Racial Controversy Erupts as Black Student Suspended for Hairstyle – A Clash with Dress Code and Discrimination Laws in Texas
In a recent incident that highlights the intersection of hairstyle, discrimination, and education in Texas, a Black high school student found himself suspended from Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu. The controversy arose when school officials claimed that his dreadlocks violated the district’s dress code. This incident, occurring in the same week that the state outlawed racial discrimination based on hairstyles, has sparked a heated debate over whether this suspension constitutes discrimination.
Student Faces Suspension Over Dreadlocks
Darryl George, a 17-year-old junior, received an in-school suspension for his hairstyle. According to school officials, George’s dreadlocks fell below his eyebrows and ear lobes, which they deemed a violation of the dress code. George, who wears his hair in thick twisted dreadlocks, pinned on top of his head, was subjected to this disciplinary action.
Mother Defends Her Son’s Cultural Choice
Darryl George’s mother, Darresha George, defended her son’s choice of hairstyle and cultural expression. She stated that Darryl has been growing his dreadlocks for nearly a decade, and the family had never faced pushback or complaints until this incident. When his dreadlocks are let down, they hang above his shoulders. His mother expressed her confusion about how his hairstyle could be considered a dress code violation when his hair was pinned up.
The CROWN Act and Its Impact on the Situation
This incident has placed the recently enacted CROWN Act in the spotlight. The CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” aims to eliminate race-based hair discrimination. It prevents employers and schools from penalizing individuals due to their hair texture or protective hairstyles, such as Afros, braids, dreadlocks, twists, or Bantu knots. Texas is one of 24 states that have implemented their versions of the CROWN Act.
The Cultural Significance of Dreadlocks
Dreadlocks hold cultural and religious significance for Darryl George and his family. For them, this hairstyle is deeply rooted in their heritage and spirituality. Candice Matthews, national minister of politics for the New Black Panther Nation, emphasized that dreadlocks are perceived as a connection to wisdom and are not merely a fashion statement. She highlighted the spiritual and cultural importance of hair for Black people, describing it as a connection to their soul, heritage, and God.
Historical Context of Black Hairstyles
Historians point out that hairstyles, including braids and dreadlocks, served as forms of communication in African societies, identifying tribal affiliation, marriage status, and providing safety and freedom cues for those who were enslaved. Following the abolition of slavery, Black Americans faced professional and social stigma for not conforming to white, European beauty standards. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned racial discrimination, this issue persisted.
A Nationwide Issue
The problem of race-based hair discrimination extends beyond the workplace and into the realm of public and private schools. In 2018, a white referee in New Jersey ordered a Black high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match. The incident went viral as the wrestler’s hair was cut with scissors in front of a crowd, leading to the suspension of the referee and the subsequent passage of New Jersey’s CROWN Act.
This incident involving Darryl George brings the ongoing debate over hair discrimination, cultural identity, and educational dress codes to the forefront of discussions, underscoring the complexity of these issues in contemporary society.
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