During Sunday service the Faith Christian Academy announced that Vanessa VanDyke would be able to keep her hair as it is and hoped that they could put the situation behind them.
This small victory means greater victories later on. It means that little girls like Tiana Parker won’t have to leave school because their school dress code deems black hair a distraction and disrespectful.
One small victory.
I had envisioned launching this blog with an army of writers and a custom site. But things… don’t always go according to plan.
12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke. (Photo courtesy of WKMG)
This is Vanessa VanDyke, she is 12 years old and like any 12 year old she is worried about her family, her friends and her grades. One thing she didn’t think she would need to worry about was her hair. Since the story broke, it has been sensationalized and regurgitated, but here are the facts.
There is nothing special about the hair, in fact in this state it is as about as natural as you can get.
And yet, she is being threatened with expulsion, because as the victim of bullying she is serving as a distraction. That’s right, Vanessa is the victim in this situation.
"There have been bullies in the school," Sabrina Kent, Vanessa’s mother, said. "There have been people teasing her about her hair and it seems to me that they’re blaming her."
Faith Christian Academy has a dress code and rules against how students can wear their hair. The student handbook says hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction.
"A distraction to one person is not a distraction to another," Kent said. "You can get a kid come in with pimples on his face. Are you going to call that a distraction?"
"I’m depressed about leaving my friends and people that I’ve known for a while," Vanessa said. " I would rather have that then the principals and administrators picking on me and saying that I should change my hair."
Vanessa isn’t being threatened with suspension, or any other kind of punishment that would keep her in the school system. She was threatened by a means through which the system uses to punish its worse offenders. Expulsions are a legal process that can lead to greater difficulties, especially on the child and their families. Instead of tackling the prejudiced bullying, the school decided that it would be far easier to attempt to police the agency of one 12 year old. This is indicative of a system that will follow Vanessa for the rest of her life. A system that encourages the criminalization and fetishzation of black bodies.
Since the story broke the parents had released a statement, and the school has backed down from expulsion, it is however still pushing for Vanessa to change her hair: http://www.clickorlando.com/news/family-in-orlando-private-school-hair-controversy-releases-statement/-/1637132/23189564/-/ynsqpx/-/index.html
I want to be clear that it is not her hair that is causing the controversy. Vanessa has beautiful hair. The controversy is stemming from a long history of controlling black bodies.
There is nothing special that Vanessa has done with her hair, she’s not wearing it that way to be political, or to incite any of the anger that is being aimed in her direction, Vanessa is simply existing, that she chooses to exist within her own body is what is seen as a threat. And it has unfortunately, resulted in bullying and a individuals in a position of authority, attempting to silence her agency.
Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, and the coded language, this couldn’t possibly be about hair that good.
If you’d like to tell the school how you feel about the issue, a petition has started on change.org sign it and tell the Faith Christian Academy how good Vanessa’s hair is: http://www.change.org/petitions/faith-christian-academy-confront-guilty-students-for-bullying-not-fault-victims-for-wearing-their-hair-in-its-natural-state