Two incidents on opposite sides of the world show the outright hostility some Black women face regarding their hair.
Both occurrences take place in an educational setting, where young girls should be assigned to partake in body-positive conversations and encouraged to embrace their natural beauty – instead of yielding to hair politics. But, that’s miles away from what actually happened to the young women below.
Kemirah Jn-Marie, a 15-year-old cheerleader at Ross S. Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas, told local affiliate KTRK that she’s done everything she can to appease her cheerleading coach, who constantly criticizes her hair.
“The coach makes it hard to be on varsity,” she said. “She makes me feel bad about myself.”
Jn-Marie’s mother says the latest tiff over her daughter’s hair came to a head when the coach insisted she refrain from wearing braids at Saturday night’s football game. The 15-year-old said she feels singled out by her coach; she is the only Black girl on the squad.
The school downplayed the incident, saying Jn-Marie and her coach had a simple misunderstanding and she wasn’t the only student reprimanded about her hair.
Jn-Marie proudly sported her braids at Saturday night’s game.
Over 8,000 miles away, Black girls at Pretoria Girls High in South Africa won a bitter fight against a school rule that encourages students to wear their hair straight instead of sporting a natural coif. Education officials will conduct an independent investigation, while the school re-examines the discriminatory rule, according to BBC News.
Black female students staged a series of protests; the images went viral on social media with the hashtag #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh.
Gauteng Education Minister Panyaza Lesufi held emergency meetings on Monday inviting students and administrators to participate in roundtable discussions. In a heartbreaking statement obtained by the BBC, Lesufi said students were told they looked like “monkeys, or have nests on their heads,” by certain school staff.
Lesufi was vocal about what he referred to as “stone-age rules,” during an interview on a South African radio station.
Why do we covertly and overtly keep discouraging Black girls from wearing their hair the way it grows out of their heads? Whether you choose to rock your hair natural or wear a 42′ inch weave, the choice is yours.
Black women and their bodies are picked apart and subjugated to constant examination. We’ve seen this before from Saartjie Baartman, to the recent takedown of Olympian Gabby Douglas. We don’t need anyone to tell us what to do with our bodies, let alone how to wear our hair.
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