Cornrows = Criminals Pt II
Ban on Cornrows is "Indirect Racism"!
If you remember not too long ago I posted an article about a young boy who'd been expelled from school for wearing cainrows, as they were against school policy. (Click here or view the Curls & Controversy Page.)
At the time of posting the article the boy's mother had taken the case to court and was awaiting the outcome. Im pleased to say that judge ruled in favor of the mother stating that the school's ban was infact unlawful and a form of 'indirect racism'.
I've listened to a few debates on the topic since it made the news and its always very interesting. I totally respect and agree with the view that rules are rules BUT, like I said before, to ban cainrows in an attempt to prevent gang culture, shows a complete lack of understanding of the relevance of cainrows in Black Culture.
So I was very happy to read the article by Hannah Pool for The Guardian Newspaper Online. She says it, as it is, so I have copied and pasted it below for you to read. I've also highlighted the parts I found particularly important.
I have to say I love this article because it highlights the Fact of Fear and Misunderstanding of Black culture as signified by Afro hair.
BlackPresence.co.uk where the author shares his belief that Afro hair is deliberately concealed from the mainstream in film and TV, suggesting that only shaved headed Black men and straight haired Black females are deemed acceptable for TV.
After reading the article I'm definitely gona take on his challenge of counting the number of Black men and women I see who have not shaved or straightened their hair.
The way I see it, the evidence is mounting that Afro hair still conjures an element of fear in supposedly modern society. However I found it interesting that many black people debating on the issue of cainrows either didn't view them as cultural or failed to argue the case well enough to persuade others.
The whole episode raises 2 Important questions:
- 1st - Do Cainrows Count as Cultural and if so why?
- 2nd - Why is society still threatened by Afro hair?
I would love to hear some thoughts and opinions on this so please leave a comment (oh and remember to subscribe lol.) Again, I've pasted the article and links to it below. Enjoy....
Cornrows? Non-traditional? What rubbish
I can't think of a black friend who hasn't worn this traditional hairstyle – to exclude a child for it is insulting and offensive
- Click Here to go directly to this article on The Guardian Online.
- The Guardian: School Ban on Cornrows is Unlawful
- Controversy & Curls - Boy Expelled For Wearing Cornrows
- Do Cainrows Count As Cultural?
- Why Is Society Still Threatened by Afro Hair?
One of my favourite photographs of myself is a small black and white passport-sized picture taken when I was four or five. In the photo, which was taken in Khartoum, Sudan, I am wearing a white T-shirt, a grin that suggests mischief and a head of small, neat cornrows. When I see it, I can't quite believe that I ever looked sweet and innocent, or that I sat still long enough for the plaits to be braided along my scalp.
This week, St Gregory's Catholic Science College in Harrow, London, went to court to defend its right to exclude a 12-year-old boy for wearing cornrows. Headmaster Andrew Prindiville claims that his ban on cornrows "plays a critical role in ensuring that the culture associated with gangs of boys in particular – eg haircuts, bandanas, jewellery, hats and hoodies – has no place in our school". In his statement to the court, he added: "What I am saying is that if we were to permit the wearing [of] any particular non-traditional haircut, such as cornrows, this would lead to huge pressure to unravel the strict policy that we have adopted, and which is a vital part of our success in keeping out of our school influences which have no place there – gang culture and pop culture."
Cornrows, "non-traditional"? A hairstyle depicted in Stone Age pictures in the Sahara? This begs the question: non-traditional to whose eyes? I can't think of a single black friend, male or female, who hasn't worn them at some point. They are both a rite of passage and a source of pride. Only a fool who knows nothing about black cultural heritage would describe cornrows in such a way. In terms of hairstyles, they are about as traditional as you can get, and excluding a child for having them is insulting and offensive.
Afro hair has long been seen as political, and a threat to society. In the 60s and 70s, it was the Afro, which was associated with the black power movement. Later on it was the perceived danger of dreadlocks and Rastafari culture. And as for braids, similar arguments were made in the US over 20 years ago, when employees at the Hyatt Hotels and American Airlines challenged their company's braids bans. So too did a pupil in a Chicago school in 1996 – are we really that far behind?
This latest case is a particularly good example of how the dynamics of power are played out in our society: black people still being told their hair is not suitable, not "appropriate", or put simply, not good enough. "Particularly regressive is the idea that aesthetic expressions of culture and religion rooted in African antiquity – such as cornrows and locks – are somehow fused with criminality and owned exclusively by antisocial elements when in reality they are the cultural inheritance of millions," says Margot Rodway-Brown, founder of a London salon specialising in natural Afro hair.
Of course, if you get your only impression of black culture from MTV or The Wire, then you may think gangsters and pimps have claimed ownership of this hairstyle. Some gang members do wear cornrows, but given the popularity of the hairstyle across Africa and the diaspora, banning them on these grounds is a bit like banning silly moustaches because they encourage Nazism. Braids no more signify gang culture than blond hair signifies being the leader of a paedophile ring.
"In placing the word 'gang member' on to black boys' bodies through a hairstyle, this school has yet again caused a moral panic because of an unsubstantiated assumption," says Shirley Tate of the University of Leeds. And while the school has thankfully lost its claim on the grounds that it was "unlawful, indirect racial discrimination", the fact that it got as far as the high court explains a lot about mainstream society and its lack of understanding of the black aesthetic.
Is it any wonder that black boys are underachieving academically, if this is the kind of messed-up thinking they are up against?Links & Related Articles:
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