Leave Black People’s Hair Alone

I am so tired of white people getting on black people about our hair. I am truly, undeniably sick of it. It’s rude, it’s boring, and frankly, it’s ridiculous.

Black hair is different. It requires different care, and because of its texture, it is suitable for different, and perhaps unfamiliar, hair styles. Get over it.

When I read a story published this week about 7-year-old Tiana Parker, a Tulsa, Okla., girl whose parents pulled her out of a school because the administration said her dreads – short, neatly tended dreads – were unacceptable, I wanted to throw my hands up and cry out. Yahoo showed a picture of the child crying with a quote that said “they didn’t like my dreads.”

It broke my heart. What message is this child internalizing? One, now she probably thinks she’s ugly. She’s at the age where, as a result of this traumatic experience, she may start to look for role models who are completely unsuitable to define a black standard of beauty – one that doesn’t make her cry and will be more palatable for people who don’t really matter.

Please don’t misunderstand. I understand that there are rules, and that rules should not be in place for some and not all. But some rules should be broken, especially when they unnecessarily target one particular group of people. The parent-student handbook for the Deborah Brown Community School, which Tiana used to attend, reads, “Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros and other faddish styles are unacceptable. For safety reasons, girls’ weaved hair should be no longer than shoulder length. Boys’ hair is to be short and neatly trimmed.”

An afro is a faddish style? Afros and dreads have been around longer than that school has been in existence. They are not fads any more than a ponytail is a fad.

It’s not like this child came to school with neon streaks or a platinum-blonde weave that was dragging the ground. She’s not tossing around a magenta wig during recess. Her dreads are short, close to the head and well kept. Her father is a barber, for pete’s sake.

I’m sorry, but people need to stop worrying about black folks’ heads. Learn to accept the way our hair naturally is. Learn to accept that some styles may not be your preference, but in some cases your personal preferences simply do not matter. I see bad weaves all the time, but I know it’s not my place to ask the owners what they were thinking when they left the house that morning.

All people have to adapt to the dominant societal structure if we are to maintain peace and order. That means some groups will need to make concessions, but let’s have some reciprocity and understanding.