I woke up this morning and I cannot say that I am shocked by the news that Texas teen Deandre Arnold, as the policy stands, cannot walk at his graduation at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, due to the length of his locs. This controversial decision by Barbers Hill ISD school board unfolds on Martin Luther King Jr. day no less!
Dr. King, a man who walked for students who could not and were not allowed, as the policy stood then, to go to school because of the color of their skin; drink at the same fountain or use the same bathroom; or do the same things children of a different color were allowed to do regardless of how smart they were.
Deandre Arnold earned his degree. He went to school for the required amount of years and did the required amount of work. The school is saying that does not matter. What matters is the way you look and the length of your hair. It is not what is inside your head or the work you did to get to where you are now, no, it is about what is on your head.
You, Deandre Arnold, cannot walk at your graduation, the graduation you earned, the graduation you worked hard for, because you do not look the way the school deems it necessary for people to be successful. To be successful you need to confine yourself to society’s expectations. You cannot do that the way you look now based on what the school policy is.
The superintendent Greg Poole says “Our policy limits the length. It’s been that way for 30 years.” Slavery was “that way” for hundreds of years. Should we go back? Should children be segregated into separate schools based off the way they look because it had been “that way” for so long? Can policies change?
It is 2020 and discrimination is still alive. Discrimination against the color of your skin, the way you style your hair, the way you look. The school does not see him as worthy to walk at his graduation because of the length of his hair. Not long ago the same sentence could have said the school does not see him as worthy to walk at his graduation because of the color of his skin. There is so much wrong in what the school is saying and the message the school is sending out. But the damage is done.
They can change the policy but they cannot change the message that has been sent out. There is still work to be done and there are still people who are blind to the discrimination and wrongful acts against people of color.
To say it is not about the color of the skin but the length of the hair is simply a diversion or cover. Do not forget it is still the same person that is being targeted regardless if the focus is on the skin, the hair, the eyes, the clothes, the language, it does not matter. The person does not change simply the focus. Do not ignore what this school has done nor minimize the tragic consequences that this type of behavior has done to our society.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King Jr.