Tea Time with Tagwa: Don’t touch my hair

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, what if I told you your hair could get you suspended and prevented from attending your senior prom and high school graduation ceremony? Wouldn’t be too pleased, would you? Yeah, neither would I. 

That’s exactly what’s happening to Texas teenager DeAndre Arnold, an 18-year-old black student in the Barbers Hill Independent School District. Due to his Trinidadian roots, Arnold prides himself in growing out his dreads. In the culture, men tend to grow their hair down to their hips. But the school district decided to give Arnold in-school suspension when he refused to cut off his dreads. In addition, they are threatening to prohibit him from attending his senior prom and graduation ceremony. 

Angry? Yes. Surprised? Not at all. This is just another form of systemic discrimination against black children. Arnold is not the first nor the last child in America to be punished for his hair. In 2018, 11-year-old Faith Fennidy was sent home on the first day of school in Louisiana for her box braids. A video went viral showing the sixth grader in tears as she packed her bag to leave. 

Whether it be dreadlocks, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, Afros or just natural hair, black people utilize these styles as a form of expression and to keep in touch with their roots. To many black people, these hairstyles are not just about protection and hairstyle preference, but a cultural identity. By taking away a person’s ability to showcase and celebrate their cultural identity, you are attacking their roots and everything they stand for. Hasn’t the American system done enough to snuff out black identity without taking away our hair? 

  1. Why do you think black people get uncomfortable when you touch their hair? It is a form of disrespect. Hair holds more than the latest trend, it is historical. It’s not only black people who use hair as expression. We’ve all seen the meme that says a girl cuts her hair when she’s going through a tough time. That stems from the idea of change and control; cutting your hair in order to take back control in a time where you feel helpless. People — regardless of race and gender — dye their hair all types of colors to announce how they are feeling and what makes them comfortable and happy. Yet, I don’t see the white girl with platinum silver hair getting suspended, nor do I think she deserves to be. I wonder what the difference between her and little Faith is.

Hair discrimination is not only in schools, it is in the workplace and everywhere else. While states such as California and New York have outlawed hair discrimination, it is still very present everywhere else. Instead of telling students to stop expressing themselves with their hair, we should be taking prejudice and discrimination out of our system. The hate for natural hair and typical black hairstyles stems from European beauty standards. Stop trying to mold black children into a Western definition of beauty. All you’re doing is reminding black children that to you and the rest of the Western world, they are not beautiful. Well, black children are beautiful. Anyone who cannot see that is one with an ugly heart. And that’s the tea.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply