Thought of the Week

Isihluthu means big Afro-hair in the Nguni languages of Southern Africa. The name is derived from the sound of the comb as it tears through the hair. Isihluthu has been a target of several discriminatory laws in history. Muhammad Ali and many African Americans wore their Afro-hair with pride during the civil rights movement in the United States (US). Subsequently turning the Afro-hair into a symbol of beauty and resistance for the down trodden blacks around the world.

South African Apartheid government used the Afro-hair in the stratification of its people. The Population Registration Act of South Africa required the racial classification of its people. The government derived a method called the Pencil test to determine a person’s race. The process involved sliding a pencil into the hair, if the pencil fell that person was considered white if not colored (mixed race). Blacks who wished to be reclassified as colored (mix race) had to put a pencil and shake their heads, if the pencil fell they were reclassified colored, if it stayed they remained black.

The protest by black girls from Pretoria Girls High in Pretoria, South Africa this week brought painful memories to many people in South Africa. The girls were protesting against what they viewed as discriminatory school laws which stereotypically dictated how black girls should wear their hair. It started as a simple debate which could have been quelled by an intervention of good leadership. Instead it became a national talking point which highlighted a deep rooted racism at Pretoria Girls High School.

I was honestly flabbergasted by the ignorance of the teachers and some white people who got themselves entangled in this debate. John Robbie a popular white radio talk show host, who migrated to South Africa during the height of apartheid and played professional Rugby at the time when the sport boycott against South Africa was at its height, added salt to the wound. His remarks that some of the girls’ braids were “over the top showbiz” invited a barrage of criticism.

Another example of a careless attitude by a white privileged male towards the plight of black women.

Enjoy your weekend.

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