Tag Archives: racist

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.

Breaking News: Kids Are Way Less Racist Than Adults

In May, Cheerios released a commercial depicting an interracial couple and their daughter. It was cute, light-hearted, and apparently extremely controversial. The video itself is entirely inoffensive, but it seems the fact of the parents’ mixed race relationship was enough to spark the strongest of reactionary feelings among many who viewed the commercial.

Is this really the world we live in? Still? Here is the harmless and adorable Cheerios commercial, whose YouTube comments had to be disabled after so many racist and hateful messages were left:

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 8.4% of all current marriages in the U.S. are interracial, compared to 3.2% in 1980. In western states, 1 in 5 couples marry out of their race. Granted, “race” is still a dubious category, describing ethnic, regional, and cultural nuances that have no actual bearing on biology. But even as a cultural signifier, race has been used as a powerful tool for segregation – and it is heartening to see the gaps steadily closing.

For children growing up today, especially in progressive corners of the world, racism might seem like a thing of the past (if not altogether an unknown concept.) For their series “Kids React,” The Fine Bros decided to interview 12 kids, aged 7 to 13, on their reactions to the Cheerios commercial. When asked why they thought the commercial would be considered so controversial, not a single one of them could come up with an answer. This launches them into a frank, emotional discussion on racism, discrimination, and why everyone has the right to love whomever they want. Watch it here:

We don’t know where these kids come from, what their parents are like, or what kinds of beliefs they’ve grown up surrounded by. Regardless, their responses are heartfelt and unrehearsed, and it just goes to show much the adult world could stand to learn from kids like this.

At the bottom of their video, The Fine Bros link to the following resources for race equality, which we encourage you to check out:

http://www.adl.org/
http://www.hrw.org/
http://www.racialequitytools.org/intr…
http://itstopswithme.humanrights.gov.au/
http://www.standagainstracism.org/ind…
http://www.unitedagainstracism.org/

What do you think of the Cheerios commercial and of the kids’ reactions? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Will the Supreme Court’s Decision on the Voting Rights Act Undermine Civil Rights?

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 2.00.41 PMToday the Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 4 vote to eliminate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, one of the most important civil rights laws of the 1960s. The Act essentially delineated the parts of the country that must have their voting laws overseen by the federal government – an attempt to prevent the most racially-discriminatory states from instating voting regulations that would further disenfranchise minority populations.

The 5 votes that won the ruling argued that such singling-out of certain parts of the country was unconstitutional and unnecessary in a greatly changed United States. As reported by Huffington Post, Chief Justice John Roberts refers to “current conditions” as evidence of the now-obsolete nature of the Voting Rights Act:

Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions…

There is no doubt that these improvements are in large part because of the Voting Rights Act. The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.

Thus in the same breath, Roberts calls the Act obsolete, but also admits to its effectiveness at changing policies and attitudes over the years. The question becomes, then, have we come far enough in the pursuit of racial equality that such measures are no longer necessary? Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader and former chairman of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), argues otherwise. In his opinion, the Supreme Court has “put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act” and undermined the efforts of civil rights activists who helped get it passed.

What are your thoughts on today’s Supreme Court ruling? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
Photo credit: Unknown
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