Black Hair Restrictions In Schools Are Reminding Us Of 'Black Codes' & This Is One Part Of History That Should Never Be Repeated

Black Hair Restrictions In Schools Are Reminding Us Of 'Black Codes' & This Is One Part Of History That Should Never Be Repeated
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It's 2017 and Black girls across the U.S. are being told to straighten and/or cut their hair or else suffer the consequences of suspension or expulsion from school. This is the continuance of policing black bodies in order to ensure white beauty standards are upheld. In other words, we're seeing the reemergence of Reconstruction-Era Black Codes.

If you didn't know, Black Codes were the establishment of laws and regulations during the Reconstruction Era to maintain control over Black bodies and behavior. During slavery, Black slaves were dressed and undressed by their masters for inspection before being put on the auction block. Similarly, Reconstruction-Era Black Codes enforced dress codes for Black folk to separate newly freed slaves from already freed men. 

The vast consequences of not adhering to black codes included being beaten for looking at a White person or not stepping off the sidewalk when a White person was walking or being fined. If they couldn't pay off the fine, they were forced to work off their debt on a plantation. Black children were taken from poor Blacks and forced to work for White planters. Sound familiar (cough *prison industrial complex* cough)?

19th Century Painting
Source: 19th Century Painting, New Orleans Public Library. Photographed by Barbara Wells Sarudy

In 18th century Louisiana, Tignon laws were created to police Black and Creole women, forcing them to cover their hair so that their beauty would not compete with White women. Although head wraps were a part of African culture, to slave masters and their overseers, it was a sign of "poverty and subordination." They began to enforce regulations of making Black women cover their hair. This became widely enforced with Reconstruction era's Black codes as well.

Fast forward to the year 2017 with the continuation of Black Codes in the form of White-run schools banning natural and protective hairstyles worn by Black girls. Beautiful little Black girls like Tiana Parker in Tulsa, Oklahoma are being suspended from school and made to feel like there is something wrong with their hair. Tiana's school's policy blatantly targeted Black students, cited “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” This school sent little Tiana home in tears after giving her a warning about her hair. The school issued Tiana a public apology and changed its policy after receiving backlash.

Source: NY Daily News via AP

Another beautiful young lady, 17-year-old Jenesis Johnson was threatened with suspension from high school for wearing an afro. Jenesis told Tallahassee's WCTV that her teacher confronted her in front of her classmates, telling her that her hair was "not neat and needs to be put in a style." Then she was called into the principal's office and told that her natural hair was "extreme and faddish and out of control. It's all over the place."

Black children are being detained, suspended and removed from school sports teams for wearing hairstyles that protect their hair's natural texture. White beauty standards have dominated U.S. culture and been forced on Blacks since Africans were brought over in chains over 400 years ago.

It's time to put an end to this. It's time to let our Black girls and boys shine in their natural beauty. It's time to stop telling Black girls that they can't and won't be accepted unless they use dangerous chemical relaxers or extreme heat on their hair in order to adhere to white standards of beauty. It's 2017. Can we please stop allowing people to police our Black bodies?

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