Today in racist body policing

Many of you will have already read about Orlando student Vanessa VanDyke being threatened with expulsion from her private Christian school for wearing her hair exactly as it grows out of her head. The Faith Christian Academy’s administration has deemed her hair style “disruptive” (because other students bully her over wearing her hair long with all its frizz and kinks visible), and they have a school rule about “distracting” hairstyles which lists a variety of hair modifications as unacceptable and says nothing about natural long hair.

The school administration only issued its directive to Vanessa regarding her hair after she made a formal complaint about other students bullying her for not having conformist (i.e. chemically straightened) hair.

There is the predictable pushback in online forums about how the school’s way of (not) dealing with racist bullying in their student body by body-policing the natural features of an African-American girl is not really any sort of racially discriminatory double standard, because of course it’s exactly like a white student with a “mohawk” hair style (picture me giving that line of argument the side-eye so hard, and not just for the obvious Sesame Street logic fail). Please use this thread to expound upon exactly how insulting that nonsense is.


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About tigtog

tigtog blogs a lot elsewhere, but here on Feministe she mostly does the tech support and feeds the giraffe. tigtog tweets in irregular flurries @vivsmythe.
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17 Responses to Today in racist body policing

  1. Andie says:

    I’m not a fan of policing kids hairstyles at all (sez the mom who let her 10 year old shave half her head because why not? It’s not like she’s going to job interviews at ten) but calling a little black girls natural hairstyle “distracting”? There’s no way that’s not hugely racist, and I wouldn’t deny a sexist element of “be quiet, be unassuming, don’t be easily noticeable” in there as well.

    • tigtog says:

      I’m also utterly hornswoggled at the number of people who are looking at the photo of her in that article and saying that she needs to brush/comb her hair. What the hell are they going on about? Like many people my age, I had a super-kinky curly perm in the 80s. I know the difference between uncombed and combed curly hair extremely well. Vanessa’s hair is beautifully groomed – that’s just what curly hair does.

      • Hrovitnir says:

        Yuup. I just replied to the most egregious examples of racism on there… had to close it so as not to pick a fight with every idiot on that thread. *face-palm*

    • EG says:

      I agree with all of this. I’m not a fan of restricting kids’ self-presentation anyway, but when it’s compounded with a heaping helping of racist bullshit…fuck everyone at her school. Hair hurts nobody. Hair is not the problem.

      To say nothing of creating a culture where students are discouraged from seeking help for bullying. Reminds me of a friend, who, when a kid, was bullied for being quite effeminate (eventually, this friend transitioned). The school administration’s response was “Well, if he wouldn’t be that way, they would leave him alone.” Fuck you all.

      • EG says:

        Also, I realize that it’s neither here nor there, but that child is startlingly beautiful. I wish I’d been so lucky when I was a teen, and so confident about my hair being its curly, frizzy, lovely self, instead of wasting hours of my life every day blow-drying it with clips in.

      • Lolagirl says:

        She is a startlingly beautiful child, EG, wow. If I were local to her and her family, I would totally be marching at her stupid school in protest, and baking her family support cookies, and inviting her over for play dates with my kids. She sounds like an all-around awesome kid.

    • Lyndsay says:

      Agreed. This is my frustration with living in the UK. My nine-year old step-daughter’s school has complained about her hair not being brushed well enough. It tangles easily and she hates brushing it. Anything out of the ordinary is extreme here it seems. Can’t all children have a few years to experiment before they have worry about fitting in at work?

  2. Lolagirl says:

    What? The fuck?

    I’m speechless, really. Racist and stupid and disingenuous, and just all around horrible.

  3. Aaron says:

    God is infallible, except when it comes to kinky hair. Which is why God later invented chemical hair straightener. [insert eyeroll here]

  4. Chally says:

    Oh yeah; the only black girl at my private Christian high school was told that she couldn’t wear her hair out lest it spread lice. We got a new school principal eventually, who told her she could wear her hair as she pleased. I’m not black, but I also have big “ethnic” hair, and also I got a lot of comments from staff members when my hair was out or in a half-pony style, to which I patiently had to reply that I wasn’t violating any of the school rules regarding hairstyles. Apparently having non-conforming hair makes you a dirty dirty lice spreader or something.

    • Bunny says:

      WHAT?!

      They seriously told a girl her natural hair was going to spread FUCKING LICE?!

      I just… I just cannot. Seriously.

      Kids will bully anyone deemed “different” in some way. And the “differences” they target are things they learn from the adults around them. This shit by schoolteachers and staff is going to make bullying worse by further othering kids and further normalising an incredibly narrow definition of what is considered okay.

  5. theLaplaceDemon says:

    This is absolutely disgusting. I feel horrible for this little girl, and the countless others like her who are policed and shamed in ways not quite blatant enough to make the local news.

  6. Tyris says:

    Update: the school is no longer requiring that Vanessa cut her hair in order to avoid expulsion, just that she style it. We’re not sure whether they’ve just missed the point completely and think this is a genuine concession, or they think that she’s so stupid that she will think it is.

    Also her natural hair is glorious.

    Welp. Off to repress some memories-from-another-lifetime that were set off by this story.

  7. Angie unduplicated says:

    Typical Southern Christian jerks who have faith that Jeezuz was sent to cover their asses. Their One True God is a hairspray can, the same one all HR employees worship. If God as they dimly recognize him was all that focused on hair, he would not have created so many of us with Bad Hair Lifetimes. She is honoring the Creator by wearing it real, and the school is, imo, the Antichrist’s willing asskissers.

  8. AMM says:

    Another theory to explain the school’s behavior is that they just find it easier to make the girl change her hair than to actually deal with the bullies. (Most schools would rather blame the victims of bullying than actually stop the bullying, because stopping bullying is hard work, and victim-blaming is easy. Ask me how I know this :( )

    I’m of two minds as to whether this is more charitable than simply assuming they’re a bunch of racist @#$%s.

    (Of course, they could be both.)

  9. Fat Steve says:

    It’s so bizarre for me because when I was in school it seemed all the kids of all races had hair lie that….

  10. Felix says:

    That kid’s hair is effing adorable.

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