Natural and Proud

Kamille Ritchie, Cactus Editor

Controversy once again strikes the black community. A policy against natural hairstyles became center stage at a Louisville, Kentucky high school. When students brought home late registration forms in late July, parents were outraged. According to Butler Traditional High School’s new policy, “Hairstyles that are extreme, distracting, or attention getting will not be permitted. No dreadlocks, cornrows, twists, mohawks, and no jewelry will be worn in hair… afros no more than 2 inches in length… no “cut-in” hairstyles.”

Looking at what this policy has to say, I can see how some may be offended. These hairstyles are heavily associated with the black community. For a couple of hundred years, our hair has been constantly subjected to ridicule; often being seen as nappy, unkempt, and unprofessional. It’s taken several decades for the black community to reach the current level of acceptance of natural hair.

Race, as always, is a hot button issue in this country and the ban is just the tip of the iceberg. Is institutional racism behind the ban? Many parents think so, feeling personally targeted. In retaliation of the policy, Butler parents took to social media, posting pictures of their children in natural hairstyles. Other parents felt the ban was reasonable. One parent said the policy was simply about neat grooming, and not about attacking a culture.

In all honesty, I am back and forth on the issue. I agree, the length of the afro should be regulated although the length should be extended. When picked out, you would be surprised how long natural hair is. A massive afro might obstruct students’ views of the class room. I do not feel institutionalized racism is the intention of this policy. Butler High School’s principle, William Allen, who is also a black man, insists the ban regarding braids is directed towards male students; at no point was the policy directed towards females.

I have embraced my natural hair for the majority of my life. Cornrows, braids, and twists. You name it. Let me just say, they were excellent at keeping my hair neat. Parents often put our hair in these hairstyles to manage our texture. Yes, some styles can be elaborate [bows, beads, flowers, etc.], but that is to enhance the hair’s natural beauty. For example, 4a, 4b, 4c hair [very kinky curls] may be seen as undesirable yet when picked out, it’s stunning. Certain hair types need these styles to present itself in its epitome of beauty.

As a result of social media uproar, Butler High School has suspended its policy on natural hair. I think it’s for the better. Natural hair is a sensitive topic and like many of the issues plaguing this country, it’s an issue the country can do without.  I feel as if this issue really demonstrates two things: People are willing, more than ever to take a stand when injustice occurs. However, this new found advocacy opens the door to possible tunnel vision. Everything is not black and white, there are a lot gray areas. If someone speaks against natural hair, racism is not always the underlying reason. Whatever the case, these issues need be viewed with a clear and unclouded head.