No Place for Cornrows...


Cornrows Illegal at London College
by Qalil.com

St. Gregory's Catholic Science College has dominated cyberspace this morning coming under fire from the High Court in London for its discriminatory practices regarding the hairstyle of one young black boy who was denied admission.

More often than their contemporaries of other races, black children are denied education in some colleges for whatever reason can be quickly used within the safety of school regulations, requirements and bylaws. This one, however was particularly interesting because the reason why 13 year old "SG" was refused a place, was because he wore cornrows.

In an interview on the BBC, Rob Berkley states that the school did not properly understand what it truly means to have a diverse student body if the children are supposed to all look a certain way.

This particular story echoes what has become the continuing discussion in black circles about what is acceptable professional clothing/dress and what is considered to be beautiful. In West Africa, the agbada is the choice of many professionals and they look elegant. In Somalia men would wear macawiis, a cloth wrapped around the waist that looks elegant. In Arab countries galabiya is the choice of professional men. Indians wear Saris and Chinese wear the hanfu quite successfully. The term professional in the Western World, however, seeks to exclude what other people would call professional and use the term ethnic. As though ethnic wear or ethnic looks somehow denote something less than professional.

At Qalil.com, we would like to think that this issue is more than just about hair and what people of African Descent must do in order to make themselves acceptable in certain communities.

If the school's ban was a statement that said all boys must have short hair, then everyone must be included and an exact measurement of what long and short is, must be given. If boys are allowed to wear their hair long it means that boys of African descent would have to wear protective styles or else walk around with ridiculously large Afros. If boys must have short hair, then what about the girls? Is that discriminatory or sexist in any way? What about girls of African descent who have long hair, are they allowed to have cornrows?

It is not so much about culture, but convenience. It is about understanding (for real) what each person of whatever race, must do because of their physical characteristics (more sun for people with darker skin, more sun protection for people with light skin). If we are to truly consider ourselves to be diverse, then, like Mr. Berkely said, we have to allow that each child will come looking different (within the generally understood tenets of decency).

Weigh in!

38 Weigh in!:
Anonymous said...

Its sad that no matter how much we have grown, society still discriminates against ethnic features when it comes to professionalism.

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Anonymous said...

Well, unfortunately I just had this conversation not too long ago. In the business world (some places) cornrows are frowned upon. Ironically b/c they are viewed as "too ethnic".

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever seen cornrows on a man look professional? Suit, tie and and the appropiate shoe? I will be honest. I never have.

LJ

Anonymous said...

My apologies, appropriate.

DrChuck24 said...

To me, cornrows and dreds fall under the same bracket and I have seem professional men with dreds in their hair. I want to say that I have seen less dudes with braids in their hair than cornrows...but I have seen them.

www.youtube.com/TinoM24

Anonymous said...

That's sad. He is trying to get an education but is denied because of his hairstyle! I bet they wouldn't let him wear a fro either? So that probably leaves him cutting off his hair, and for a black woman probably straightening hers. Why are styles that are so easy (and beautiful) for natural black hair always against codes and what not?! Always locs, cornrows and sometimes even twists...sad

Anonymous said...

Other posters have mentioned men in the professional arena, but that doesn't apply here. The article is talking about a 13 year old BOY. Not a grown man in the corporate world. I have never understood how one's hairstyle affects your ability to learn, nor why it matters. If all boys have to have short hair then fine. It means that braids, ponytails, and shoulder length emo cuts aren't allowed either. It similar to a lot of schools in West Africa where long hair is not allowed, and even little girls have to keep their hair shaved down. Saying that you can't wear a certain style because it innately goes against the rules that are in place is different from saying that a particular style is too ethnic or unprofessional.

Qalil.com said...

I have seen cornrows and dreadlocks on men wearing suits. They look professional. It is not about the way you wear your hair. It is about the way you carry yourself I would think!

The last comment is right on though. This is a 13 year old boy. And the main thing is, are the restrictions extended to ALL boys so that none of them can have long hair? Is it extended to girls as well, or is it because it is culturally acceptable for girls to have long hair, in which case we are back to a discussion of culture...

it's definitely a confusing issue!

Anonymous said...

If you saw a white person with cornrows wearing a suit would they not look ridiculous? Cornrows are not an appropriate style..ever. They are not 'culture', they are not cute (no matter how many zizags you make) and they are not acceptable. While it is sad that the young boy had to face such rejection at a young age it is a valuable lesson. You have to look presentable and no one with cornrows has ever looked presentable ever. It's just like if I had relaxed hair and decided to put it up in some basketweaved french roll with rhinestones and barrell curls and spikes coming out of it. That's not professional and yet plenty of black people do it. Does that make it culture? No, it's a mess.

Anonymous said...

I wish we fought as hard and loud for the actual educational process for our kids as we do the right for them to wear cornrows, baggy pants,etc.

I'll simply leact it at that.

Have a nice weekend ladies!!

Anonymous said...

meant to say "leave" instead of leact.

Tracey Joy said...

my natural hair has caused much conversation among employers and friends. I was denied a job treated so unmercifully horrid by this interviewer I almost cried. I had many conversations over the phone with this woman and she sounded genuinely interested in me. She basically gave me the job sight unseen. We just needed to meet face to face, do the paper work and that was it. I had my hair with small flat twist in the front to the center of my head and small two strand twist in the back. Had on my suit, I was neat and clean. When I walked in she looked at me and said "what can I do for you? very sharp and rude. I told her who I was. She said "YOU are Tracey!?" The shock and dismay on her face was unmistakable. She refused to do the interview with me, refused to even accept my hand shake and resume. That taught me a lesson...going on an interview press your hair out and look they way people want you to look. That bothered me so I started working form home where I'm free to be me. This is a sad event for this child to go through. It won't be accepted just like I wasn't accepted. You'll have to conform in certain situations, sometimes it's not even worth the battle to try to keep what should rightly be your choice. In private w/family and friends be free to be you. That is sad and sick and it breaks my heart. I just don't know how to fix it. Society in large won't accepted our natural GOD given hair, I can't change that attitude toward it. I'll modify it to keep the peace. This is a school and if their is a certain standard/dress code etc then it should be followed. The poor child is going to have to conform if he wants to stay at this school. It's so SAD but it's the nature of the beast. Only GOD at this point can tell people to leave us and our hair alone. I doubt many of them will even listen.

Anonymous said...

@anon 7:15pm your comment just reeks of pure ignorance. Among girls/women in West Africa cornrows are seen as neat and professional even more than loose straight hair. In Nigerian elementary/high schools most girls are forbidden to wear their hair loose they either wear it in cornrows braids or even threaded or shave it off. The fact that you had to compare the boy to a white person just to prove your point shows how whitewashed you are. The boy is black not white meaning different cultures and yes cornrows is a cultural thing.

Anonymous said...

@anon 7:15 p.m. clearly you have never seen Susan Taylor formerly of Essence. She is the epitomy of style and class wearing cornrows.

When last I was in Ghana I did not see any men with braided hair, just neat afros. Men wearing cornrows has Western origins. There must be standards; wear the cornrows on the weekends and maintain an afro during the week. What's next allowing the sagging of pants?

Anonymous said...

I second @anon 10.54 pm. The comment @anon 7.15pm is indeed ignorant. Cornrows originated from African culture, it's one of the best ways to keep the hair neat and ''out of the way" especially if it's longer. The fact that some people find them unacceptable is testament to the impact that slavery and colonialism has had on black people. The colonial masters managed to convince people that certain aspects of their culture were backward and unacceptable. That's why today people will fry and lye their hair into submission or spend $$$ to attach fake hair that previously belonged to an Indian woman.

In this particular case, I don't think the boy wearing cornrows was reason enough to deny him a place at the school. Going by current societal norms, it would be a lot harder for a grown man to try and pull the same off. For women, I consider cornrows to be a professional style like any other. Despite the prevalence of weaves and relaxed hair, many women in Africa wear them to the office and other social functions. The disdain for the style in North America might be because it's associated with hiphop/rap.

Anonymous said...

I've clearly seen Susan Taylor and her hairline that starts in the middle of her head due to her 'elegant' cornrows. @anon 11:23, 10:54 and 7:41, you are not deep. No one is impressed that you typed 'cornrows' into wikipedia before you commented. There are plenty of things that are done in Africa that are not acceptable. I go to a church that is predominatly African. None of them wear cornrows. The men have short haircuts and the women only have cornrows if they have weaves. They would probably have a fit if they saw cornrows on an adult. It's considered low class and poor. Cornrows are not neat. They are fuzzy after the first day and that is not professional. Not every hairstyle is for the workplace. Period. Also, not all natural hairstyles look nice just like not all straight styles look nice.

Anonymous said...

@anon 1:50am Do you think that Africans don't read this blog? I'm African leaving in Africa and just could not stand your ignorance. My comment was based on my culture and experience not wikipedia. Your second statement just proves that you truly are ignorant and whitewashed. This is my last response as it is pointless trying to change the way people are.

anon 10:54PM

Anonymous said...

*living in Africa* oops!

Anonymous said...

It's a BOY with cornrows. Chances are his hair is long. Why does a boy have cornrows or long hair anyway? Boys in school should look neat and tidy with short hair. As an African, I know that cornrows on a male would have come under fire.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for the boy but here in england i do not think that black children are the mostly denied entry to schools/colleges more than other races. when i was younger i got into a catholic school straight away but my white freind didnt because she wasnt practicing catholic/christain, so her parents started to go to the schools church on sundays and she eventually got into the schools.I also know of many christain/muslims and sikhs people who have been denied entry to schools because they where their religous bracelets and clothing.

Pat, London said...

i live in England where this happened. Cornrows are the style the majority of black boys in this country wear to school. It is acceptable, hence the furore over this boy being denied that. If a white boy had long hair does he have to tie it back to look neat. Probably not. However, if this black boy had come to school in a full blown afro, what would they have said. He probably thought the best or neatest or easiest style to maintain for a young active boy was cornrows. To then be told thats its unacceptable is almost equal to saying if you want to fit in here you need to leave your 'african' at home. Which is downright ignorant and also a bad message to send to such a young boy. As he grows up, he is going to think that the european standards of beauty are all thats acceptable and would you then be surprised if later on he says he doesnt like natural hair on women. Because that is how this would have ended if he hadnt worn the case. Shame on Britain. I wear twists to work everyday and in no way shape or form does that take away from my ability to do my job properly. For the interview I was rocking a shrunken 2 strand twist and i still beat 16 other candidates for that job.
Rant over. Have a good weekend ladies

Anonymous said...

I love cornrows and would allow my son to get them, if he so desires, however I do recognize that braiding a young man's hair isn't the most socially accepted hairstyle in America. I also understand why; cornrows over the years, have been associated with gangbangers and therefore hold a negative connotation in our society. All of the things you've mentioned are accepted in their respective societies because they don't have that sort of reputation. It's also understandable that this private school would want their boys to have a more polished look, and short hair on boys of any race has been deemed appropriate. Besides, schools are meant to prepare children for the workforce, and I doubt any man could get a decent job with cornrows or dreadlocks in their hair. There are many things in our society that mark our individuality (tattoos, piercings, hair color, etc), but as we choose to engage in them we should also understand what they communicate to others and that they may hinder our chances of getting a good job. Call me a hypocrite, but I would feel very uncomfortable if my doctor was dressed in tattoos, had piercings all over, and fashioned purple foot long dreadlocks. I have tattoos and unconventional piercings, but I understand to cover them up. My stance on this whole situation is these things are ok, but be mindful of the message they may be sending.

Anonymous said...

@anon 10:54 I'm sorry i bursted your pretntious little bubble and the best retrort you can think of is to the use the word ignorant. i clearly hit a nerve which means I have a point. don't be snotty anonymous internet commenter if you can't play the game.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I've never considered cornrows to be a professional look. To me, they're a quick and easy protective style to put your hair in when you're doing a physical activity, wearing wigs/weaves, or just for fun. But this is for adults. I think children should be free to wear whatever hairstyle they want and be taught what is professional.

Nubiahbella said...

First off,

West Africa IS NOT a country and Nigeria and Ghana don't make up all West African countries.

FYI a lot group ethnics in Africa tend to prefer long hair (braided, twisted etc..) on men, it's a sign of beauty.

Secondly,

The boy's school said it couldn't have his cornrows because it was associate with the gang culture.
To me this argument it's even more appealing that his hair not being presentable.

Thirdly,

To those saying cornrows, braids etc... are not professional looking, I thought having a professional appearance meant being neat and clean.
You can have straight, curly, short hair etc.. and look shit if you don't look after your tresses.

Anonymous said...

Spot on Anon. June 18, 2011 6:35 AM! Black folks have to be mindful of the thug life/gangbanger culture associated with cornrows--a culture WE have created and glorfied. Anyone recall Snoop's "Drop it Like its Hot" video? Nuff said.

Unfortunately, there are far too many "Snoops" who can be seen shucking and jiving a la BET, "repping" their gangs, placing emphasis on material wealth, and degrading women. Is this a fair representation of Black people? Of course not. But it appears to be the PREVAILING image. So let's not act so shocked when other cultures expect from all of us, what they see in some of us.

I believe the school had the right to set standards in accordance with what they deem academic success. I don't see that as discrimination because Morehouse and Hampton (HBCUs a) have adopted similar policies. Quite frankly, we NEED to get back to standards and decorum because we live in a society where anything goes.


With all the little Black children being born into poverty, single parent homes, and joining gangs in search of father figures we lend ourselves to an argument over hairstyle? A hairstyle worn by a boy who was given the opportunity to study at an elite institution, but didn't want to conform to said school's standards in the name of maintaining a cultural practice? I pray Black folks will be more discerning of which battles are worthy of fighting.

Jena

Natural-E said...

Interview with Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair at: http://salonnaturelles.blogspot.com/
-Evelyn

victory said...

In my December 21,2010 post( www.transitiontovictory.blogspot.com), I wrote about this very same issue. It is sad that blacks still have to deal with such an issue. I am surprised to know that this type of discrimination exists in England. Such nonsense makes it difficult for our children to truly believe that black is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

@anon 1:50 a.m.

Um, sorry, Wikipedia is subjective at best. I don't rely on it as a source of information. Perhaps you might do that, but I don't have the time to sought through fact from fiction. And while Ms. Taylor's hairline may be receding, your original argument was about the neatness of cornrows, not receding hairlines.

@Nubiabella...certainly some men wear braided hair on the continent, but those are not necessarily the mainstream. That sometimes is part of a tribal association, which would go along with some form of ceremonial or tribal dress. I guarantee you that in any work environment, mens' hair would be neat afros; goes back to that colonial period. But that is clearly not the case in this scenario with this young student.

Anonymous said...

@anon 4:05 and then Susan Taylor was brought up to which I responded thus making another point. My original argument was that cornrows are a ridiculous hairstyle which is why i compared it to an elaborate updo with rhinestones and basketweaving.

Lovely_True_Red said...

Wow...wow....wow.

Oh come on the school had no idea of the it means to have a diverse student body...WHATEVER!!! It is not 1909 and we are not in the dark ages. And this London school can not say they did not know black wear their hair in said style(s). When slaves were transported through London...P(ah)lease. As well as someone in the school has been out and about and have seen blacks in the street wearing said style(s). What they thought was is was gonna stay hush hush. And their suppose to be reping God..the God I serve have no respect of persons and he's looking at hearts not hairstyles.

HELP _ME said...

I BEEN GOIN NATURAL SINCE SEPTEMBER BUT I GOT THE BIG CHOP IN ARRIL, NOW THAT I HAVE IT WHEN I GET CORNROWS IN MY HAIR IT HURTS LIKE HELL IS IT BECAUSE MY HAIR IS NAPPY?

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9:39pm. I agree that in Nigeria girls wear cornrows, I was one of those girls, but we're not talking about a girl. We're talking about a boy, boys in Nigeria don't wear their hair braided to school. So it's not exactly the best comparison. Also people this is a private, religious school, they have every right to decide their standards. As to whether it would be the same for girls, well I happen to know Catholic schools allow Black girls to wear braids in their hair so it's not a matter of discrimination against blacks.

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Anonymous said...

It has been my experience that cornrows on boys are an African American phenomenon associated with lower socioeconomic status and hip hop rather than "African" culture. (African in quotes, because we all know there is no singular culture).
I have worked at a school in Detroit where they were banned by black administrators who associated them with gangs and prison culture.
This is one of those issues that is very subjective.
I personally feel like I would not put those on my son because his life doesn't need to be any more difficult trying to navigate the world as a black boy/man. And frankly, there is nothing easier and more simple to maintain than a short cut.

Anonymous said...

One important point about school is that its a proving ground for the "real world". It helps to develop people for the future, so even though he is a boy he stills needs to learn what is and is not acceptable for a man in the world. I do not want my future banker, lawyer, doctor to walk in the room with fuzzy cornrows. I would expect that on ball players and its interesting how they have to enforce a dress code with them.

Train up a boy............

LJ

Anonymous said...

I do not know how a lot of you can say canrows are not professional. I think a lot of you - like many employers - are associating them with unprofessional and negative behaviour.
This is Britain all over and it is sad that a lot of you seem to agree with this. What does the child’s hairstyle got to do with his education?
If canrows are untidy, then surely the gel spiked up hair look has to go too?
This is ridiculous! As a community it is like we just accept and agree what other people tell us what we must do to ourselves to be approved by them. Look how young this is getting put into place. I do not see us making a load of hurdles for other people to jump over but we make sure we clear their hurdles before any questions (if there even is any) are asked. It really saddens me.

Anonymous said...

To everyone saying cornrows are not professional. Get out of the cave you are living in. Because you are just racist.
In my country in S.America the minister of Justice and Police has dreadlocs. So don't whine about a man in a suit not looking professional with any such hairstyle.

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