Racial Discrimination with School Dress Codes
There was an article that I read that talked about many school districts across the United States that started to enforce dress code policies that restricted associations with the African-American style. Male students are not allowed to have their hair extend below the eyebrows or the top of a t-shirt collar (Perry). Students were disturbed by this sudden dress code policy that was put in place.
One high school student, DeAndre Arnold, has always worn his hair in dreadlocks. DeAndre had an in-school suspension and was told he could not attend class, prom, or graduation until he followed the dress code policy (Perry). Another student was pulled out of class in California because he had shaved-in designs in his hair which would be too “distracting” to his classmates. 7-year-old, Tiana Parker, was sent home from school one day because the school did not think her locs looked “presentable” (Perry). Several students have been told that their hairstyles represent “gang culture” and that they need to “fix” their hair to return to class.
The school boards are asserting authority over African-American students based on their hairstyles, but hair has nothing to do with academic success. This is an example of systemic injustice because the system of power uses its authority to suppress African-American students the right to wear their hair in a way that connects them to their ancestors, family, and traditions. Here the system in power is the school boards enforcing bigoted dress code policies.
I think we can relate the African-American students to Spivak’s subalterns. The school boards have silenced these students and ingrained this as a normal practice within the school system. The students are being denied their right to express themselves and have no say in the rules being installed. Just like Spivak’s subalterns, the students must accommodate themselves to the new change to continue getting their education. The category of identity involved in this situation was race and ethnicity, and that should not be a factor in school districts. Having a racially diverse school board would protect against dress code policies from being prejudiced against individuals and be more understanding of the children’s traditions and lifestyle.
Perry, Andre. “Racist Dress Codes in Schools Are the New ‘Whites Only’ Signs.” The Hechinger Report, 30 Mar. 2020, https://hechingerreport.org/dress-codes-are-the-new-whites- only-signs/
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