Shaun King on Why Good Black Students Are Being Targeted Because of Their Hair

Jaylon Sewell is a good kid. Just 16 years old, he’s an active leader in his local church, a good student, and manager for the football team at Neville High School in Monroe, Louisiana. Suddenly, he’s found himself in a deeply unfamiliar place after deciding to live a little and dye the top of his hair blonde in an homage to Odell Beckham Jr – the standout wide receiver for the New York Giants.

According to a formal complaint filed by his family with the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education, Jaylon and over 20 other Black students at Neville High School, have been repeatedly targeted and harassed by school administrators for their hairstyles – including the Beckham style, other colored styles, braids, dreads, and even for hair deemed “ too nappy” by administrators.

This is not an anomaly. All over the country, young Black boys and girls are being told to change their hair or face suspension.

Heaven Wiggins, an honors student in AP courses at Lithia Springs High School outside of Atlanta, was placed in in-school suspension because of the color of her hair – a deep burgundy color that my own wife has in her hair right now. It’s a conservative style done by Black girls and women across the country.

A high school in Louisville, Kentucky banned virtually all natural black hairstyles and began threatening to suspend Black students with dreads, braids, and twists – which made up a significant percentage of the styles young black girls had at the school. All four of my daughters currently have the very styles that were being targeted at this school.

So, as you could imagine, it infuriated Jaylon’s mother, Bonnie Kirk, when she looked at her phone after a long day at work and saw that she missed a slew of calls from her son. It was not like him to call during the school day and she was immediately alarmed. From the beginning of the school day, through lunch, until the end of the day, he had called but been unable to reach her.

During morning announcements, Jaylon was pulled from class alongside twenty of his classmates, each of them Black, and told that they would not be able to attend class until they either cut their hair or dyed it back to its natural color.

For Jaylon and others, it was like an outer body experience. The hairstyles that they had were seen as normal, hardly radical, in their own community. Even the style recently popularized by Beckham has been around for decades, but the Dean of Students, according to Jaylon, told them they “looked like thugs” and asked them if they were in gangs.

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Source: Black America Web | Shaun King