2 Black Hairstyles, 2 Very Different Reactions

New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio and family (Mario Tama/Getty Images); Tiana Parker (screenshot from YouTube)
New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio and family (Mario Tama/Getty Images); Tiana Parker (screenshot from YouTube)

Michaela Angela Davis, in a piece at CNN, lays out the very distinct receptions that two African-American hairstyles — the Afro of Dante de Blasio, the son of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio; and the dreadlocks of Tiana Parker, a little girl in Tulsa, Okla. — received in recent weeks, from the media as well as local communities.

To some black voters, Dante's afro reflected that this boy and by association his father, respected the civil rights struggle, since the afro is considered an icon for black pride and progress. In other words — you can trust de Blasio to be sensitive to issues of race that affect New York City, most notably the controversial stop-and-frisk policy. And to white voters and others, Dante's afro was just cool.

But while Dante's afro is being celebrated, in a different part of America last week a little girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was reprimanded because her hairstyle violated the policy of her charter school.

Tiana Parker, a pretty, sweet, shy 7-year-old Midwest girl with a big bow over her dreadlocks was criticized because at the Deborah Brown Community School where she is a student, "hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, Mohawks and other faddish styles" were not permitted. …

Tiana's experience, for many, is a symbol that ignorance and bias still pervades American life. The fact that in her natural state, her hair was viewed as rebellious, signals that there is a lot of misperception that we must correct. One way to fix this is for mainstream media to champion more diverse images of black beauty.

Black hair is a repository for America's painful past and promising future. The endless style possibilities of black hair represent America's creative genius, yet its "otherness" is a constant reminder of unresolved inequalities and subtle prejudices.


Read Michaela Angela Davis' entire piece at CNN. 

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