I had so many emotions when I saw this news clip circulating online yesterday.
It is from Tulsa Oklahoma, where 7 year old Tiana was forced to change schools after being continually harassed by the school’s management over her dreadlocks.
Tiana’s father Terrance Parker told Fox 23 that he was forced to make the decision after a disagreement over her hair with officials at the Deborah Brown Community School left his little girl in tears.
The charter school’s dress code states that:
“Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.”
Apparently, the school feels that could distract from the ‘respectful and serious atmosphere’ it strives for.
…more on that in a moment.
But first this.
Seeing that little girl break down in tears, whispering “they didn’t like my dreads” made me cry. I felt like it was my own daughter they had insulted, it was so hurtful. Just like her father said, it “hurt my feelings to the core.” Worst of all – this is a black-founded and run charter school. So shameful!
I felt like telling little Tiana that I love her hair – that she is cute as a button with her big pink bow and neat little locks. I felt like telling her that her hair is not faddish, distracting or disrespectful. I wanted to reach out and hug her and assure her that the problem is not with her hair but rather with those who saw something wrong with her God-given hair. I reject those who would say “oh well rules are rules” when those rules have no grounding in sense or fairness.
And this is why I say it has no grounding in sense or fairness.
Look at these women. Caribbean political leaders all – a government Minister, senators including a Senate President and an Opposition Leader.
Do their hairstyles detract from the “respectful and serious” atmospheres of the Houses of Parliament in which they sit? Clearly the people of the Caribbean do not think so for we have elected or selected them to represent us with their “faddish” afros and dreadlocks.
Lord knows we too have a long way to go in the Caribbean. These naturalistas are not yet the rule among our female political leaders or professional women. But they are no longer an exception and kudos to us on that. Everywhere I go now, I see increasing numbers of professional Caribbean women wearing their dreadlocks and fros with dignity, grace and style. They go out in the world and represent us with pride and intellectual power.
Try telling them they’re “faddish.”
And this is the most important thing I would have liked to tell little Tiana. I want to let her know that her school is wrong. They are parochial, they are not looking at how the world outside is changing. Because in my islands, dreads are worn by educated, upstanding, professional, accomplished women.
And one day, she and her beautiful dreads and her straight As (yes, the school harassed a straight A student out!) will be one of those educated, upstanding, accomplished women.