Emma Dabiri is an Irish model and a sociology researcher. She calls attention to the ways in which schools make children feel shameful of their hair. So she started a petition to try and remedy this issue.
She states on her Instagram: “I can’t believe it’s 2020 and we are actually campaigning to protect our children from being excluded from their schools for having Afro hair!”
Sign this petition to help make the change that Emma is advocating for:
Despite the positive movement starting in 2010 towards appreciating natural hair, schools undermine and try to reverse this movement. They are making children feel ashamed of their natural hair texture, trying to enforce Eurocentric hair norms.
Introduction to Emma Dabiri
Emma Dabiri has been no stranger to racial discrimination in the past. She notes on growing up in Dublin: “I had nobody to talk to about this stuff because I just didn’t know any other Black people.”
“It does weird things to you- being Black in an entirely white environment”, she says in another interview.
If you’d like to hear a more full account of Emma’s experience, watch this video below:
She recently published her new book Don’t Touch My Hair. It positions Black hair styling culture as an allegory for oppression and liberation.
Hair Should Not be Uniformed
Metro published an article in honour of Emma Dabiri’s movement. In it, they describe the reasons behind Emma’s movement. As well as why institutions should never be permitted to use hair as a reason to send children of any age home from school.
Emma states that law should protect the hair of Black children. It’s imperative to stop the “epidemic of school exclusions”. Particularly evident in schools with uniforms, racial discrimination still rears its ugly head in 2020. This discrimination comes in the following form:
Institutional authorities expect Black students to tie back or subdue their hair. Many students have been sent home for no reason other than having natural hair.
Sent Home for Natural Hair
Ruby Williams, a student in east London, was a victim of this institutional discrimination. She shares, “I was 14 years old when I was first approached and told that my hair was too big.”
Her school would send Ruby home for her natural hair. The Urswick School in east London pushed her to feel anxious to even go to school. The school told her that her hair was distracting to other students. And they also argued that it was blocking the whiteboard.
Ruby shares, “Everyone that I see who has hair like mine has it in a weave or under a wig. And nobody actually shows it. So my hair can’t be normal. And it can’t be as nice as other people’s hair.”
Eventually, Ruby’s family took legal action against their school. They won and gained £8,500 for their case.
Emma Dabiri’s new book Don’t Touch My Hair touches on some of these issues. It also goes into the past of Black hairstyling.
Her story is similar to Ruby’s in that she says the following:
“Growing up, I desperately wanted [my hair] to look anything other than the way it did,” she shares in an interview, “My desire to have my hair look [European]- I couldn’t reconcile it with my political beliefs.”
Emma’s Inspiration for the Book
“I was really interested in how hair texture worked as a feature of racialisation. People tend to focus on the complexion. But I was like ‘no, hair is really significant as well’. So I did a lot of research on how different hair textures racially align people.”
“The proximity to whiteness isn’t gauged just by the skin tone. It’s gauged really by the hair and the features as well […]. The distinguishing of people as racially different is very much determined by hair texture.”
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