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Teen’s Hair Threatens White Supremacy, not Education

Teen’s Hair Threatens White Supremacy, not Education

High school student Darryl George has been kept from school, suspended for months because he will not allow white people in power to control his hair. School officials claim his hair style violates their dress code, in that male students’ hair should not be below ear lobe length, the top of a t-shirt collar or eyebrows when let down. Governor Abbot affirmed the schools’ decision to suspend George, making it clear that his signature on the Crown act was performative and not an act of intentional anti-racism. And, last month, February 22nd, 2024, a judge ruled the school did not violate the Crown Act, emboldening and perpetuating this caudacity, this audacity of white people to enact anti-Black racism. 

The Crown (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, developed to prevent race-based hair discrimination, was first passed in California in 2019. Since then 22 other states have passed this act and/or similar motions, including Texas. In 2022, there was a move to legislate a Federal Crown Act. It has passed in the U.S. House of Representative and is awaiting resolution in the Senate. 

These legislative moves are necessary to disrupt an environment where Black people have long been maltreated, white people having used hair as a medium for exclusion and disparagement for generations. As a sociologist and an anti-racist educator, I am aware of many of the ways in which White Supremacy maintains its presence. Studying the way racism survives and thrives, one finds its broad reach, the way it occupies spaces like our hair. And, to disrupt racism, and in this case blatant anti-Black racism, we need to see it where it is and take action against it. White people would do well to educate themselves about how anti-Black racism has played out through hair across centuries. 

As a white mother of a multi-racial Black child, I have learned a lot about curly hair. Because of this acquired knowledge, I am better able to see what a privilege it was to “do nothing” with my hair when I was younger. I spend on average several hours per week on my daughter’s hair. If I put her hair in a protective style such as braids, between undoing the previous braids, detangling, washing and conditioning her hair, plus re-braiding her hair, the process can take a full morning. If her hair is not in a protective style, it also takes time throughout the week to keep it thriving. 

We celebrate her hair and still, at a young age, she became upset about the shrink of the curl in her hair.  I learned narratives with which to speak of her hair from Black women. I can add ribbons to braids to give her the sense of longer hair. She knows I love her hair. She is six now and loves her hair. Will she be able to keep this appreciation throughout her life? The judgment upholding the school’s decision and against Darryl George gives a bleak outlook. 

White people are again using anti-Black racism and hair as a form of control, in this case to disrupt Darryl George’s schooling. It is not surprising to learn that Mont Belvieu, the location of Barber Hill High, is 75% white.  With only 3 % Black people in the population, Black people are vastly underrepresented in the district and it shows. 

When we look at Darryl George’s hair, do we see the beauty, the work, the time and the organization it takes to create and maintain his hair and its style? It is apparent that people in power within the school district lack the cultural knowledge and appreciation of his hair to do so. Given what we know about racial segregation in America, this is perhaps not unexpected. However, the brazenness with which people flex their power in 2024 is shocking; that they take such decisive measures to forbid him from having a routine schooling experience is alarming.  

What would it take for the people blocking Darryl George from school to see his hair and his freedom to determine how his hair is styled as an asset? Only White Supremacy and anti-Black racism enable this reign of anti-Black deficit-based interference to continue. It is time for the people who are in positions of authority at Barbers Hill High to let go of their White Supremacist tendencies and embrace student-centered listening and reverse course to support and affirm their student, Darryl George. Darryl George writes “I love my hair, it is sacred and it is my strength.” “All I want to do is go to school and be a model student. I am being harassed by school officials and treated like a dog.”

Barbers Hill High has a  White Supremacy problem. And, now the ruling in the case sets a precedent which will be used against other students. Stop the hate. Learn about curly hair, learn about the history related to how white supremacy and anti-Black racism are maintained through hair and listen to Darryl George. Put some money toward his gofundme. Watch the short film Hair Love. If you can, attend school board meetings, write letters to the editor, write letters to the school district. Pay attention to your local schools, when similar dynamics play out, stop them. If those in power at Barbers Hill can stop using hair as an excuse to perpetuate whiteness standards, they can free up their time and energy to do something more productive than harming their students. 

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