Early in November you may have heard about a young black teen who was chastised by her principal for having her hair, which was normally pulled back or braided, in a natural hair style. If not, here is the story…
On November 6th, 2015 at Amesbury Middle School, a 13-year-old girl was pulled out of her 8th grade class and sent to the Principal’s office. The principal, Tracey Barnes; who is a women of colour, proceeded to tell this girl that she must do something with her hair, gave her a hair tie and encouraged her to pull back her hair. The young and intelligent girl responded with the curious question that I’m sure most of us would ask, as to why she was being asked to ‘fix’ her natural hair when the students with supposed ‘good hair’ are not also called to the principals office in order to ‘fix’ their natural hair?
The principal called the mother of the young girl and told her that her daughters hair was ‘too poofy’ and ‘unprofessional’. She even began to ask the mother why she would let her daughter out with her hair in such a manner? The girl was also told that in the future, if she did not do anything about her hair she would have to sit in the principals office until something was done about it.
I only recently found out about this mind boggling series of events, in my maybe 1 of 2 trips a year to the hair salon, where my hair dresser had mentioned to me this terrible thing that happened in Toronto. My city.
I quickly researched it after and seeing that on this particular trip to the hair salon, I was straightening my very big, ‘poofy’, ‘unprofessional’ hair (as Ms. Barnes would have put it), I found this story appalling and shocking, but at the same time…not really all that surprising.
There are so many things wrong with the course of events that happened at Amesbury Middle School and just incase you don’t quite understand let me explain a few of them to you.
- The principal’s choice to penalize this young girl for her natural hair (which is something she cannot and should not feel inclined to change), is a heartbreaking example of the stereotypical white supremacist beauty ideals of todays society. Even worse in this case, is that it is a young black girl hearing from a black adult figure that who she is naturally, is not acceptable or beautiful.
- The girl was only 13-years-old. At that young and tender age this type of harassment should not be something she is exposed to; let alone in her place of education by someone whom she is supposed to feel comfortable with and encouraged by.
- This young girls style choices for her hair is of no concern to the principal or any other of the schools staff, seeing as HAIR is not actually a part of the TDSB dress code. Would the principal be inclined to tell a student with naturally straight hair that they must curl it? or that they must tie it up? Because it is ‘unprofessional’… I think not. This is discrimination.
- Unless there was some kind of personal concern of the principal that affected the health or well being of her student, this should have never happened! And if it felt necessary, this could have been executed in a much more professional manner (seeing as professionalism is SO important to Ms. Barnes). As opposed to pulling the student out of class and bringing her to the principals office, a call could have been sent home with her, to her mother, addressing any concerns the school may have had and it could have been dealt with in a much more appropriate way (if it even need be discussed).
From a young age we’re are shown this standardized image of what it means to be beautiful and I for one, have experienced this self hate and loss of self confidence that comes from it. As a young black female in society it is so hard to be accepting of yourself and it is made no easier when things like this are happening and people are always ready to tell you what beauty is and how you should be fitting into this impossible mold of it.
I am now 18-years-old with my first semester of university under my belt and even now I am still struggling with accepting my big and bold curls. The difference is, that I have had the time to realize that they are BEAUTIFUL, big and bold curls.
It is so important for young black girls to feel confident and comfortable with who they are, especially at such a young age! It’s those fundamental years growing up that shape you into who you are and how you feel about yourself and others. I have grown to recognize that I was born with a beautiful head of hair and how others perceive my hair is of no concern to me because it is exactly how I want it, whether that be straight, in braids, in dreadlocks or out naturally and no one should be allowed to tell me or any other person of colour otherwise.
Watch the CityNews video report about this event. Here
Information found from Huffington Post website Article Eighth-Grader Sent To Principal’s Office For Her Natural Hair Being ‘Too Poofy’
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