Young black girls have been wearing braids since the dawn of time. I never thought that such a simple hairstyle would be seen as problematic until I saw this tweet on Twitter last week:
I was so shocked by this because I had no idea that it was an issue. Why should it be? When I was a teenager, I wore braids at secondary school and not one teacher told me that my hair was ‘unsuitable’ or ‘unnatural’. That was in the early to mid-1990s, so how is it a problem now? If anything, schools should be more knowledgeable about this instead of wanting all children to conform to one generic look. Many of them cannot do that because: genetics.
According to this school’s uniform policy (which encourages pupils to adopt a ‘corporate identity’ – I’m guessing this extends to how they look as well), braids fall under the category of an ‘extreme hairstyle’. This is nonsense. Braids are not an extreme hairstyle, they are a protective hairstyle – two very different things. They protect our fragile follicles and strands. Not every black child wants to relax their hair and braids are a convenient and stylish way to maintain their Afro locks. If this teacher did some research, he would have known that.
This situation is scandalous and yet again adds to the policing and demonisation of black hair and the myopic viewpoint that our hair is perceived as ‘unprofessional’, no matter how we style it.
If the girl’s braids were down to her knees, it could be deemed a health and safety issue but this is not the case – it is a cultural issue and that’s not all. First, the head of year said her braids were ‘unnatural’; then he declared that the colour of the braids contravened the uniform policy, so she must remove the blonde bits. Like she can just pull them out quickly as if the hairdresser didn’t spend hours painstakingly braiding her hair. She cannot remove the blonde bits because that would mean SHE WOULD HAVE TO REMOVE ALL HER BRAIDS.
Knowing how much it costs to braid hair – both in price and in time – would mean that the whole process was a waste of time for the poor girl, merely because her teacher viewed her hair negatively and in an ignorant manner.
All this happened on her first day of secondary school. Imagine! The poor girl must have been excited and nervous starting at a new school. Then, she walked in and her new head of year criticised her hair, implying that she did not fit in because of this one aspect. That staff member likely gave that young girl a poor start to her experience at her new school because he’s now provided her with a complex, thanks to his dismissal of her perfectly fine hairstyle.
Also, how can you such a style is unnatural and yet have a young black girl on your homepage wearing – yes, you’ve guessed it – braids? Oh, the irony. But then again, what do you expect from a school that doesn’t even allow their pupils to wear earrings? I understand if they restricted pupils to wearing studs, but no earrings at all? Really?
Their policy states that ‘unnatural hair extensions or dyes are not permitted’. Fair enough, but what if there is a pupil at the school who has, say, a serious illness or alopecia and want to cover up by wearing a wig? Would that be allowed? Or would they make up another excuse on the spot and humiliate the child on their first day?
Fortunately, the school in question saw sense and softened their stance on this, so the young girl did not have to remove her braids. Thank goodness they did. Negatively affecting this young girl’s progress before she’s even begun because she sported braids is ridiculous. Wearing them will not impact her education or how she learns in any way and maybe they will realise that this hairstyle can be a part of her corporate and cultural identities. The two should not be mutually exclusive.