Big hair does care! Race relation intricacies tied up in the afro

In Africa, for the most part, whatever we do with our hair is usually our own business. Natural hair was never really a big deal, it was just that, hair. Unlike with our distant cousins in the diaspora where different standards and measures of beauty exists. It would be an understatement to say that black people in the West have had a hard time in reclaiming their identity. So when the ‘Natural Hair Movement’ took hold over 6 years ago we didn’t really see it as an opportunity to take back what was lost from us but more as an opportunity to better care for our hair.

Children in school are usually subjected to rules that govern their general appearance. It might be that the existence of these rules are remnants of colonization but in some cases, they do help. Controversy arose in Pretoria Girls High in South Africa when black students took to the streets for what is being termed as ‘racist school hair rules.’

Although  whatever manifesto the school’s administration is using to make up these rule sit does not state that an afro is not allowed, pupils with textured hair were told to straighten their hair. Some students from the school also complained that staff members had referred to them as ‘monkeys who have nests on their heads.’ It would not be a wild assumption to make stating that it is mostly black students with curly hair.

Soon after the students started protesting, their grievances gained steam with other young people joining in on the action. Rapper AKA showed his solidarity with the girls online posting, ‘How can you ban an African girl from having African hair going to school in an African country. How does this make sense?’

Apartheid might have been abolished over 20 years ago but clearly 20 years is too soon. South Africa still has one of the most complex system of race relations in the world and Pretoria Girls High expressed this. The school was a whites-only institution during the Apartheid Era and the effects of this dark past are still apparent today.

We might not necessarily have the same situation as South Africa does but we do abide by the same rules as them. Rules that we had no hand in writing. As the world changes hopefully our own standards and measures of what is considered ‘right’ and what is considered ‘wrong’ will change too.

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