The recent natural hair controversy at Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, KY has left me with mixed feelings. This policy attempted to remove “dreadlocks, cornrows, twists and braids”. As a natural hair gloating native of Louisville with a bachelors from Tuskegee University; and Masters Business Administration from Tennessee State University I am floored. As a business owner I am floored. As an insurance professional with over 10 years experience in the corporate and private sectors I am bewildered. If my hair distracts you maybe you should try some concentration games or consult your physician. Heck many high students are already diagnosed and provided treatment to treat concentration disorders. The only job a student has is to be a student. If a fellow student’s hair is their largest distraction then they are lucky.
I was relaxed at a young age by my hair stylist/cousin in her bright and sunny salon. What if someone made me relax again or threatened to reject me…. ? Who wants to deal with rejection especially for an unjust cause? It’s not like being overlooked for prom or kickball; it’s like being overlooked for an opportunity for an education based on how you look. This is what some of the Butler High School students may have thought when reading their new school’s Dress Code at registration this year. The students were presented with a new more restrictive policy eliminating ethnic styles. Many found this new policy to single out the hairstyles of the black students. While some felt it to be in line with the requirements of a traditional high school.
Understanding natural hair I know that protective styles such as braids and twists allow for healthy long natural hair. The less one manipulates the hair the less the hair is stressed and likely to break. Repeated exposure to heat may cause heat damage. I also know that the styles being blocked are cost effective and convenient. Furthermore, these styles are not only popular but timeless to the black community. Many times you see non blacks with these hairstyles as well. This change would have stifled the Louisville beauty economy – all of these styles are salon specific styles. Parents drop their children off to their favorite stylist as they entrust them to provide a style suitable for purposes intended. Moreover, you can find products for all of these styles on trulynaturalboutique.com. Removing or restricting dreadlocks, cornrows, twists and braids would cause an economic ripple.
In my work history I have seen a policy stating no non natural colors. No hats or headgear unless specified by your religion is a pretty standard clause. Most policies that I have been subject to are silent on hair grooming merely addressing attire. These companies entrusted me with the responsibility of grooming myself in a manner reflective of the company. It maybe interesting to note that the most restrictive policy regarding hair was a part-time position. Post graduation, I participated in the Tuskegee University Business & Engineering Conference Career Fair as a panel guest. It is from this same career fair that I was introduced to my first post undergraduate employer. Where I worked in a very conservative field yet was complimented for my well kept and stylish natural style. It was here that I actually transitioned to natural and questioned reactions. I shared with the students that appearance will get you through the door knowledge will allow you to remain there.
This whole southern bread hair shade made me reflect back to the reason why people have natural hair. People are natural because they are born that way or they make the conscious decision to go natural. Some actually dread for religious reasons. Learn how to transition from relaxed to natural hair here https://wp.me/p5263d-qo. Some even go natural out of necessity in that they are advised to do so by a medical professional. In fact I was diagnosed with alopecia in the past as an adult. Learn about the various forms of hair loss here https://wp.me/p5263d-qM. This incident sparked a dormant memory. The memory revealed that I had suffered from a similar incident in High School. During this period I was extremely stressed as a symptom and effect of my environment. I wonder how stressed the students at Butler High are?
There must be a better way to make updates to policies involving the students. Moreover changes of this magnitude impact the local economy. Why are parents not allowed to voice their opinions? Is the sole purpose of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to raise money or do they dialogue with the administration? Who approves Dress Code changes prior to the change being imposed upon student? These questions rang through my head as I sought response for each question.
Thankfully the hair policy is no more as it was quickly suspended prior to the onset of the school year. Frankly a major issue remains. The school won’t hear the voices of the people. United we stand divided we fall doesn’t seen to resonate with the school administration whatsoever. Administration claims they want to hear the voices of the lives the policy actually affects. However, they have yet to establish a date, time, or platform for doing so.
This local story at Butler Traditional High School brought on national attention as it should have. And hopefully the public will hold the school accountable for hearing the voices of the people. Afterall we are in the city of The People’s Champ where diversity should be welcome. Where limiting hairstyles of an ethnicity should not be used to control behavior.
As we explore this controversial school policy and its effects on our community it is important to breakdown the people’s voice. Please allow us to use this time to introduce Asha French. She is a writer, editor, and artist. In our next blog post we will interview Asha to help bring light to the people’s true voice. You can learn more about Asha French here http://ashafrench.com/about-2/.
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