No, Your White Daughter Was Not Racially Profiled Because of Her Hair

By Gina Torres

Pleasant Grove, Utah, teen Caycee Cunningham was on a journey of self-discovery. After studying in Guatemala, she found religion. Hindu that is. She returned to school sporting shoulder-length locs. Unfortunately, she was told her hair violated the school dress code and her locs had to be removed. In the U.S., locs aren’t normally associated with Hindus. However, there is a tradition of locs; only they are usually reserved for the holiest people in the faith. Not understanding that detail leads to accusations of inauthenticity and cultural appropriation.

Now her mother could have kept this an issue of violating Caycee’s right to express her newfound religious beliefs. She could have researched the easily accessible history of the hairstyle throughout millennia then used that knowledge to craft an intelligent response to the school’s unclear policy that bans “unnatural hair colors and distracting styles.” Instead this was Tonya Judd’s rebuttal: “My daughter is white and there happens to be other kids in the school who happen to be other race and ethenticity [sic] and they have hair that can’t be combed, and there’s never been an issue regarding that before.”

I am trying to figure out who on the planet has hair that can’t be combed? Oh wait I guess she means Black folks.There has to be an end to this type of ignorant commentary. I mean there must be a bottom? I refuse to believe that there is an infinite abyss of ignorance. I fear I am wrong.

Judd’s argument is that her daughter was racially profiled. I am going to assume that her point is that because her daughter is white that locs are an unacceptable hairstyle – if she were a Black child there wouldn’t be a problem. This is only a slightly less offensive point and still filled with erroneous assumptions. Just last year the United States Army adopted standards that target African-American hairstyles. As a matter of fact, there are countless news items about Black hair being an issue in workplaces and schools. Sometimes even other Black people pressure each other to conform to European standards as seen here with the viral Facebook video asking “Should this intern straighten her hair”?

Bottom line: Judd wants to make this an issue equivalent to the discrimination that Black and brown people face in this country just going about their daily lives. Ironically, her commentary about people that have “hair that can’t be combed” shows a level of ignorance and bigotry that is deeply ingrained. It is exactly the same as when a white person describes a situation where they were dressed a certain way and they were followed in a store to illustrate they have been targeted, so they know. NO! It is not the same. You can change your hair. You can change your clothing. Black and brown people cannot change white people’s perceptions. The presentation doesn’t matter.

To be clear, I am not sure what young Caycee was searching for that she found in Guatemala. Admittedly, she is trying on personas to figure out her place in the world. Children do that and it is understandable, truly a first world phenomena. The issue is her mother framing this event as if yet again the white girl is getting picked on and these minorities get away with anything. Enough already. When this narrative is pushed in the media, we have to crush it. Ma’am, your daughter is not the victim of discrimination. She is the victim of a vaguely worded, open to interpretation dress code.

Photo: Fox 13 screenshot

Gina Torres is a Facebook addicted-arm chair psychologist, political commenting, often militant, pop culture junkie blogger. She also happens to be a voracious reader, often reading several novels in a week. She loves the written word and the subtle, or not so subtle, turn of a phrase. Gina is a wry observer and humorist whose greatest joy is to make people ugly laugh. She has been a freelance writer for many years, writing copy, articles, web content, and for political campaigns.

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