For some time now, I’ve been meaning to make a post about locs, specifically the stereotypes surrounding them and the response I’ve gotten while on my own loc journey. For whatever reason, I just never felt like it was the right time. Now, with all that’s going on in the media, the question in our minds is “how can there be a ban on locs in schools?”
“No braids, no beads, no locs” policy.
In 2018, we became aware of a 5-year-old girl who pretty much was being discriminated against because of her locs. Her parents were told to cut her locs or otherwise remove them before she could officially be admitted to the first grade of her new school. You see, the school has an unwritten policy that prohibits the locking of one’s hair. Of course, her parents weren’t having it (for reasons that us rationally thinking individuals can understand). It’s her hair! It’s properly groomed, neat, probably smelling like essential oils, and otherwise not offensive. Resultantly, her parents sought legal representation and brought the matter before the courts. Since that time, the little girl (hereinafter referred to as “ZV”) and her locs were permitted to attend classes until the matter was heard and a decision was made. Well, it’s 2020 and the verdict is in!
Firstly, we have to be clear of one thing, no-one is canceling or banning locs in schools. I see a lot of headlines to that effect. Instead, the Supreme Court of Jamaica ruled that the barring of ZV was not unconstitutional. Big difference.
I took the time to read the case for myself. Lord knows it’s been a while since I’ve done that. I knew I had to read the case for myself to understand what was happening. The narrative being brought forward by the media sounded quite shakey to me. As we all know, the reported news is a summary of events usually formed from an interpretation. That interpretation isn’t always accurate.
The claimants’ arguments are based on a breach of several of ZV’s constitutional rights. Specifically, the right to freedom of expression, right to public school education, freedom to practice whatever religion, right to equality under the law. However, from my reading, I have to admit that I do understand how the judgment was reached. The student’s constitutional rights were not breached. Tests were applied, the arguments fell very short, the law is the law is the law. Here’s a link to the case if you feel so lead.
My issue is not with the Supreme Court’s ruling. I just can’t agree with the principal’s position in the first place. Her rationale for prohibiting locs aren’t convincing enough for me. In my opinion, her arguments are purely based on stereotypes.
Locs and stereotypes.
I can’t understand why in 2020, we still have issues with locs. It’s about time we let the stereotypes go. Instead of progressing, we’re insistent on going backward.
Stereotype #1 Locs are dirty and we don’t wash them.
Couldn’t be farther from the truth. Of course, we wash our hair. It’s an unfair assumption that we all don’t wash our hair. I could easily cast a stereotype on women who wear extensions and say they don’t wash their hair. Though I have proof that SOME weave wearers do not wash their hair, I can’t cast such a stereotype on the whole community. I would expect that if the school noticed an issue with a student’s hygiene, a meeting with the parents/ guardians would be arranged.
Stereotype #2 Locs= “junjo”…whatever that really is.
Junjo, for my non-Jamaican/ Caribbean readers, is basically mildew or mold. Both as we know are caused by/thrive in extreme levels of humidity and warmth. Any kind of hair, if not dried properly can be affected. Arguably, locs take a much longer time to dry. This, however, has absolutely nothing to do with being nasty or dirty. This can’t be a real reason to ban locs in schools. It’s the 21st century and almost every household has a hairdryer of some sort. Those without the aforementioned, simply airdry their hair.
Stereotype #3 Locs are untidy and unkempt.
While I understand the need for our hair to be neat, locs, just like every other hairstyle, can be as neat as you want them to be.
Stereotype #4 Locs are unprogressive.
Who says locs aren’t progressive? There are so many well-respected professionals in society…around the world who have locs. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, politicians, media personalities, you name it, they have locs of all different styles, sizes, lengths, and colors.
On another note…
Why do some folks praise faux locs but frown upon actual locs?
This is a question I haven’t gotten an answer to yet. I’d be grateful for your thoughts on this question in the comments.
I can recall my own experience at the beginning of my loc journey. I was asked so many questions such as, “why didn’t you just do faux locs instead?” and “what happened to your hair?”. I got the disapproving stares and all. But as soon as my locs matured, the comments came rolling in “oh your hair is nice” and “your locs are growing nicely”. Nah b, keep that same energy!
Some of us just love the Eurocentric definition of beauty and blackness. Had ZV’s parents choose to fry her skull with a relaxer, would the principal be as concerned or disapproving?
How would you handle a situation like this? Do you think principals should be able to ban locs in schools? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to read them.
Until next time.