I’m standing at attention

Why the Hair-Shaming of Young Black Girls is a Criminal Offense

My Twitter feed was mashup of VMA highlights and the urgent retweets from users who were reacting to the story by The Daily Vox — that details the ongoing strife suffered by school girls attending an all-girls academia — Pretoria High School for Girls.

The piece which is worth your time — was curated by someone on the inside who basically constructed an open letter to anyone who cares to comprehend how impressionable young girls are being unfairly targeted for being young Black girls — with hair.

I was once a young black girl with hair. I had so much hair that I was embarrassed, overwhelmed and resentful because as a boarder — I had my work cut out for me.

I also attended an all-girls school in Lagos, Nigeria.

Queens College is still the premier institution in Nigeria that offers secondary school education to girls from families who want their daughters to get the very best the system has to offer. We learned a lot during our designated tenure but in between prep and frequent trips to the labs of our interest — there was the issue of how to coerce our damn hair into the shapes and sizes that adhered to the specific rules in place.

The key was to ensure that your tresses were devoid of any texture-altering chemicals which was easy for me to obey because my mother was adamant that my first relaxer treatment wouldn’t happen until I successfully graduated from high school.

The other rule was a lot more cumbersome. I had to have my jet-black, thick as fuck tresses neatly plaited for our weekly morning assembly. This would be the period when we stand at attention in our well-ironed uniforms with our perfectly perched beret facing the angle that reveals the beloved school logo — as we pray to the saints and angels that we aren’t targeted for cruel and necessary punishment.

In order to survive the terrain of hair wars — I had to actually learn how to create flawless plaits that would encourage potentials to pair with me so I could also get my damn hair done before Monday morning.

I had been spoiled by my mother — who delightfully took advantage of the fact that I was her only daughter. She manipulated my dramatic mane to her sheer delight as I grimaced with every line she drew and every move she made to ensure that my amply nourished puffs were situated accordingly.

Bottomline — I never did my own hair until I was forced to.

I was about eleven years old when I was sent away from home to live with strangers until I was mature enough to grab the world. Suddenly, I was being assigned an itinerary of how to regulate my life and although most of it was warranted training that still upholds me till today — the hair shit was a major bummer.

My favorite group was and still is ABBA. The way those girls permitted their lush locks to dictate every dance move in an enticing way that only enhanced their glaring beauty — but gave me the need to place pillow cases on my head — in an effort to mimic what it feels like to have the freedom and power to do what you will with your own hair.

ABBA Girls

How come Black girls don’t have that same privilege? I couldn’t answer that question then — and I sure as hell can’t now.

All I know is that when I was growing up — having hair like mine presented complications that required patience and loads of diligence. I learned how to create cornrows and the like — for the love of my own hair and once I settled into the barter regimen — I was golden.

I watched in horror as schoolmates that had deviated from the structured plan were subjected to abusive haircuts that left them almost bald. That was the price we paid for not conforming to the grooming standards that looking back — seem ludicrous.

How does your hairstyle of choice — impede your ability to juggle square roots and the historical significance of Usman dan Fodio?

Things have changed since then — and presently— there are no constraints placed on how current QC Girls decide to present the hair they were born with.

Looking back — my preference would’ve been to ensure that all students maintain a level of upkeep that measures up to the requirements that have very little to do with our type of hair but more to do with the overall presentation.

The girls in South Africa are fighting for their right to rock their hair in ways that match their evolving temperament.

It’s an incredibly amazing notion when you consider that not only are White girls given free reign to have their manes flow down their shoulders in rightful abandon — but they also have permission to poach our indigenous styles for free and with high praise.

Yet — Black girls have to be policed because we need to understand that we can’t roam free with hair that outs us as untamed or brutish. No lady walks around with wild and attention-grabbing nests that don’t match the global template of shiny, yielding, and neat.

The hair-shaming of young black girls is absolutely a crime.

When I decided to go natural more than a decade ago — at a time when the natural hair movement was virtually nowhere in sight — I endured consistent criticism from family and friends.

They just couldn’t fathom how I was able to leave the house with my hair in the state that it was made to be in.

I was stared down by the very girls who are now making a name for themselves — just for telling Black women what was already searingly obvious from the get go.

Our hair is perfect in its complexities and anyone who disagrees is a shallow-minded idiot.

The truth is that the hair-shaming of Black girls who mature into Black women is an international crisis. You’ve done it to your niece, daughter, friend, and cousin. You compare and contrast the textures sported by your two girls — and you flatly comment to your friend about how she needs to get her “baby hairs” laid.

Nobody is safe from this debilitating exercise — not even the daughter of one of the most revered and celebrated artist in the world.

Blue Ivy Carter will one day read your damning remarks regarding how her mother chose to manage her strands — and she isn’t going to like it.

Black girls are being unnecessarily harassed.

The perpetrators should be tried in a court of law — because they are exacting abuse with the intentions of continuing this sickening narrative that holds no validity.

Black hair without traces of “Native American ancestry” or the residue of slave mixing — doesn’t need a reason to exist in it’s primal glory. It’s the best of its kind and that is because of all the amazing ways in which we can express ourselves just by switching it up without warning.

White people have always been threatened by our uniqueness and no matter how hard the girls try to replicate what we are naturally able to produce — it never quite matches up to the real thing.

Stop being offended by the very things that set us apart from the majority and instead adopt the mindset of wonder and well-placed envy. End this quest to suffocate young minds that are hell-bent on altering the world for the better — with pettiness that is instituted for their mental breakdown and physical enslavement.

I was brought up to believe that grown ups have all the answers — but we all know that is a damn lie.

Adults are the worst. They are overgrown babies who have a bone to pick with anyone or anything that threatens their fragile blueprint. They even pick on kids without shame or recognition of their obvious bias.

The school officials in Pretoria should be arrested and tried for making young Black girls feel like unacceptable members of society.

Their crowning glory falls short of what is deemed normal for adequate assimilation into the pool of ordinary.

We are extraordinary.

We were not born for the sole purpose of keeping the White population secured in the knowledge that we won’t surpass their level of dopeness.

It all starts with the hair — and then you can work your way from there. But, in case you get stuck — you can yell for help and maybe we will untangle you.

Until then — remain entangled and criminal.