Schools Implement Hair Policies That Punish Black Girls for Wearing Braids (And for Being Black)
If you are female in this society, you get used to having your appearance critiqued. And if you are black and female—because of the intersecting nature of racism and sexism, it seems as if you are forever being policed for everything. Sociology professor Patricia Hill Collins once wrote that “the black American woman has had to admit that while nobody knew the troubles she saw, everybody, his brother and his dog, felt qualified to explain her, even to herself.” Such is the life of the black girl/woman in America, that everything about us is up for debate and conversation, including how we wear our hair. And as young black girls around the country are finding out, natural hair styles are often unwanted in schools and considered a distraction.
Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts, had a dress code which said that hair extensions are prohibited. But critics argue that this disproportionately impacts black girls, who often wear hair extensions for braids. The school made the national spotlight when two teenage girls refused to take out their braids and were kicked off their sports teams and not allowed to attend the prom.
The controversial rule, which prohibits students from wearing “anything artificial or unnatural in their hair” including hair extensions used for braids, made national headlines after Mya and Deanna Cook, 15-year-old twin sophomores, were removed from their sports teams and banned from prom over their unwillingness to take down their braids. The girls also received daily detention for two weeks for refusing to change their hair style. Other students at the school faced suspension over the policy.