Natural Hair Gets Barbados School in a Twist

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Remember School Daze? I couldn’t help but think about the 1988 Spike Lee film when I read this fascinating article. Global Voices reports on a recent controversy in Barbados regarding natural hair, a variety of hairstyles, and grooming choices, reigniting debate about the complexities of race and representation in the Caribbean. Please access the full article in the link below:

[. . .] Some female students at Harrison College, one of the most prestigious schools on the island, were reprimanded for sporting hairstyles which were deemed inappropriate for school, to the surprise and outrage of many.

Elva Mary Tudor, a mother of one of the students, expressed her concerns on Facebook: “My daughter’s hair style was considered too flamboyant and unsettling for school. At assembly yesterday the students were told twist outs are not appropriate for school. She will be 18 in a couple weekes [sic] and over the last 2 years she has been quietly developing her sense of style of which I am quite proud. She has leaned to a natural look. She has been subject of negative comments about her hair and has stood her ground. I understand clearly that school must have rules and they must be followed. But I find the negativity towards natural hair sad and backward. We seem to dislike the look of tightly coiled strong hair. [. . .]”

Harrison College, which was founded in 1733, is the alma mater of five of Barbados’ seven prime ministers, as well as many other prominent citizens. It was an all-boys school for much of its history before becoming co-ed in 1980. The current principal, Juanita Wade, assumed her post at the beginning of this school year and is the first woman principal in the school’s history.

Such controversy is not new to the region. There was a similar incident in Saint Lucia two years ago, when a student at St. Mary’s College was prevented from attending classes until he cut his plaits. [. . .]

Tonya at gender justice blog Code Red argued that such attitudes were colonial holdovers and evidence of self-hate: “Elite secondary schools in the region share a history of colonialism, racism, sexism, classism and anti-blackness. Sometimes teachers think that they are doing students a favour when they socialize them into white supremacy, self-hate and respectability.  They believe they are preparing them for the world of work. Preparing them for survival in a globalised world that is anti-black. Making somebody out of them despite their blackness or working class roots or countrified accent. These teachers are in need of consciousness-raising. They need to learn better so that they can do better. When I was at secondary school I distinctly remember our principal asking all the girls with natural hair to stay behind after assembly for a talk on tidiness and appropriate hairstyles. This is gendered and racialised policing of black girls’ bodies that is usually classist as well. It also communicates just who legitimately is supposed to occupy these elite spaces. [. . .]

For full article, see http://globalvoicesonline.org/2015/02/04/natural-hair-gets-barbados-school-in-a-twist/

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