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.
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This is so sad it’s hard to believe its real. Ugh! Why are we always trying to teach black kids how to be “accepted” why not teach them to be creative, be game changers, be proud, move mountains, make history?
Nia, I have to give u two thumbs up for that comment!
Thank you! Also, someone needs to tell Hampton University’s Business School the same thing because they have the same stupid as hell policy. My people, my people.
Only recently am I getting more compliments from black people than I had been getting from whites about my natural hair. But I am so OVER it, and wish we could move on. I appreciate a well-cared for head of hair, be it permed, relaxed, natural, dyed, fried… (but never weaved!) I don’t “hate the playas, just hate the game” that makes us war against each other over such trivial, TRIVIAL things.
This makes me so sad that in this day and age we still can’t appreciate diversity. More importantly that this beautiful little girl was made to feel any kind of pain over something that is irrelevant and has absolutely nothing to do with education. This makes me feel blessed that I live in NYC where my children can wear their Afros, Mohawks, and in the case of my oldest his combined Afro Mohawk! Really is there nothing better for these people to worry about in life?
Well said!!! Being a mother of a chocolate daughter at the prime self esteem shattering age, I really feel his pain. I have worked hard to make sure that my baby, who for the last three years has not had another girl in her class who looks like her, knows her worth and loves her self just the way God made her. We’ve come a long way from class mates telling her that her hair was ugly & that she needs to wear a wig to her rocking a wash & go every chance she gets! It’s a daily conscious affirmation on my part to get her to this point and it’s pretty awful that just that quickly she could step outside and have all of my hard work undone by a grown up in a position of authority.
I’ve been natural for 14 years now, and other races complimented my hair more than blacks at the start of my hair journey. It still seems strange to get so many compliments from blacks these past few years.
When that school realizes that what makes one more acceptable in their adulthood is 1. The quality of their education, 2. Their ability to relate to many different types of people, and 3. Their dedication to hard work, and a passion for whatever career they choose to pursue, they might get taken seriously. At this rate, it seems as though they are way too focused on appearance, and less on education. Also, what is wrong with longer hair? Why does hair have to be kept so short, and why would they choose a potentially hair-damaging style to be acceptable, as opposed to a style that allows hair to be much more healthy?
Children are MEANT to explore several bizarre, questionable, funny, or pure ingenious styles in their youth. It is their time for expression firstly. It is also proven that this is healthy for children, and promotes a smoother transition into adulthood so they can focus more on becoming an adult, and less on trying to cling to a lost childhood. She may choose later to change her hair because she simply wants to try something new. Afterall, children are very unlikely to keep the same style of hair or clothing, or even personality, all the way through to adulthood. In her time, when she is an adult, the world will also be different. She may enter into a world as an adult where, I don’t know, no one gives a flying crap?
Schools have become crazy, and charter schools, once praised for their supposed “breakthroughs” at being able to offer better education to lower income or inner city children, are actually mad houses that work off of the founder’s policies and beliefs, and not off of what others might believe is a realistic viewpoint. I would say homeschooling with frequent meetups for your child is a better option if you can do it, or carefully plan a method of placing your child in a more suitable public school before they reach school age. Conduct school interviews to learn more about the schools policies and procedures and do your research online and out in public to find out what other parents think of the school before you place your child. The more of this you do, the better of your child will be.