I grew up during the hot comb era, and I got to see my sisters endure the sometimes-painful process of getting their hair straightened. I know they loved the summer time, especially when they got to rock more relaxed styles like afro puffs and braids.
I guess that is why I was intrigued by the story of a school in Ohio that wanted to change its dress code. The Lorain Horizon Science Academy would rather face the heat from a hot comb of an impatient and shaky grandmother than the heat they are facing from folks from the natural hair community.
When the school drafted a letter detailing dress code changes, it included the following line: “Afro-puffs and small twisted braids, with or without rubber bands, are NOT permitted.”
I really like how the blogger who first wrote about this story put this new policy into perspective when she said:
“It’s unclear what the administration means by small twisted braids, but if they are referring to box braids they are banning a protective style that black girls have worn for generations. Afro-puffs are essentially the black version of the ponytail (when pulled back our hair puffs out instead of lying down), and yet the rules do not have a ban on ponytails for students of other ethnicities.”
This seems yet another attempt to undermine black culture. Such a policy makes a statement that natural or ethnic hair is somehow less professional or appropriate. While we are accustomed to this happening on a consistent basis, it is very disturbing that such tactics are now aimed at young girls.
Afro puffs are not just a beauty statement but a necessary tool in a family’s ongoing hustle to keep things together. A busy mom or dad does not have time for intricate hair styles every morning, so a quick brush, a few rubber bands and some stylish afro puffs allow a family to keep it moving.
Well there was considerable push back from families about the new policy, so much that the school released an apology that included this line: “By no means did we have any intention of creating bias towards any of our students.”
No bias? So who did they think the policy would affect, little Mai Ling?
I think back to my Mom’s busy morning schedule. She had to get up early, not only get herself ready for work, but for three kids, and two of them were girls. She had to fix breakfast, pack lunches, gets folks dressed, and if she needed do a quick brush through the hair afro puffs were always a quick go-to style for my sisters.
Now imagine that you have sent your black girls to school with clean clothes, lunches packed, homework done and permission slips signed and they come home with some note or letter saying that their ethnic hair styles are somehow now deemed inappropriate for a learning environment.
If you were militant like my mom was, you would certainly not take such a decision lying down. You would get up the next morning and not only style both your daughters in afro puffs, you would fashion two makeshift afro puff balls to your sons as well. They would all be dressed in black pants with mini Black Panther t-shirts and sunglasses.
And although my mom would not condone kids with cell phones, she would temporarily purchase three cell phone with ring tones of “The Lady of Rage” -- “I rock rough and stuff with my Afro Puffs” -- to strategically go off when she dialed our numbers after getting the inevitable call from the principal’s office.I think an apology is not enough for administrators at the Lorain Horizon Science Academy. They should be made to have their hair hot combed and/or braided, and not by a professional stylist but by some chain-smoking cousin who sells hair and fish plates out of her kitchen, who is oblivious to the cries of pain from her clients because she is too busy watching her soap operas. What are your thoughts?