In case you missed it…Pretoria High School in South Africa was trending two days ago when black female students protested against the school’s code of conduct that restricted how they could wear their natural hair. Black students have reported that faculty members have instructed them to straighten their hair and banned them from wearing afros (which is not listed in the code of conduct). No matter if the afro is kept neat, the girls were told to “chemically straighten” their hair because it was “untidy” or “looked like a bird’s nest”. The girls are protesting because they believe that the code of conduct is discriminatory against black students.
Zulaikha Patel, one of the girls protesting, has had to change schools three times due to her hair. She has rocked an afro since she was a toddler but has also been bullied for wearing her hair in its natural state.
Photo: Courtesy of Twitter/lennoxbacela
The protests have garnered both national and international attention. South African’s Economic Freedom Fighters party accuses the school of seeking “to directly suppress blackness in its aesthetics and culture” which are also my thoughts exactly. I find what is happening in this school ironic given that this is taking place in Africa, a continent predominantly black. And let us not forget South Africa's racism history.
I love the whole natural hair movement, but it truly isn’t for me. I did try to transition to natural hair and went one year without relaxing my hair (I have chemically relaxed my hair since age 15). That was such a disaster because I ended up damaging my hair. I am convinced that my hair type/texture cannot be managed naturally. I threw in the towel and went back to using relaxers. I decided that going natural wasn’t for me because of my personality and lifestyle. Maintaining natural hair requires time, effort, and patience… none of which I wish to spare on hair. So it is entirely a personal choice. I do admire my sister, friends, and coworkers that rock natural hairstyles. I vowed not to use any chemicals on my daughters’ hair however they may choose to relax it once they turn 18.
I am not sure why other races find natural hairstyles (afros, locs, twists, braids) intimidating. I once read a report that wearing natural hair may deter an employer from offering employment. I am sure corporate America isn’t exactly welcoming naturalistas with open arms. The U.S military recently reviewed its definition of acceptable natural hair styles after receiving criticism and backlash to previous rules that banned afros, locs, and two strand twists. According to TIME, all three branches of the military now allow two-strand twists and increased the size of acceptable braids. But let us not forget about Olympic Gold medalist Gabby Douglas and the criticism she received about her hair not looking up to par during the Olympics. What was worse was the criticism was coming from Black people!!! As a society, we have to change our perception of what good hair is, and accept that black hair is also beautiful. Let us set aside the notion that European hair is the standard to compare all other hair types and styles.
If you studied in Africa what hairstyles were allowed and which ones were banned? As an adult now what are your thoughts about those restrictions? Please comment below.