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Racist hair or government intrusion?
Schools should stay out of kids’ hair, and government should stay out of our hair too. That’s how I see it.
Thirty-three miles east of Houston on I-10 lies the small, very white, fairly affluent (not rich by Houston standards though) city of Mont Belvieu. The city is known for having the nation’s largest underground liquid natural gas storage facility. Though in Chambers County, the city is part of the Barbers Hill Independent School District.
Barbers Hill High School has a strict dress code, including a ban on hair below the eyebrows, ear lobes, or top of a t-shirt collar. Supposedly this contributes to a serious educational environment more conducive to learning. The debate over school uniforms and dress codes has been going on since Socrates walked the streets of Athens. It’s not surprising that students think it’s a terrible idea while many educators think it helps.
But for Black high school kids with dreadlocks, Barbers Hill is a dangerous place for hair. It seems like every few years, a Barbers Hill High School kid, a Black kid, gets suspended, threatened with not being able to graduate with his class, or forced to cut his dreads. The latest replay of this situation is Darryl George, who has been suspended since August 31st for having deadlocks. He is claiming his rights under the newly passed CROWN Act (“Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) have been violated.
Texas is the latest of 24 states to have passed this law that supposedly prohibits race-based hair discrimination that protects people from being hassled by bars, employers, and schools, for their hair.
It’s blindingly stupid.
The whole thing rails against common sense in a maddening way, like a lunatic inmate dragging his tin cup across his cell bars for twelve straight hours.
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This is one of those cases where “everybody’s wrong.” A school’s dress code that is so strict that a kid who has dreadlocks and wears them “up” above his ears, as young Darryl does, is punished for it (cruelly, by forcing him to sit on a stool in a cubicle all day for in-school suspension), indicates that the people who run that school have sniffed too many erasers and had too many sticks shoved where it makes them walk funny.
This isn’t Barbers Hill’s first offense, either. In 2020, school officials told Deandre Arnold that wearing his dreadlocks above his ears, collar and eyebrows, as he had for years, was no longer enough. He could not graduate with his class until he cut them. The AP reported:
“There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair,” the district’s superintendent, Greg Poole, said. “Our policy limits the length. It’s been that way for 30 years.”
How young Deandre, and young Darryl, have had their learning impugned, their brains robbed, because of the length of their dreadlocks, was not addressed by Dr. Poole. The fact that it’s been that way for 30 years is supposedly indisputable evidence of the policy’s sanity. How asinine.
Given that Mont Belvieu has a Black population under 500 (7%), and Barbers Hill ISD is 68% white, and 4% Black according to greatschools.org, going after Black kids for wearing their dreadlocks “up” because they are still too long, is on its face a racist policy. To be unreasonably charitable, at best, it’s a bad look.
You’d think Barbers Hill High School had a GreatSchools rating of 9 or 10 given its strict policy, but it’s got a 7/10, with 8/10 for test scores, 3/10 for student progress, and 7/10 for equity. This place is no Philips Exeter Academy. But what it does have is a lot of white people who think their policies are best because that’s what they’ve done for 30 years.
Barbers Hill (and yes, I’m aware of the irony of the name) would be a whole lot better place for kids if they taught critical thinking and problem-solving, like letting kids who are not troublemakers or obvious problems keep their hair the way their culture fits best, as long as that isn’t a disruption, which anyone can clearly see, isn’t.
What Barbers Hill is teaching is rank conformity and racial bias. Congratulations, white people, for teaching other white people that it’s okay to have openly racist policies but claim these help education for everyone, instead of being a huge distraction and a power play by the district.
That being said, I also reserve venom for the idiots who wrote and passed the law against such stupidity; the whole concept of a CROWN Act is stupid.
Section 21.1095(a) defines “protective hairstyle” to include “braids, locks, and twists.” Section (b) prohibits discrimination “because of or on the basis of an employee’s hair texture or protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race.” Under section (c), the act applies to any “employer, labor union, or employment agency” and further prohibits any employment practice that “adopts or enforces a dress or grooming policy that discriminates against a hair texture or protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race.”
I wonder if the law protects male pattern baldness for white school administrators?
What CROWN really is, is a playground for EEO lawyers salivating for new cases. Some slacker at Burger King won’t wear a hair net, comes in reeking of weed, works half days, and invites his slacker friends to join him in vaping through the drive-through gets fired, and within a week is suing his employer for firing him for his hair. It’s like this law was crafted by trial lawyers for other trial lawyers as they all count the cash.
Laws like this are superficial, dumb, and an invitation for all kinds of corruption. Furthermore, it doesn’t stop places like Barbers Hill from saying their hair length policy is not racist. The CROWN Act is a useless, dumb law that solves nothing, because the problem itself is stupid.
Yes, people should not make stupid grooming laws that punish Black, or any other ethnic or religious group (example: Hasidic Jews for their side locks) for a hairstyle, as long as the hair can be worn in a way that in itself is not disruptive. And there are already existing laws that can be used to sue those employers, or bars, or schools, when those policies are misapplied.
Or perhaps, the good citizens of Mont Belvieu can vote to get rid of people on their school board who are okay with the stupid hair policy. That’s probably the best outcome. And if the white people of Barbers Hill ISD won’t change their policy, then we know why.
Schools should stay out of kids hair, and government should stay out of our hair too. That’s how I see it.