As 15-year-old Ashanti Scott knows, hair can say so much about how people see themselves.
A cheerleader at Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky, Ashanti proudly wears her hair in its natural, tightly curled state. So she was stunned just days before school began when she saw her school’s new dress code policy about “hair rules.”
“I noticed that as you kept reading they added more hairstyles that were natural and mostly worn by black people,” she said. “I’ve worn those hairstyles so I definitely felt targeted, and I felt like other black students like myself were targeted, as a whole.”
She took the new policy as a personal attack, Ashanti said, “on me, and who I am and my culture, my upbringing.”
Scott and her mother, Attica Scott, soon became part of a hot national debate across the country about perceptions involving natural hair.
What offended the Scotts was the line in the new policy banning dreadlocks, twists, Afros longer than two inches and cornrows, which the policy misspelled as “cornrolls.”
Attica Scott, an outspoken and newly elected Kentucky state legislator, immediately called her daughter’s school, but it was after-hours so she turned to social media, tweeting this:
Her tweet went viral within minutes and she got thousands of responses, many from parents who posted photos of their own children with hairdos that would violate Butler’s policy.
“I currently have an Afro,” news anchor Renee Murphy of ABC Louisville affiliate WHAS-TV said. “I thought about coming to work several times with it out, but always decided against it: ‘Would it be too much.’ But really, what is too much?”
That question is at the center of a growing conversation about self-identity with more and more choosing to embrace their God-given hair.
“The natural hair movement is more than hair,” said Nikki Walton, author of “Better Than Good Hair” and a blogger on natural hair. “It is a lifestyle. It is learning to be comfortable in the skin that you are in.”
Walton recalls growing up feeling that straight hair was more acceptable than curly or kinky hair.
“Everything that I saw growing up – magazines, television, movies, people on the street, like people on the runway — all you saw was straight hair, long straight hair,” she said. “Even a woman that looked like me had long flowing straight hair. And I know that whenever my hair got wet, it didn’t look like that.”
But today, natural hair has gone mainstream, from “Sesame Street” to celebrities rocking their natural hair on magazine covers and on the red carpet.
Model and artist Benny Harlem and his 6-year-old daughter Jaxyn have become a social media sensation, celebrating their “crowns,” as Harlem calls them.
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SOURCE: ABC News, Deborah Roberts, Ignacio Torres and Jasmine Brown