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Straight hair rule is culturally insensitive (Read 6738 times)
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Life is like licking honey
from a thorn.

Posts: 674
East Nottingham, PA
Gender: female
Straight hair rule is culturally insensitive
Jul 6th, 2003 at 9:43pm
Straight hair rule is culturally insensitive

I was beside myself after reading the article, "Recital: Dance school rule has mom fuming," in Friday's Standard- Times.

When I read the article, I became so infuriated and each time (at least five) I read the article I would toss the paper on the floor in disbelief. How, I asked myself, could anyone be so insensitive to that sweet, innocent, adorable little child of color. What part doesn't Amy Fernandes and her entourage get about being culturally sensitive to children who are culturally different and are not your typical status-quo straight-haired little ballerina.

Good for Marie Diaw and good for those folks who went out and picketed that dance school. If I was here at the time, I would have joined the march against the Backstage Dance Academy, which should probably be renamed the Back of the Bus Dance School.

Amy Fernandes and the mother who said she didn't see anything wrong with the policy should be ashamed of themselves.

How could such a policy exist that states that a child has to have the hair smooth back with a part and a bun in the back without excluding some children? The answer may be clearer than we think, and the application process may just be part of the elimination process. Could this be the perfect way to say that they don't want children with nappy hair at their dance school?

Don't get me wrong, though, I understand that they do have children of color enrolled but I bet those children either have straight hair or have their hair straightened. And anyone who knows or is culturally sensitive knows that you shouldn't alter a child's hair with anything (chemicals or even hot comb and hot curling iron) until the child is much older. So who's the boss?

I say to the dance instructor and the others who don't "get it," when you tell a child that they have to look like the rest of "Amy's" kids, you force children to think that their own hair, heritage and identity is not acceptable.

Children, even if they don't really know what's going on, know what's really going on and a situation like this can ultimately affect a child's self- esteem. What you're telling these beautiful children is if their hair can't grow as long as the other children's hair and in order for that child to "fit in," they need to wig it, extend it or whatever it takes so long as they look like the rest.

Let me ask you one question. What if a child is suffering from cancer or some other disease that prevents her hair from growing, what rule would you put in place or what exceptions would you make on that child's behalf? Ms. Fernandes, you need to rethink your policy and become more politically correct and culturally sensitive, especially for the sake of the children. In my soon-to-be- published book entitled, "Making Cultural Connections: Hair and Skin Care for Children of African Decent," I write about these types of situations and the damage that someone can do to a child through insensitivity about differences.

Be brave, Ms. Fernandes, and make the necessary changes so that all children will feel that they are special and acceptable even at your school.
New Bedford

This story appeared on Page A14 of The Standard-Times on July 1, 2003.
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Susan Maxwell Schmidt
LongLocks HairSticks Boutique
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Dance like nobody's watching!

Posts: 6
Gender: female
Re: Straight hair rule is culturally insensitive
Reply #1 - Aug 11th, 2004 at 11:14pm
It starts in childhood at places like this dance school and continues into adulthood. Kinky hair is typically not considered 'professional' looking. Some companies are coming around (thank goodness), but we still have a long way to go. Thanks for posting this article.
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Ummm...I got nuthin'.
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yogalates: mind, body,
and spirit

Posts: 226
Gender: female
Re: Straight hair rule is culturally insensitive
Reply #2 - Oct 4th, 2008 at 1:06pm
When I was in dance school, I took ballet. I have naturally curly hair and for the recital we had to wear our hair back, but I was never told I had to have it straight. It was pulled back one year in a bun. The next year I had it in a  french braid. I am so glad my dance teacher was not prejudice when it came to hair type.

I think with the straight-haired look for ballet it has always been that way. You have to look "professional". But curly hair can look professional as well so I agree she should re-examine her policy.

I am glad you are writing a book. That is amazing.
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