Meet Vanessa VanDyke, a twelve-year-old academic superstar at Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, FL. Vanessa is a member of the National Junior Honor Society, and she also enjoys wearing her hair naturally. She explains that her hairstyle “says that [she’s] unique. It’s puffy and [she likes] it that way.”
Unfortunately, much of modern society still insists upon conforming to Western beauty ideals, and natural African-American hair is misunderstood and disturbingly deemed “messy” or “unprofessional” both in schools and in workplaces. Some of Vanessa’s peers bully her for her choice to wear her hair naturally, but when she went to the school’s administration for help, she was scolded. The school officials told her her hair was unacceptable: “They say…you should make it straight, because it’s too puffy,” she explains. Apparently natural hair doesn’t adhere to the school’s dress code.
Now, Vanessa and her family report that the school has threatened to expel their star student if she does not change her hair within one week. The school has denied these claims, stating that she will not be expelled but confirming that she has been asked to change her hair. While the school isn’t asking that she use product or cut her hair, they are requesting that she style it so as to make it less of a “distraction” to other students. What does that even mean?!
Vanessa and her mother are standing firm in their belief that natural hair should be accepted and celebrated, and Vanessa explains that she would rather leave the school and her friends than be singled out and bullied by school officials. Her mother explains, “I’m going to fight for my daughter. If she wants her hair like that, she will keep her hair like that. There are people out there who may think that natural hair is not appropriate. She is beautiful the way she is.”
The Twitter community has also leapt to the defense of the young lady, sharing personal stories of discrimination with the hashtag #livingwhilenatural. The national response has been encouraging; let’s hope schools and workplaces wake up and realize that natural hair is 100% appropriate!
Images via Buzzfeed