Black Hair Battles: Little Girl Defends Her Hair Against Christian School

hair-expulsion-worth-campaignBlack women’s hair just keeps making news recently. Vanessa VanDyke, a young black girl in Orlando, Florida, was told by her school that she would be expelled if she didn’t change her “distracting” hairstyle. The only problem here is she wears her hair the way it grows from her scalp. She doesn’t try to make it distracting at all.

So, in essence, the school is requesting that she cut, chemically treat, or otherwise manipulate her hair with harmful products to make other students more comfortable. This seems both damaging to her self-worth and marginalizing at the same time.

VanDyke’s school administrators indicated that she had one week to comply with school policy regarding her appearance. She has been teased and bullied about her natural hair at times. But, she still chooses to wear it as she feels most comfortable. In speaking to a local news station, she said the following.

“First of all it’s puffy and I like it that way,” Vanessa said. “And I know people will tease me about it because it’s not straight or anything. I don’t fit in.”

Her mom also expressed disdain for the threats from the school.

“There have been bullies in the school,” Sabrina Kent, Vanessa’s mother, said. “There have been people teasing her about her hair and it seems to me that they’re blaming her.”

Faith Christian Academy, the school in question, was holding to this stance up until today when the media blitz and nationwide support for VanDyke forced them into a corner.

It is terribly unfortunate that issues like these arise at all. In 2013, 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” one would think that obvious indicators of unequal treatment would be much less overt. And, while it is heartening that the school backed off from their threats, VanDyke’s poor treatment from peers was, in a way, supported by school officials who held her hairstyle choices responsible for the misstatement from her peers.

To honor this fearless young lady, Ebony.com sponsored #HappyAfroDay via Twitter where folks sent in pictures of their afros. The stance of solidarity probably had some bearing on the school’s decision to refrain from punishing VanDyke for her natural differences. Christian tenets notwithstanding, it just seems unfair to tell one student that their hair’s natural state is “distracting.” Subjective analysis of her appearance is not enough to take punitive action against this accomplished violinist and honor student.

In the end, this is a lesson in valuing one’s worth irregardless of the consequences presented by adversaries. Good for Vanessa and her family winning another black hair battle in a war that shouldn’t have been raised in the first place.

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