Ortiz: Educational institutions uphold racist beauty standards

Kenia Ortiz

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Black beauty is not celebrated or given recognition in our society due to oppressive Eurocentric beauty standards. On Feb. 10, the United Women of Color at Colorado State University held a hair show to celebrate Black beauty.

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Black women have been discriminated against for wearing their hair natural or wearing their hair in protective styles. They are told that their hair is unprofessional and distracting. The hair show dedicated an entire round to “professional styles” to help change the perception that Black people’s natural hair is not as suitable in workplaces and institutions as other ethnicities. 

 The CSU community needs to work harder at calling out acts of prejudice towards Black women and also check themselves on their prejudice. This kind of discrimination is felt by many Black women not only in schools and colleges, but in the professional corporate world as well. 

“As a Black woman, especially growing up, I had a hard time accepting my hair for what it is,” Joycey Saintjour, UWC vice president said. “I am constantly faced with negative comments and stereotypes about how my hair is ‘nappy, untamable and ghetto.'”

According to writer and author Eleanor Abraham, in the 1700s in Louisiana, women of color were forced to cover their hair so it would stop attracting the attention of white men. European beauty standards regarded Black hair as less beautiful and therefore, Black women began straightening and using harsh chemicals on their hair to fit the beauty standard set on them.

“Anything black women do is political, And it doesn’t end with our hair. That’s just usually where it begins to play.”

-Ayanna Pressley

Two 16-year-old girls, Mya and Deanna Cook, were pulled out of class in Boston and given infractions for violating dress code because their hair was distracting. When Mya and Deanna refused to take out their braids and their parents refused to “fix” their daughters’ hair, Mya and Deanna were pulled out of their extracurricular activities, impeded from prom and threatened with suspension.

According to their mother Colleen Cook, the school has also pulled other Black girls out of class, asked if they had hair extensions and were given detention if they did. A student who was wearing her hair naturally was also pulled out of class and told to chemically straighten her hair before she came back to school the next day.

These forms of discrimination can be considered racist, especially if they keep Black girls from the same education opportunities. 

Discrimination towards natural hair and protective styles is also present in the U.S. military. According to freelance journalist Siraad Dirshe, in 2017 the United States Army revised its grooming and appearance regulations, removing its ban on dreadlocks and allowing Black women to wear their hair naturally. 

Ayanna Pressley, member of the United States House of Representatives, wore her hair in braids for the first time three years ago. For her to wear braids was a sign of pride and recognition. This resonated with a lot of Black women because Pressley broke away from expectations on how Black women should wear their hair.

“Anything Black women do is political,” Pressley said. “And it doesn’t end with our hair. That’s just usually where it begins to play.”

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Yes it will be uncomfortable when discussing how our country’s beauty standards are anti-Black, but it is important to sit in that discomfort and grow from it.

Do not sit on the sidelines and watch as a Black woman, including the Black women in our community, are old they are not beautiful because they do not fit the European beauty standard. That standard was placed to oppress them and define beauty by not including them. 

Kenia Ortiz can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @Kenia_Ortiz_