black south african schoolgirls are protesting their right to wear natural hair

Girls as young as 13 have been forced to straighten or cut their natural afros, sparking protests and a petition that has gathered nearly 20,000 signatures.

by Hannah Ongley
29 August 2016, 5:39pm

Image via witter

Powerful images of young black women in South Africa went viral over the weekend, as students at Pretoria High School for Girls peacefully protested their school's racist hair policies. Girls as young as 13 raised fists and signs in response to the affluent (and formerly whites-only) institution's code of conduct, which unfairly discriminates against black students. While afros are not specifically mentioned in the code, multiple girls report being sent home for wearing afros or cornrows, while one girl apparently had her suspension upheld on the grounds that her natural hair was "uncontrollable." A Facebook post by the girl's aunt asserts that the teenager was originally threatened with suspension after giving a speech in class about employment and the ills of apartheid. 

Many people have pointed out on Twitter — where #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh has been trending since Sunday — that the issue is bigger than hair. Black women's aesthetics have been policed harshly in the African country, where apartheid rule ended in 1994. A petition calling for revision to the code of conduct and repercussions for teachers implementing racist policies has gained nearly 20,000 signatures, and emphasizes that this is only the latest example of the nation's black population being forced to comply with Eurocentric beauty rules. "It is unacceptable that in a country in which Black people are a demographic majority, we still today continue to be expected to pander to whiteness and to have it enforced through school policy," the petition reads. "Black children should be allowed to just be children, without being burdened with having to assert their humanity."


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Twitter

South Africa
Natural Hair