“Would the deputy principal of the Samuel Jackman Prescott Polytechnic (S.J.P.P) like these students to cover their beautiful black hair under an Elvis Presley style wig or would a Donald Trump style wig be more acceptable to him?”
A Guest Column by a BFP Reader…
Freedom of Expression
Over the past few weeks our nation has been grappling with two issues both of which have the potential to – if allowed – inflict irreparable damage on the very progress that we have pursued and attained as a society thus far. I refer to the industrial relations dispute and the controversy which has been generated in the wake of young senator Griffith entering into what one commentator euphemistically referred to as “the august chamber” with his hair in corn row followed by the barring of students from one of the islands educational institutions because of their chosen hair styles. For the purpose of this article I shall examine the hair issue and the far reaching and dangerous ramifications it holds for us black Barbadians as a people.
Today we live in the information technology age or what some might refer to as one global village. By this token what ever becomes a national issue in Barbados is scrutinized, examined and critiqued far beyond these hills and valleys we call our very own. As a result I found myself standing on the thirty third floor of an investment bank on wall street discussing with fellow workmates how someone in such a critical role as an educator could have such a backwards mentality vis a vis the issue of hair styles, in the worlds number one developing nation no less.
A Blonde Wig To Cover Beautiful Black Hair
My Chief Financial Officer who is an African American and has worn locks her entire adult life was gracious enough to share her personal experience in relation to this type of issue with us. She was recruited to work for the firm straight out of college back in the mid seventies when locks was still a taboo and among other things discriminated against in American society. At the interview which she attended wearing her locks it was understood she would be hired for her brilliant academic performance and the perceived positive contribution she would make to the firm going forward. Her hair style was never an issue.
Upon arriving for work the first morning she was stopped as she got off the elevator and told that her locks were an inappropriate hair style. She looked around her and came to the realization that every one around her either had straight long blonde hair, auburn hair or brunette hair. Upon realizing this she told the then boss to allow her a few minutes while she went about correcting this problem of inappropriateness. With that she proceeded back down and out of the building to Canal Street where she purchased the straightest long blonde wig she could find.
Upon returning as she stepped off the elevator she rolled her locks up and covered them with the blonde wig and proceeded to her desk. Apparently the problem of inappropriateness was solved because she was no longer told that her hair style was inappropriate but those around her did show a measure of discomfort. As she got onto the elevator in the evenings she would take the wig off and let her locks flow and become herself again.
Herein lies’ the first question. Would the deputy principal of the Samuel Jackman Prescott Polytechnic (S.J.P.P) like these students to cover their beautiful black hair under an Elvis Presley style wig or would a Donald Trump style wig be more acceptable to him? Would he then consider their hair style to be appropriate?
I categorically declare it is absolutely unacceptable to dictate to a person any kind of conditions for their own hair, as long as said hair does not present any kind of a problem or threat to the general public. To single out a specific hair style and deny a person an education on the basis of that hair style is a blatant act of discrimination. Are we going to trivialize persons’ education and futures to a hair style? Education is supposed to open our minds up but this is a direct attempt to close the minds of these students down and force them to conform. Are we building a society based on conformity and conform to what? What message is the deputy principal sending when he says’ to these students their must cut their hair low? Does the students’ expression of their natural self become so offensive to him that he tells them to show as little of their natural self as possible?
Today it is the hair style: will it be the colour or tone of a persons’ skin tomorrow?