On September 1st, the state of Texas passed the CROWN Act, which prohibited discrimination based on hair textures and styles in the workplace, schools, and housing.
Regardless of this legislature, a Black high school student in Texas received a suspension for wearing a protective hairstyle just ten days later.
The student, Darryl George, was asked to cut his hair because it "violated the dress code." George refused to, hence his suspension, which cost him over a week of class time.
Although the school denied discrimination at play with the suspension, the likelihood of this claim is extremely slim.
George's case is a reminder that we must continue fighting for racial justice in schools.
While the CROWN Act is a step in the right direction, there is clear work to be done regarding enforcement and interpretation. However, it is clear that more work needs to be done to ensure that the law is enforced and that students are not discriminated against for their hair.
The fact that George was suspended for wearing a protective hairstyle raises questions about the school's enforcement of its dress code and the bias within the dress code.
Do the rules target Black students?
Would White students receive the same punishments?
Are those who enforce such dress code biased?
Darryl George's case is a reminder that we must continue fighting for racial justice in schools. The CROWN Act is a good start, but we must do more to ensure that all students are treated fairly and respectfully.
I respect your views on this, but here is my take.
During my time at school be it primary or secondary school, there was a set of rules and regulations that we had to follow in relation to dress code and grooming. One part was to help us grow up to respect authority and the other part was for us to know when to stand up for our beliefs and rights. In the Caribbean, I can not ever say that we experience discrimination in terms of our hair because the majority of the Caribbean has about the same hair texture although some of our hair will be a bit straighter or curly than others (type 3a-4c). Girls were allowed to wear braids but it had to be the colour of their hair, so not fancy colouring. The boy's hair was to be trimmed or if they had locs (which was allowed), it had to be worn with a covering.
This means that at school we were always well-groomed and neat, this created an identity of children and teenagers that was always immaculate in our appearance, something as adults we still strive for.
But the idea of being well groomed is no longer a requirement in schools anymore at least that is what it seems like.
A year ago, I came back home from the UK to a new normal. I saw young men in their school uniforms with puffs on their heads and a comb pushed inside. I saw them with their shirt out of their pants and just carrying themselves with no care about how they looked. I saw the young men with their big twists that showed us the cardinal points and it amazed me.
So what happened in the time I left my country and came back home?
I meant one of these young men and I asked sarcastically, Are you still in school? His reply was yes. Then I asked did the school burned up the rule books. He proceeds to laugh at my question, knowing very well I was referring to his hair. A week ago, I was at the beach on another island, when I saw the very thing among the boys, hair all over the place in preparation for school the following day. The next day while listening to the news broadcast, I had the most unlikely comment from a minister of government from Guyana, that no student should be suspended from school or sent back home for that matter because of their hairstyle or grooming, however, the student decide he or she want to wear their hair is acceptable. I stood in the middle of the room and asked myself, so what happens when we allow students to disregard the rules and regulations of simple institutions without any consequences; there is no mechanism in place to help children know and respect authority, be it in the home and now in the schools, so when these very students grow up their can defy any law because respect of authority was never instilled.
I don't have a problem with males having long hair, but I believe there is a time and a place for everything. In circumstances of medical certification, males were allowed to wear their long hair at school, however, it was covered. They were allowed the locs as well, again it was covered. But at each instance, the male hair was cut short. In each instance, the males were always well groomed and instilled in them to carry themselves as gentlemen. Today I see male students who carry themselves like war criminals. As I stated before a time and a place, which means I don't believe without proper cause, that a male student should have long hair at school, which is simply my view.
I know that discrimination is real but I am also learning not to look at everything with a perceived bias, and oh how we do just that unconsciously most of the time. Everything we see or hear automatically goes to skin colour or race. We have lived a life of unconscious bias and because of that bias, we assume everything is as it seems. Let me hope that we do come to a place where we are not judged by our skin colour or hair texture but by how we carry ourselves in our skin colour and hair texture. We can show that we have 4c hair and it is beautifully groomed and that the colour of our skin is beautiful. I hope as we always say in audit be sceptical and dig deeper before finalizing a conclusion. I am also learning America is a special place.