There has been a beautiful growing movement aimed at young black girls to embrace their natural beauty and ignore supposed societal norms concerning physical attributes such as hair. We saw this when Zendaya slammed a Fashion Police host for calling her dreadlocks “ghetto,” and even as a black model walked the 2015 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show flaunting her natural hair.
However, incidents like this regress the progress that has been made. A Toronto eighth grader at Amesbury Middle School was called into Principal Tracey Barnes’s office for an absurd reason—they wanted her to change hair.
Kaysie Quansah, the girl’s aunt, posted on Facebook about the incident. Barnes repeatedly told her niece that she needed to put her hair up or tie it in some way—her niece shrewdly challenged her, asking why “the students with 'good hair' aren't being told to put their hair up.” Yet as a young girl in an extremely uncomfortable situation, she was ultimately reduced to tears, before the school called her mother to come in.
Her mother was then informed that her daughter’s hair was “too poofy…unprofessional,” and that “no one would hire her with hair like that.” The principal didn’t stop there, adding that that, “if she were working in a store, no one would buy anything from her.”
This unapologetic racism and ignorance is disgusting, particularly coming from a woman in charge of communicating with children and adolescents. Occurrences such as these perpetuate the harmful idea that black women need to conform to arbitrary standards of “white” beauty, which is ludicrous.
Quansah put it best in her Facebook post:
To TRACEY BARNES: Why are you so occupied with my niece's hair to the point that you would disrupt her learning? As the principal of the school, would you not be more concerned with her ability to learn undisrupted rather than her looks? What values are you passing on to my niece when you pull her out of class/pull her to the side and talk to her about superficial, shallow things like hair, instead of WHAT SHE IS THERE TO DO WHICH IS LEARN?! I would like to know what gives you the authority to be the decision maker on stunting my nieces' dreams by telling her that she cannot achieve careers based off her looks? TRACEY BARNES why are you projecting your SELF HATE onto my niece?
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