Tag Archives: black

We Have a Problem: 7 Year Old Girl Sent Home by Racist School Policy

Two months ago 7 year old Tiana Parker was sent home from school because her hair cut was considered “distracting.” What was her haircut? Thin dreadlocks tied back in a bow. The Oklahoma public school that sent her home has a policy that says “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” Really? Could they be any more blatantly racist? Afros are the natural style of many black women’s hair and you want to imply it’s distracting?

MSNBC host Melissa Harris Perry decided to take up the cause on her show, especially after derogatory comments about black hair were made by “The Talk” co-host Sheryl Underwood (a black female herself) earlier in the week. Melissa addresses her segment to young Tiana, affirming that the little girl has nothing to be ashamed of – that her hair is not distracting but an homage to black heritage. Melissa names off several influential black artists and musicians who have also rocked dreadlocks – from Bob Marley to Whoopi Goldberg and more recently Willow Smith. She applauds Tiana’s parents for withdrawing her from that school and placing her somewhere where her natural beauty – her black beauty – is embraced. We applaud them as well.

This issue hits particularly close to home. As a child of interracial marriage (my dad is black, my mom white) my hair was often an issue of contention. I was born with a full head of it. My mother’s family has thick hair, especially for Anglicans, which combined with the kinky curls of my dad’s DNA lead to this:

Scan
That’s me on the left, age 4. Diana Ross ain’t got nothing on this, y’all.

It only got thicker and more out of control from there. I was 15 before we decided to try relaxing my hair. I grew up in the south so having my white mom take me to a black hair salon to get a perm was always a level of complicated that would take a text book to explain. It cost $150 and took three and a half hours (did I mention my hair is really thick?) of me sitting in a chair with my scalp feeling like it was literally on fire. That painful tingle was the feeling of some magical concoction burning the ethnicity out of my hair. That went on once every 3-6 months for 7 years.

Why? Because I never felt pretty with my hair natural. I often make the comparison that my hair without a straightener looks like someone shoved my fingers into an electrical socket. All of the popular girls at school at stick straight shiny hair that they could wear down any time they liked. All the lead characters on my favorite tv shows were the same way – even the black characters had their hair shiny and straight instead of natural. All the weather has to do is think about drizzling and my hair becomes a seeing hazard for anyone walking behind me. Like Tiana’s school is trying to preach – I felt like I was a distraction.  Even now I prefer my hair straight over curly (though to be honest, that also has a lot to do with the fact it’s cooler temperature wise if it’s not all bunched up on my head).

It’s because the message given to Tiana, and all other little girls attending that school, isn’t a new one. For generations little black girls, and minorities all over, have been under pressure to “white-ify” themselves to fit the beauty ideals we are bombarded with on a daily basis. From simple hair treatments like relaxers and extensions to the extreme of skin bleaching treatments. It’s often insidious – the fact we see so few black females rocking natural hairstyles in mainstream media. It’s a subliminal campaign. But this – Tiana’s case? There’s nothing undercover about it. We are telling girls in primary school that their natural beauty isn’t good enough, that it’s a distraction, that it’s ugly. And that’s a problem.

So take a second before you put on your make-up today. Look in the mirror, just look, before you style your hair. Tiana Parker isn’t a distraction. She’s beautiful. So are you, right now – naked and natural and flawless. Own that. You have to because there are a generation of girls growing up who are being told differently and we have to show them the truth. That job starts with us. Let’s do better than this.

I’m a Scholar, Not a Criminal: The Reality of LAPD’s Hostility Towards Black Students

923359_625978247414218_1610157230_nBy Makiah Green

Instead of studying for the last final of my undergraduate career, I am writing this letter in protest of the University of Southern California’s latest atrocity. On the night of May 3rd, students gathered at a house near campus to celebrate their completion of another rigorous school year. Many attendees were graduating seniors. Almost all attendees were minority students: African-American and Latino.

I did not attend the party, but I could hear the helicopter circling from my dorm room over a mile away. When the Facebook posts and photos started appearing on my news feed around 2:30am, I had flashbacks to an era I wasn’t even alive to suffer through. I was too scared to go outside, legitimately fearing that an officer would see me and arrest me for being Black and inquisitive. I can only imagine how my peers felt when they saw over twenty LAPD patrol cars pull up and release 79 officers to end a peaceful, congratulatory party.

It is inexpressibly disheartening to hear fellow students recount horror stories of police brutality two weeks away from being among the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university. To know that my college degree holds no weight in the face of institutional racism and discrimination is sobering. Since the three most recent shootings, all triggered by non-USC affiliated Black males, that occurred on and around USC, there has been an increased presence of LAPD and other security forces around campus. Amid the tense racial climate that followed, I patiently endured the ignorant comments, racist blog posts and suspicious stares, but the intolerance has reached a new high. Six of my friends spent the night in jail.

To be clear, I do not have a problem with increased protection or security. Who’s to say that a shooting won’t occur at the next student party? It could happen, God forbid, and I understand why USC wants to be prepared. My issue lies within the selective surveillance of minority-hosted parties, as if crimes only happen among high concentrations of melanin. Criminal offenses, including sexual harassment, rape and assault could be happening every Thursday night on Greek Row, an undeniably white establishment. Yet, the culprits of the Department of Public Safety Crime Alerts distributed to USC students and faculty, seem to be strictly limited to Black and Latino males (5’10-6’2 in dark hoodies). These reports, together with the newly constructed, other-izing gates around campus, have instilled an unhealthy amount of fear in students, administrators and safety officials. We have been trained to double check for USC logos on the sweatshirts of minority males on and around this campus to make sure that they’re “one of us.” It doesn’t surprise me that LAPD has adopted the same attitude. For them, it has been this way for decades.

If the USC Department of Public Safety feels justified in allowing nearly a hundred police officers to shut down a minority attended house party due to the fact that African-Americans were responsible for the recent shootings, we’re in for a bigger battle than most students bargained for when they decided to enroll here. That ideology reeks of racial profiling and associates the behavior of a few criminals with the entire Black student body, a comparison that makes my stomach turn. While LAPD is busy sending all of their manpower to harass the future of America’s leaders, the real trouble lies within my campus’ freshly painted fences.

USC should not be permitted to reap the benefits of diversity without facing its complexities. You can’t help the hood without loving it first. When USC decided to break ground in South Central instead of Malibu, it signed up for a difficult and delicate community partnership that needs to be revisited.

To me, protection means opening our gates even wider for at-risk youth who are in desperate need of positive role models, not locking them out after 9pm. I will feel safe on this campus when I see DPS officers negotiating with LAPD, pleading with them to leave students of color party in peace. I will feel welcomed when I see a public statement from President Nikias acknowledging the discrimination and blatant racism that my people have had to endure since we were first admitted into this school. I will become a proud Trojan when the USC community finally grows to reflect and embrace its resilient surroundings.

To my peers, I am sorry that we have to dedicate hours that should be spent studying to defend our freedom of assembly. None of us have the time to write letters, plan meetings and rally against injustice, but we must. The next generation of brilliant Black students is depending on us to guarantee their right to a dignified college experience.

Ways to Act:

Sign this petition to help end racial profiling at USC.

Attend the DPS & LAPD Campus Discussion on Tuesday, May 7 at 6pm in the Ronald
Tutor Campus Center Ballroom

*Meet in front of Tommy Trojan at 5:00pm to pray over the meeting.

 

Originally published on The Interloper @ USC

Photo credit: Christopher James

* * *

headshotMakiah Green is a USC senior majoring in English-Creative Writing with a minor in Screenwriting. She is the creator of Makiah-isms and plans to write paradigm shifting television and film upon graduation. When she is not changing the world one thought-provoking sentence at a time, Makiah indulges in think tanks on the beach, nail painting parties, and impromptu praise breaks. She also raps in her free time.

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