by Ijeoma of Klassy Kinks
As the natural hair movement gains ground, there is also increasing media and community awareness of the unfortunate times when natural hair becomes an issue at one’s school or workplace. The most recent instance of discrimination against natural hair inspired me to compile a timeline of the past year’s setbacks and steps forward in terms of natural hair acceptance.
WHO: John Doe
WHAT: A Rastafarian male student is indefinitely suspended from school in Louisiana for refusing to cut dreadlocks, which are grown as part of his religious beliefs.
WHY: Student was sent home because dreadlocks extended past collar, which was in violation of school dress code. Student’s parents sent the boy back to school with his hair up off his neck, but the school refused to allow him to return unless he cut his dreadlocks.
WHAT NOW: The ACLU of Louisiana has taken up the case, saying that the school violated the student’s rights as well as religious freedom laws.
WHO: Jessica Sims
WHAT: A Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class at US Navy in Illinois is honorably discharged after twelve years of service for refusing to cut dreadlocks, which she has had since 2005.
WHY: Officials said that Sims’ hair was out of regulation, and prevented her from properly wearing safety equipment, such as helmets and masks. The Navy bans “widely spaced individual hanging locks,” though Sims claims she always wore her hair in a bun.
WHAT NOW: Sims will be pursuing premedical studies at Loyola Marymount College this year.
WHO: Jasmine Jacobs
WHAT: A former sergeant in Georgia Army National Guard created an online petition after Army Regulation 670-1, which banned several hairstyles worn by black women.
WHY: Jacobs wears two strand twists, which would have been out of regulation if the grooming regulation bill was upheld and she remained in the National Guard.
WHAT NOW: The petition received over 17,000 signatures, and inspired the military to review and potentially alter the guidelines to be considerate of African American women’s hair choices and options.
WHO: U.S. Armed Forces
WHAT: Army Regulation 670-1 guidelines for grooming are released, and banned several hairstyles commonly worn by African American women in the armed forces, including braids, twists, and cornrows. Language such as “matted” and “unkempt” was used.
WHAT NOW: In August 2014, the U.S. Military relaxed their restrictions, permitting more kinds of braids and two strand twists. Other armed forces areas have yet to respond.
WHO: Vanessa Van Dyke
WHAT: Students bully a 12-year old student at a Christian school in Florida because of her hair. The school responds by asking Vanessa to cut or straighten her hair, or leave the school.
WHY: According to school officials, Van Dyke’s hair was a “distraction” to other students, which was a violation of school policy.
WHAT NOW: Van Dyke returned to school without having to make any changes to her hair, but school officials still enforced that Van Dyke’s hair would have to comply with the school’s styling policy.
WHO: Ashley Davis
WHAT: A Missouri woman with dreadlocks has to choose between cutting them and keeping her job.
WHY: The company dress code policy, instituted two months after Davis began working, states that “dreadlocks, braids, mohawks, mullets, and other hairstyles are against company guidelines.”
WHAT NOW: Davis left her job.
WHO: Tiana Parker
WHAT: A Tulsa, Oklahoma charter school sent 7-year old Tiana Parker home because her dreadlocks did not look “presentable.”
WHY: The school dress code banned hairstyles such as “dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles”.
WHAT NOW: After a petition requesting a public apology to Parker and a change of the school’s dress code received over 23,000 signatures, the school reversed it’s ban on dreadlocks and afros. However, Parker’s parents had already removed her from the school, and she was sent many wishes from the natural hair community and other supporters.
WHO: Horizon Science Academy
WHAT: A Christian school in Ohio bans Afro puffs, and small, twisted braids.
WHAT NOW: After Black Girl Long Hair brought attention to the issue and parents protested, the school released an apology letter and statement saying the ban would not be incorporated into the dress code.
Read about more occurrences of discrimination against natural hair before June 2013 here.
Do you think we have made any progress with the acceptability of natural hair in schools and the workplace in recent years? Has the natural hair community done a good job supporting other when such cases appear in the news?
KlassyKinks.com founder and editor, Ijeoma Eboh, is on a mission to change perceptions of kinky textured hair around the world. You can find her on social media @klassykinks.