Recently An Afro-Caribbean teenager has won a ruling that St Gregory’s Catholic Science College in Kenton, Harrow, north London was applying a cornrows ban in a way which amounted to “unjustified” indirect racial discrimination.
The Schools decision to ban hairstyles it says have become associated with gang culture has resulted in the boy being excluded from school, in September 2009, when he was 11. His family decided that rather than capitulate to the schools demands they would go to court.
The test case decision is a victory for the family of African-Caribbean teenager known only as “G”.
The Daily Telegraph reports:
The judge pointed out that exceptions were already made for Rastafarians and Sikh boys who wore hair beyond the collar, and similar exceptions should be made for African Caribbeans.
The judge said G’s family was not alone in regarding cornrows as part of their culture – “there are, on the evidence, other African Caribbeans who take the same view”.
Mr Justice Collins, sitting in London, said in future the school authorities must consider allowing other boys to wear cornrows if it is “a genuine family tradition based on cultural and social reasons”.
School Uniform Policies are freely available
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against Cornrows, I have worn them myself, and I currently wear my hair in Dreadlocks, as I did many years ago at University. My feeling is that Schools have an Uniform policy. That policy is an openly available document that parents are free to obtain and read before deciding whether or not to send their children to the school. Did G’s parents read that document? If So they must have decided to abide by the conditions set forth in the uniforms policy. So I cannot see what the fuss is all about. School Children need to keep their hair neat and tidy, so the “short rule” is about 1) smartness, 2) uniformity 3)Cleanliness.
Cornrows can certainly be clean, but they are not uniform due to the myriad of styles available. furthermore, they are not truly, in my opinion a cultural hairstyle. They may have originated with African /Caribbean communities but they are, in my opinion a FASHION hairstyle. Cornrows have always been popular with African /Caribbean females, and generally we hear nothing about young black girls being excluded for this hairstyle. Young African/Caribbean men in the 1950s were not regularly seen walking around with cornrows. It’s a style that has gained popularity in the last 20 years amongst young males.
Schools are losing their authority
In a time when we are all concerned about issues of respect from our young people, schools are constantly having their authority eroded. Is it any wonder then,we have a situation where young people defer to adults less and less, adults are afraid to confront teenagers about their language, dress-style and general behaviour when the judicial system restricts the power of institutions like school to mould young people into responsible respectful citizens?
G’s family knew they were crossing the line when they sent their boy to school wearing corn rows. They most probably thought they would get away with it, believing it to be a small matter. When the school made an example of G , sending him home, a court case followed. In truth I find it surprising that G’s family won.
Are rules racist?
The big question here is, is it racist to make black people abide by rules that other races have to abide by? In this case I don’t believe that it is. Sikh’s and Rastafarians have a legitimate reason for wearing their hair long, it is their religion. Cornrows are not fundamental to any specific belief system and therefore deserve no more respect than straight long hair or a large and bushy Afro. All these three styles are in contravention of most School Uniform policies.
White and Asian boys attending the school are not allowed to grow their hair long. Cornrows require long hair to be plaited. I can see no sensible reason for this ruling, and it’s impact will simply serve the jingoists on the Right of Politics that Ethnic minorities receive preferential treatment, when in fact the opposite is the real truth.