Thursday, September 19, 2013

Being Who You Are

Some of you may have heard the story of seven-year-old Tiana Parker being sent home from school for wearing her hair in locs (a violation of some moronic school policy, apparently.) Instead of changing their daughter's hair to what school officials at the time deemed appropriate, Tiana's parents wisely decided to remove her from the school. You can read more details about the incident here.

I'm seriously confused by the idea that Tiana's hairstyle could be condemned as "faddish". According to the dictionary, the word fad means "a temporary fashion, notion, manner of conduct, etc." Yet locs didn't come into style yesterday; I'm pretty sure they've been popular since before the Pharoahs were building pyramids. I can attest from personal experience that they're not a fad; I went to school with lots of Islander and African-American kids in South Florida, and many wore their hair in dreads (that was what we called locs in my youth.) That was forty years ago -- and since locs have been a popular hairstyle long before that and ever since, how could anyone consider them a temporary fashion? I mean, besides a bunch of ignorant racists using idiotic rules to hurt a child?

Dr. Yaba Blay, co-director and assistant teaching professor of Africana studies at Drexel University, also heard about Tiana's story, and reached out with this essay on the incident, as well as a beautiful collection of letters and photographs for Tiana herself. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and poet Alice Walker (who also wears her hair in locs) is among the contributors. Reading through all the messages and seeing all the lovely photos of ladies in locs really made my day. I'm not surprised so many took the time to open their hearts to this little girl, though -- it demonstrates the power of love over the prejudice, and why it is so important to be who you are, not what others want you to be. And isn't that what we should be teaching our kids?

16 comments:

  1. What's wrong with locs? They're pretty. A bunch of my students wear their hair like that. I really don't understand some school policies -- some are outdated and ridiculous.

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    1. I've never heard of a school banning locs before this, Mary, and now I'm wondering how many others try to pull this stunt.

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  2. First of all the locs are pretty. And second, what does hair have to do with learning? Bravo to Tiana's parents for putting her in a new school.

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    1. Hair has nothing to do with learning, and everything to do with one's own identity -- especially cultural. Tiana is very fortunate that she has parents unwilling to tolerate any stupid attempt to eradicate hers.

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  3. When I read the story, I initially felt so bad for the treatment Tiana received from her school--and wow, what kind of school is this??--but then to find that her parents didn't knuckle under was great news, and they sent the proper message: common sense trumps ignorance.

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    1. So does love, Terlee -- and what an amazing overflow of it for this little girl.

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  4. Shizuka1:30 PM

    Wow, this feels mean.
    Locs have been around for a long time and Tiana's are really groomed, so I don't see how they're distracting.
    What's the next target: curly hair?

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    1. I expect there are enough brave parents out there to put a stop to this kind of bigotry, Shizuka, in whatever form it takes.

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  5. I read your blog and I was sitting here going dreads yes, locs???no. Then I read further and went aha! I guess I am truly showing my age, again.

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    1. I like the new word, Joyce -- to some the term "dreads" has a negative sound to it, but locs is a lovely word, and a great alternative.

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  6. Can anyone tell me the connection between hairstyle and learning!! I guess no connection unless you have to mops of dirty hair giving out shelter to lice and infestations. I really feel weird for rules like these.

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    1. There is no connection, Namrata. Not a single one.

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    1. Dr. Blay gets all the credit for this story, Raine. :) I'm just so glad she posted her book for Tiana online; I know this child isn't the only one who has been treated so horribly, and now maybe it will help some other kids and their parents.

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  8. Fran K4:00 AM

    I agree with everyone else, what difference does your hair style make to your ability to learn? I'm also with Joyce as I hadn't got a clue what locs were until I read dreads, then light dawned. I'm afraid I think this world has taken the "pc" business way too far and its time to turn it round. I don't think its just me getting older, although it could be, but I find myself getting snippy about the interference & petty rules governments & institutions chose to rule our lives with. So what if I want to eat eggs or pate or anything with a slight risk to it. I'm not stupid, I know how to cook my food and if I get ill then its my problem - no? Yes, I'm overweight and I do try to eat sensibly but when a chocolate bar is cheaper than an apple who can blame me for choosing what I can afford. Oh heck, I'll stop now before this rant goes any further .... sorry!

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    1. No apologies necessary, Fran. I'm with you on the authorities spending way too much time trying to run our lives. I'd rather they devote their energies to doing something positive, like getting more books into schools (versus telling children they don't look white enough to attend.)

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