Although people have brilliantly written about the Deborah Brown School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I’d like to invest valuable energy in advocating for the devil, so to speak. Like Bill Cosby, Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain and Don Lemmon, I think the devil has a solid point. Tulsa parents, your anger is uncalled for.
Administrators at the Deborah Brown School believe that students should be in uniform “to encourage respect and seriousness of school.” Afros and locs are encouraging the opposite: disrespect and trivialty. Students with locs have been known to dip their locs in ink and write “school is a joke” on the bathroom stalls. Students with afros have been known to engage in pillow fights using their hair. On the other hand, weaves help students stay on task; the combination of wooly roots and silky ends has never distracted anyone.
There is historical proof that locs and afros distract people from being who they are called to be in the world. Let’s start from the beginning of Black history: slavery. Frederick Douglas could have been a prolific abolitionist if he had only cut down his afro. Can you imagine the speeches he could have given, the books he could have written? He may even have written a speech that questioned the relevance of the Fourth of July to a people who were considered less than human.
Like Douglass, Dred Scott’s potential significance to American history was thwarted by his hairstyle. With a low cut, he may have had the wherewithal to demand his freedom in the Supreme Court. Just imagine the upheaval that would have caused in the justice system.
Thankfully, the afro fad went out of style for a few years and Black Americans were treated well and valued not for the color of their skin, but the content of their coifs. African Americans successfully assimilated and lived in peace among their White brethren during these afro and loc-less years. Then the sixties came and young, distracted individuals began to make problems with their frivolous hairstyles.
Imagine the rights people could have gained had they not been distracted by 60s hair. Black Studies programs could have been established across the nation. Angela Davis could have become a multilingual genius who penned an opus and inspired millions of people to strive for freedom. Elaine Brown could have had a taste of power. Richard Pryor could have made a few people laugh. Audre Lorde, another person whose potential was stymied by her hair, is best known for a line from her persona poem about Black hair. “We [kinky coils] were never meant to survive.”
The afro’s distractions have also reached outside of the African American community. Albert Einstein, Justin Timberlake, Bob Ross, and other whites all lost focus when their hair ballooned. What theories could have been imagined? What Black music could have been appropriated? What art could have been created?
But you parents are protesting over something much more insidious than the afro: locs. You fail to appreciate the kindness shown this family in allowing five days to reverse a permanent style. Do you really want this young girl to suffer the fate of those who have gone before her on this dreadful path of distraction?
Cautionary tales about the distracted donners of locs have been recorded in many major religions: Shiva, Jesus, Imhotep… If the gods can’t convince you, what about the wasted potential among mankind?
Have you ever heard of Toni Morrison? You would have if she had never worn an afro or locs. She may have graduated from Howard University, written more than fifteen books, or even won a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize for a novel that made the world face the horrors of chattel slavery. All of that potential was wasted on sections of hair left to grow as they pleased.
The list of the people our race lost to distracting do’s is heartbreaking: Alice Walker, Bobby McFerrin, Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, Erykah Badu, Lenny Kravitz, Whoopi Goldberg, Terry McMillan, Angela Davis again (when will she learn?)…
Let’s step into the wide, white halls of Academia, where hair really matters. This is a list of scholars who never made it because of either afros or locs: Barbara Smith, Cornel West, Ben Carson, Cathy J. Cohen, Nikky Finney, bell hooks, Toni Cade Bambara, Cornelius Eady, Kimberle Crenshaw, Robin D.G. Kelley, Sylvester Gates, Barack Obama… the list goes on.
Parents of Tulsa, your children could be so successful if you would just assimilate their scalps. And we all know that success is protection from racism. It’s not as if your city has a history of killing, imprisoning, and burning the homes of its most successful Black population. Don’t you want your children to make it to Wall Street?
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