetest little chocolate bar you ever did see with her locs and a big, beautiful pink bow in her hair, didn’t look presentable. But Tiana’s daddy thinks otherwise‚ enough so that to protect his baby girl from any more damage, he pulled her from the charter school.
“She’s always presentable. I take pride in my kids looking nice,” Parker told KOKI TV. “She went to the school last year and didn’t have any problems,” he added, noting that Tiana’s hairstyle had not changed. “It hurt my feelings to the core.”
Tiana, a straight-A student, has since been enrolled at another school where, apparently, there are grown-ups who don’t judge 7-year-olds or use antiquated rules to knock down the self-esteem of little black girls whose parents choose to encourage them to wear their hear the way it grows out of their beautiful little heads.
Maybe the administrators at the new school could have a meeting/hold a prayer circle/lend a clue to the folk at Deborah Brown, which has a dress code that really and truly states, “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” The code says it is perfectly okay, however, for little girls (presumably, even 7-year-olds), to wear weaves, so long as they are not multicolored and longer than shoulder length. Boys must wear their hair “short and neatly trimmed,” and earrings for them is a no-go. The school’s charter insists the strict dress code is meant to maintain a “respectful and serious atmosphere.” And any kid that violates said code? Well, they ain’t got to go home, but they gotta get the hell out of the Deborah Brown Community School.
KOKI TV says school administrators wouldn’t talk on camera, but administrator Millard Jones said Terrance Parker was fully aware of what was expected of his daughter. So, should we assume that the expectation here is that black girls rock weaves or relax their hair so that they can look like, what, white girls? The cast of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta? I mean, I’m so confused.
The most insane part of this, though? The majority of the school’s administration, presumably the people who made up those asinine hair rules, are Black. Oh, hell yes—you read that right. They’re Black. And clearly some self-hating, ignorant, backwards thinking numbskulls so stuck on stupid that they still actually think relaxing, weaving or snatching a Black child’s hair into some kind of tortuous submission will make them more “acceptable.”
But more “acceptable” to whom, I ask? Is this for white people? Or is it for the Sheryl Underwoods of the world—those Black folk so scared of the way their hair grows out of their hair, so mad that its got kinks and twists and bends and curls and texture strong enough to break a comb, that they’d just as soon fill a first grader’s hair with Yaki or poisonous chemicals than let a baby go to class looking like Tiana Parker? (Or my daughters, Mari and Lila, who wear their hair in locs and twists respectively.)
Here’s the thing: I’ve worn my hair natural for 13 years. The only people who’ve ever give me a hard time about it are BLACK PEOPLE. The bigger my afro, the thicker my twists, the higher my top knots, the more white people—women and men—tell me they love my hair. It’s only recently, now that natural hair is “in” again, that Black women are passing out unsolicited compliments on my and my daughters’ natural ‘dos, something, I must admit, that I’m still getting used to, because for so long, the only thing Black women would do when they got a gander of our twists and ‘fros and locs was toss a glimmer of disgust our way. Wearing our hair natural in public was like running a gauntlet. Don’t even get me started on Black mens’ natural hair hang-ups. I ‘clare ‘fo God, I could write book No. 23 on that subject alone.
Thing is, Black natural hair haters like the administrators at Deborah Brown are doing this whole Kabuki theater thing under the guise that they’re preparing Black folk for our entrance into the white world, when anyone with sense knows that, really, the white world doesn’t give a good hot damn about the kink in our hair. They see it, they want to touch it and talk about it and they compliment it and then they move on. Thinking it’s good and right to tell a 7-year-old baby with locs that she’s “unpresentable” and needs to have straight hair or weaved isn’t about white people. It’s about our own stank, drippy, putrid baggage.
This is so 1953.
Bravo to Terrance Parker for celebrating his baby girl’s hair and getting her away from such poisonous thinking. Know that a legion of Black moms and dads applaud your strength, understand your plight, stand by your decision and wrap your pretty little girl with her locs and her sweet smoochie face in a warm embrace full of love, with the might of angels. She is beautiful—every inch of her—exactly the way she is. Tell her WE said so.
1. The Joys (And Pains!) Of Kinky Black Girl Hair
2. The Attack Against Black Girl Beauty
3. A Beautiful Black Girl Finally Says, “I Love My Hair!”
4. Learning How To Care For Black Baby Hair
5. Little Black Girls With Natural Hair: Lessons On Touching, Rocking and Loving Kinks & Curls
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.