op-ed column written by School of Communications faculty member
Frances Ward-Johnson appeared in the Aug. 29 edition of the Fayetteville
Hair," the column focuses on a recent controversy in the Cumberland
County School system in which a new appearance policy bans athletes
from wearing dreadlocks, cornrows and long hair. After some parents
said the policy unfairly targets African Americans, the Cumberland
County school superintendent reversed the policy to let individual
schools decide their own hair rules.
Ward-Johnson, a new groundswell of protest against hairstyles worn
primarily by Africans Americans is prevalent and some cases are
ending up in court. Often the plaintiffs are protesting workplace
grooming policies, school bans and prison restraints, she points
over African American hair styles is not just idle chit-chat in
Cumberland County beauty parlors these days," she writes. "It
has become the subject of numerous legal cases, newspaper and magazine
articles and law publications across the country,"
points out that ethnic hairstyles are not just a trend. "Many blacks
- women and men alike - have stopped relaxing or chemically straightening
their hair to conform to European-American standards and have taken
'the natural' a step further than a close-cropped haircut."
A former newspaper
reporter and public relations manager, Ward-Johnson has researched
the subject of hair censorship extensively and has presented on
the subject to local, national and international audiences.
"For some blacks,
the repression of natural hairstyles dates back to slavery, when
many black women covered their hair with bandanas and kerchiefs
due to the negative references to their hair by slaveholders," she
writes. "Additionally, negative comments about African American
hair have permeated advertising, television and other media. African
Americans - adults and teenagers - donning natural hairstyles in
today's culture are often displaying cultural pride for their African
concludes: "It's time for school officials as well as corporate
employers to focus less on perceptions of uneasiness and negative
stereotypes associated with the physical intrusion of these natural
hairstyles and more on their cultural and social importance."
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