Racism, sexism… "hairism"? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Racism, sexism… "hairism"?

A Vicksburg High School student was told by the principal that he could not be a homecoming escort unless he cut off his dreadlocks. From WAPT:

Less than a week before his high school's homecoming festivities, 16-year-old Patrick Richardson said he was told he would have to cut his hair if he wanted to participate in the halftime event. ... Richardson had already paid for his tuxedo in preparation for the event. ... Richardson's mother, Tammi Mason, said she doesn't understand why her son's hair caused such a big problem.

"The principal told me that they hold them to a higher standard at homecoming. That was like a slap in my face, as if my son is of low standards because he has dreads," Mason said. "If he can wear it to school, why can't he wear them to a school function? What's the difference?"

Vicksburg High's principal Derrick Reed said he couldn't comment on the issue, noting that all questions should be taken to the superintendent. The school's superintendent, Dr. Elizabeth Swinford, remains unavailable for comment.

Richardson and his mother maintained that he will not cut his hair, insisting that there's no policy banning dreadlocks in school.

"There's no policy in the handbook. There's no policy about hair, the only thing is about rollers and picks," Mason said.

"Mostly only people of the black race is known for having dreads and I feel like they are discriminating against the black race," Richardson said. "I feel like, as long as your clothes are looking right, as long as your hair is looking neat, it shouldn't matter how your dreads look or how your hair looks."

Stories like this irritate me to the hilt. (Disclaimer: I have locks past my shoulders.) The student should not have to cut his hair if he doesn't want to. It's his way of expressing himself, and it's obvious that he maintains his hair because he was interviewed at the salon. There's no rule in the school handbook against dreadlocks, so the principal should have let him participate in homecoming just the way he is. What do you think?

Previous Comments

ID
159967
Comment

I agree, Charles. I wouldn't be surprised if a group like the ACLU issued a statement on this. I also wouldn't be surprised if the student sued for the cost of his tuxedo since he already got it for the event.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2010-09-23T18:10:37-06:00
ID
159989
Comment

I totally agree with you. This is the most irritating story I have read or heard about in a long time. Patrick should keep his hair EXACTLY the way it is and participate in homecoming. There is no policy on this matter nor should there be. Derrick Reed is completely out of line and should stop harassing students. I hope his job becomes jeopardized by his comments towards Patrick and he learns to stop discriminating against people for no reason.

Author
hsmith
Date
2010-09-25T02:00:25-06:00
ID
160047
Comment

This issue is larger than a high schooler being told to cut his hair in order to participate in a school function. The mother hit the nail on the head when she said "Mostly only people of the black race is known for having dreads..." Dread locks are a celebration of black culture. To ask this young man to cut his dreads off would be like asking him to dye is skin color. It is downright ignorant to even fathom the notion of asking someone to relinguish themselves of their natural right to be who they are and to acknowledge their heritage. No one is going around making white people put Nappy Juice in their hair. Another thing, who sets the standard? Who declares that dread locks are "low standard"? Who says that not having dread locks is a "higher standard"? All this does is buys into that same idea that someone else can choose the worth and validity of the black man or woman in this state. This is absolutely deplorable and it sickens me that today we still have to fight this type of ridiculousness. ~Queen has spoken, AGAIN -- YEP again~

Author
Queen601
Date
2010-09-27T16:16:42-06:00
ID
160048
Comment

I'm afraid I'm gonna have to go with the school on this one. The boy is trying to get the other students to be like Bob Marley, a marvelous musician, humanitarian and Jamaican hero, but Bob liked the root, the ganga, the marijuana. If the boy gets away with the haircut the next thing he will be doing is singing play I some music, reggae, reggae music. Then I shot Sheriff but I didn't shoot the deputy. Then pass the dutchie from the right hand side.... Please y'all, we gotta stop these young G's before they get started on the devil's music, violence and dope. We old schoolers know best. Drugs and violence come with that hair style. Don't get me wrong I love Bob Marley and all the old style reggae musicians.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-09-27T17:25:33-06:00
ID
160051
Comment

You know I'm right, LW. What you got to say for yourself? Those locks are a dead give away. That stuff will make a mere school boy forsake his country and flag and send a greedy man to prison for a five dollar bag. Get off the dope and get onto hope. Let's keep hope alive.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-09-27T17:42:43-06:00
ID
160052
Comment

I forgot to add, people look at what's going on with reggae star Buju Banton right now. He has dreadlocks and he's being prosecuted for selling and being engaged in the drug business. I admit not everyone with dreadlocks is using or selling the devil's dessert, but according to the FBI and my other sources, dreadlock wearers are either using it, selling it or thinking about it. And according to the good book if you're thinking about it you might as well be doing it. Don't hate the messenger.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-09-27T17:56:30-06:00
ID
160064
Comment

Excuse me but this is really not a laughing matter and I know you are too intelligent for your posts to NOT be a joke. There are plenty of clean cut, high profile, rich, preppy white folks who smoka-the-sticky. And, I'd even venture to say that the Paris Hilton's and the Lindsey Lohan's of the world have associated themselves with cocaine so does that mean that anyone who is female, skinny, has white skin, blond or brunette hair, should have to cut off their hair???? If so, then they may as well cancel it because their parents would never sit back and let that happen. So please don't go there with that....

Author
Queen601
Date
2010-09-28T07:35:47-06:00
ID
160100
Comment

I'm really hoping that Walt's post was a sarcastic tirade aimed to bring a little "laughter" to this "situation". If not... there's definitely something(s) wrong with his train of thought (or lack thereof). Here's my take: If the young man meets all other requirements, such as minnumum GPA needed to be a part of the Homecoming court, then WHY in the world would you discriminate against him because of the lenghth of his hair? Would it be the same for a female with dreads? or how about a female student with a low hair cut that is often associated with men? Apparently, he's a well-liked kid if he was voted to the homecoming court. That is something that should not be stripped because of his choice to wear his hair in dreaklocks. As far as Walt's comment; I'm pretty sure there are more individuals with dreadlocks that are NOT on the "ganja" than there are that ARE on it. Dreadlocks are becoming more acceptable these days. Turn on your TV & see political analyst like Jeff Johnson who sports dreads nearly to his waist. Let's WAKE UP people!!

Author
kinglewie
Date
2010-09-28T11:28:32-06:00
ID
160154
Comment

kinglewie, I'm a Jeff Johnson fan, and I have only heard him on the radio, so I didn't know he had locks. Time to Google for a photo. :) Queen, I was tickled when you said "nappy juice." Some people don't know that you can make straight hair kink up by giving it an over-processed perm. It was hot in the 1970's. Even Barbra Streisand had an Afro for a minute. Walt, can't you stop being Walt for two seconds? LOL. You satire does shed light on how people with locks get stigmatized at pot-smoking, drug-selling, homeless Rastas with Caribbean accents. Mohawks are back in style now, so I wonder if they'll be stigmatized as heavy-metal loving, window-smashing vagrants.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2010-09-30T08:15:12-06:00
ID
160162
Comment

No one is going around making white people put Nappy Juice in their hair. This made me laugh. Although, if I'm really honest I can look at this situation both ways. I remember MANY a boy being forced to leave school or told not to come back until he got a haircut. They were pretty strict about 'off the collar' where I went to school. There might not be a specific rule related to this, but there can be general "grooming" rules in the handbook. But, it says he can wear them to school just NOT to homecoming. So, that right there just makes me think its strange. Just let him wear his dreads. He's obviously been rockin' them in the classroom and that was okay. And, I kind of hate that school official said they "hold them to a higher standard at homecoming". If one is going to hold a child at school to a "higher standard", I think that should only be in the classroom.

Author
Lori G
Date
2010-09-30T11:31:29-06:00
ID
160164
Comment

I think the hair cut thing is ridiculous...but before we get all bent out of shape and taking about a principal and a school being against the African-American culture, a fact needs to be made clear. I noticed the article doesn't bring this up, and normally I don't think it would be relevant; however, since ultimately the argument is the principal targeted the student because he was a African-American male with dreadlocks, the fact that the principal is a an African-American male should have been noted. http://www.vwsd.k12.ms.us/wwwroot1/vh/VHSWebsite_files/Page392.htm Again, I think the haircut thing is incredibly dumb, but none-the-less it may simply be about the young man's haircut.

Author
amoderatemississippian
Date
2010-09-30T13:02:15-06:00
ID
160168
Comment

amoderatemississippian, thanks for the link. I suspected that the principal was black. I know that sounds strange, but to me, blacks give other blacks a harder time about dreadlocks and other natural hairstyles than anyone else could. There is an internal prejudice that exists in the black community about hair, skin tone, lip fullness, nose width and so forth because many look to the European appearance as a standard of how to look. It is likely that this principal is like a lot of conservative blacks who prefer for black men to have their hair cut short enough so that the kinky texture is not noticeable, and for black women to have relaxed hair or extensions.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2010-09-30T16:34:23-06:00
ID
160170
Comment

Mates if the boy was a really really good boy, he would have said yes sir Mr. Principal, Homecoming is special, so I will comply with your wishes. But nall, he's this new styles of young lads who can't get "why" out of their system. In the old days you did whatever because old folks said do it. If you let the boy wear his hair like he wanted it this year, next year another bad boy would ask why he has to have boy legs and feet inside his tuxedo? In other words, why can't he have one leg in and one leg out? Queen, I've been very careful to not provide any proof that I'm intelligent. I respect your opinion on this matter though and you remain a Queen. Sorry I got on your nerves, but you know how I roll. LW we know what the dreadlock nation is up to. To get us all hooked on that stuff so that the Rastas can take over and make everybody feel high. Good post, LW, as usual. When are you going to write something on Bishop Eddie Longstroke and the Longhook Mentoring Program at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia? We got to do sump about ministers abusing their positions as young impressionable people look to them for guidance and spiritual support. Maybe he's innocent but he isn't "perfect" as he finally belatedly acknowledged. I expected to hear they're lying on me but got something else. The boy was provided a free high school education to get something "in" his head not "on" it.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-09-30T16:55:39-06:00
ID
160171
Comment

Walt, I've been meaning to blog on the bishop, but I've been burning the candle at both ends and haven't had a chance to Google clips of his sermon. I'll post something soon because I know you're about to explode. LOL

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2010-09-30T17:05:21-06:00
ID
160177
Comment

It's real simple. Today is different than 10 or 15 years ago. Kids today aren't like WE were Lori. That's evident because dreads were not high fashion then, they represented a statement and most of the people who "rocked" them knew their significance. Today, however, they are a part of popular culture. Still, though, if this fella was wearing his hair this way when they nominated him to the homecoming court, then it's likely that the voting body has accepted his hairstyle as a part of who he is (which is probably some of the reason why he was nominated). To now tell this young man that you are not good enough to be on our homecoming court because of what you look like is no different than discriminating against someone for being "too big" or "too small"; "too light" or "too dark"; "too gay" or "too straight". Either way this apple is sliced, it's FOOLISH. If it were me, I wouldn't even go to this shendig. I'd create a petition to boycott it and then march outside the event with signs and the whole nine. Shame on them for trying to stamp out a person's individual choices. Grooming? Please. If you can't go up to a teacher with bad breathe and tell her don't come back to school until your breathe doesn't stink, then the grooming idea is just an excuse. Since when does having dread locks equal ungroomed or nasty or unappealing. This is absolutely ridiculous and I can't even fathom what could be going through an administrators mind who would actually fix his mouth to defend this. ANd to the person who posted that it's important to note that the principal is African American....not so much. You may not believe this, but there are African American people who have a discriminatory nature. Some who would agree with this principal that this isn't acceptable. It could be a difference in class, upbringing or age, but I don't give two craps that he's black....still his decision is ridiculous...I don't even care if it's policy. Then the policy would be ridiculous. Why? Because it is targeted towards the entire black race (in this specific case). The chances are slim that a white person is going to be coming to school with dreads....just isn't likely. Therefore, this is targeted towards blacks. Can't deny that. It is what it is.

Author
Queen601
Date
2010-10-01T07:45:07-06:00
ID
160179
Comment

Homecoming attendants were told on election day by the administration that no male with dreads would be allowed to participate in the event. The girl knew this and she still asked this boy to escort her. She is the one who is breaking the rules. Surely the boy knew it too. He filed an injunction at City Court to have Homecoming suspended, and he wasn't even an elected member of the festivity! The judge is a black female alumni of the school and she said, "Cut your hair." The principal is a black male graduate of JSU and he said, "Cut your hair." These are the leaders of this community. Vicksburg is a very conservative town, even among its most respected black citizens. WLBT and JFP would have never known about this if CNN hadn't posted it on their iReport page.

Author
write2richie
Date
2010-10-01T09:48:09-06:00
ID
160180
Comment

Well, well, well, I've learned something new. I thought the fella was elected; he's the escort....wow! I still don't think he should have to cut his hair. But in this case, if he wasn't the one who was elected by the school body and instead is an escort then, it sets a different stage. Still, why can't someone who has dreads be allowed to participate? That's the ultimate point here. And again, I don't give two flips about the judge or the principal being black. Makes no difference one way or the other to me. Like LW said, we catch more grief from our own than others at times. Point is, how in the hell are they going to make a policy that tells someone how to wear their hair? What does one's hair have to do with anything? Is it the public image of celebrating his heritage the problem? Don't look too black or you can't be apart of this homecoming court? Don't look like a criminal or a weed head or a professional football player (all black stereotypes). "these are leaders in the community"......what a sad sad statement; maybe true....but still very sad. No excuses....still just ridiculous.

Author
Queen601
Date
2010-10-01T10:41:29-06:00
ID
160181
Comment

I'm with you on this one, Queen. I'm a native of Vicksburg and it is totally amazing to me how these folks never learn from history. They would rather focus on this kid's hair rather than a focus on giving him and other students information to go inside the head that will be beneficial for career development. We went through the same thing in the 60's when only Angela Davis was wearing an Afro. Teachers, religious leaders and especially whites, had a fit as they made it almost impossible for any black person to be hired on a job unless they were pressed and curled (women) or shaved and bald (men). Isn't this hair thing an issue that Opra Winfrey faced and conquered??? Walt, "....Bishp Eddie Longstroke and the Longhook Mentoring Program." Now that is a story worth talking about. These mega-monsters are taking over anything that is logical and reasonable. Did you see Long's "A-Men" corner? This is cult mentality. Seemingly, there wasn't anyone in his church that gave a crap about those youngsters. Sad! Getting back on message: Let's terminate the clowns that continue to have our communities in court fighing unwinable cases with the ACLU. By the way, on all of the biblical pictures, Christ is wearing a belted/roped dress and his hair is l o n g. If it is true that his hair was/is like the wool on a sheep, then if braded, it would be dread locked.

Author
justjess
Date
2010-10-01T10:50:27-06:00
ID
160254
Comment

Telling the boy to cut his hair and look uniformly has nothing at all to do with looking like whites. Many blacks get low hair cuts all the time and it has nothing to do with acting or looking european-like. The ACLU needs to move on to a worthwhile battle. The boy is concerned about his rights. What rights? The boy is still at home, doesn't have a job and is still dependent on others for practically everything. Why in the hell is he worrying about what his head looks like rather than filling his head with knowledge and learning manners? I bet his desire to wear that hair style doesn't have anything to do with his heritage or any other good purpose. He likely merely wants to be seen and to participate in the spectacle of standing out or impressing others. Make all A and B grades in school and I'll be impressed. So would many of the world's best colleges and universities. I read about a young white female today insisting on wearing her nose ring while in school. What's next wearing the thong or undergarments on the outside of the clothing or wearing undergarment only. I could go for this in college but not in high school. Just kidding. As parents, grandparent, teachers and administrators I say we return to the good old ass-whooping days. Back then everyone knew why you did what old folks and school folks said. The good teacher didn't ask the boy to process his hair or to fry, die and lay it to the side.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-10-08T16:35:09-06:00
ID
160260
Comment

Walt, take a look at this emoticon I made up: <<||>> The brackets are my hands, and the middle lines represent your neck. I call it cyberchoking. I will wring your neck if you don't behave yourself. LOL I got an update for you all: When I heard about this incident, I went to a couple of nappy groups and asked them to e-mail the principal and the superintendent to express their displeasure about the decision. One of the members posted this message: I received an email from Dr. Swinford and this student was able to participate in the Homecoming. I have to verify this, but if it's true, WOO HOO!

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2010-10-09T06:08:33-06:00
ID
160262
Comment

Great news Latasha!!! I hope it's true! Thanks for posting!

Author
hsmith
Date
2010-10-09T21:03:04-06:00
ID
160264
Comment

However, I encourage nappy hair lovers to use the term "locs" instead of "dreads" when describing this style. I usually say locs as well, but I sometimes says dreads because sometimes the person I am talking to does not understand what I'm talking about. That's sort of how I explained my hair to my mom. She still calls them "them dreadlock thangs."

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2010-10-10T20:10:34-06:00
ID
160266
Comment

I couldn't find where that comment was....obviously I need to come back when I have more time....but just off Latasha's response, I can say... I call this hair choice locks, dreads, and dread locks because that's what they are. I'm not going to get into a dramatic turn of interest from whether this guy should be able to wear his hair as he chooses and the proper word for the hair choice. SMH!!!!

Author
Queen601
Date
2010-10-11T08:00:38-06:00
ID
160267
Comment

@Queen, How can you justify that the principle being an African American is irrelevant??? You are quick to spout off at the mouth as if some white priciple is picking on this kid because of his skin color, but you were wrong. Many schools do have dress codes in place regarding the length of black and white males hair. I don't agree with it, but it's not a racial issue.

Author
js1976
Date
2010-10-11T09:29:13-06:00
ID
160294
Comment

Y'all can call them what you like. I say they're the sign for recognizing the dope man or woman. How about calling them dope-locks. LW, I will turn you in if you cyberthreaten me again. Donna is looking on! Actually, I don't have a problem with the boy's hair. Some of us can take either side of an argument and create emotion, uproar, anger and conversation.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-10-12T17:26:24-06:00
ID
160364
Comment

We are able to now move from the hair of a Home-Coming escort to the PINK CLEATS worn by the Kicker from a Rankin County Public School. This kid was kicked off the team and according to the news reports, this is his senior year and the coach has given him "Hell Harry." Can anyone say "BREAST CANCER AWARENESS" and leave these kids the hell alone?

Author
justjess
Date
2010-10-15T10:52:47-06:00
ID
160399
Comment

"There's no policy in the handbook. There's no policy about hair, the only thing is about rollers and picks," Mason said. And that is KEY to realizing why the principal or the school never had grounds to prohibit Tammie's son from participating in HC.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2010-10-17T07:58:13-06:00

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