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When The Crime Is Who You Are

June 22, 2013
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You can’t win. No matter what, no matter how hard you work or how well you assimilate. You can be “articulate” and educated. You can be perfect but if you’re not  Caucasian you’re wrong. That’s just how the world works.

Everything you are, everything you do, your skin, your speech, your lips, your nose, every part of you is wrong. Even your hair is wrong.

For those of you who decide not to click,

Horizon Science Academy outlined what was acceptable student dress and included a ban on some natural hair styles:

The letter details changes to the dress code for the upcoming school year and includes the line:

Afro-puffs and small twisted braids, with our [sic] without rubberbands, are NOT permitted.

It’s unclear what the administration means by small twisted braids, but if they are referring to box braids they are banning a protective style that black girls have worn for generations.

It’s also important to note that regular pony tails are perfectly acceptable under the revised rules.

So let’s be clear, The exact same hairdo, is only acceptable on white girls. On black girls it violates the rules, apparently because their hair won’t fall down from their heads, as opposed to puffing out.

You know what message that sends to little black girls? Keep reading. I’ll tell you.

This is normal

little girl pony tail

This is not

little girl afro puffs

More importantly, this is good. It is within the rules, it is right and proper.

little girl white hair

And this is just wrong.

little girl afro puffs 2

You’ll notice the second Caucasian girl has curly hair. Her pony tails are fine, even though curly hair, by definition spends some time flying in all directions. Curly white hair is fine. Curly white hair in pony tails is also fine. Afro puffs are wrong. it’s not just what black girls do or say that can get them into trouble. It’s what we are. We violate the rules by existing and we get in trouble for it.

I’ve talked before about the wounds that life inflicts on those of us who are non-White. Those wounds start early and the happen often. This is just one wound that is going to be inflicted on the little black girls in that school.

This isn’t just one little school in Ohio. This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s a microcosm of the pain and discrimination Women of Color face every day. And it always hurts.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. lloeren permalink
    June 22, 2013 9:40 AM

    As a redhead (but not ginger) who grew up in the UK with the contrasts of being bullied at school because of my hair colour (my unwanted nickname at secondary school was Clyde as in the Clint Eastwood films, yes, I was compared to an orang-utan or chimp, I’ve never watched the films myself so I’m unsure which is correct), I also got in trouble with a PE teacher for not reacting when she shouted ‘Oi! You with the ginger hair!’ but stopped on the street by complete strangers to be told how lucky I was and told I’d love my hair colour when I was older (which turned out to be true) but that didn’t help at the time, can I offer some empathy?

    Of course, I know my experience is just a fraction of what PoC experience daily. But I do understand the way that strangers claim ownership of your hair – I’ve been told never to cut my hair when it was long, never to dye it. I was also once told by someone that if she found out she was pregnant with a ‘ginger’ baby, she’d abort it.

    I don’t know what else to say, I just wanted to let you know that some of us do understand in some way.

    Also, school dress codes concerning hair piss me off anyway. Most people have a limited window of opportunity to experiment with their hair and that’s during their teens. They have possibly another 60+ years to conform.

    • June 22, 2013 10:55 PM

      Out of true curiosity – What is the difference between a redhead and a “ginger”? I honestly thought they were synonymous.

      I think that women are more likely to experience some forms of appropriation of their bodies, regardless of their race. Women of Color face FAR more than the rest of the gender. We all face some level. Because our worth as human beings is largely based on the amount of sexual desire we can inspire in others. And there is no winning. If you are sexually desirable than you cannot be intelligent, or strong. The more sexy or desirable you are the lower your other qualities must be. If you fall in an appropriate middle range you have worth, and can be intelligent. But if your desirability is too low then you have no worth unless you are exceptional in a particular area.

      Unfortunately being a POC, or in your case a redhead, the negative aspects of this are greatly enhanced and any of the positive aspects (the privilege that comes with being “desirable”) are tainted.

      • lloeren permalink
        June 23, 2013 6:05 AM

        Ginger is just one of the many shades of red hair. It is an orangey red. The range starts with strawberry blonde and goes through to dark chestnut. I have auburn hair, coppery, slightly darker than a red setter, close to the colour of a chestnut horse. I do not use ginger to refer to my hair colour as it is inaccurate. I do not want to reclaim the word either. The British media have a long history of attacking red-headed celebrities purely based on the colour of their hair incidentally. The origins of this are, in my opinion, rooted in racism from when the English were invading and oppressing the other, Celtic, countries within the British Isles.

        Anyway, I no longer live in the UK and here in Brittany, everyone is very friendly and no one says anything about my hair except my hairdresser.

        • June 23, 2013 9:49 AM

          Thank you for responding – my point of view is so different. I understand from an intellectual point of view that there is an anti ginger sentiment I just have never personally been privy to it.

          I also adored Anne of Green Gables, I read the Anne books (especially the first one) over and over again. I understood Anne, I talked a lot and got into plenty of “scrapes”. As a result I have always adored red hair in all shades from “carrots” or ginger to Auburn and have often died my hair red.

          I am glad that your hair color is no longer something that causes discussion outside of your hairdresser visits. 🙂


  1. When The Crime Is Who You Are Part III: Because It Never Fucking Ends | What a Witch

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