Students from John Muir High School in Pasadena, California exercised their rights to a protest against a new district-wide policy that bans du-rags from being worn in school. The students feel that this ban enforces the stereotype that do-rags are worn by drug dealers, and gang members. This kind of policy criminalizes a community of people who are already targeted based on the color of their skin. It has been said that jails and prisons are built based on the literacy rates from inner city schools. That said, kids of color are already expected to be problematic and targeting them because of a do-rag puts them further under the microscope.
In a peaceful protest, students argued that du-rags are simply a tool in styling their hair and contributes to their cultural identities as black men. “They’re trying to take away who we are — our culture,” said student Felicia Davis to the Pasadena Star-News. “It is them trying to cleanse our ethnic beauty.”
In general, the Pasadena School District proposed a dress code that prohibits “hats, caps and other head coverings” from being worn indoors. The issue is that women are allowed to cover their heads without being subject to punishment. Although the dress code doesn’t call the hair accessory by name, they do want to restrict, “apparel that reasonably could be determined to threaten the health and safety of the school environment if it were worn or displayed on a school campus.” Based on that, school administrators felt that do-rags would be harmful.
Thankfully the principal Lawton Gray is open to having an ongoing dialogue with the Black Student Union about the ban. While nothing has been set in stone, he feels that the larger discussions around criminalizing black men in not something that can happen in one meeting. It is encouraging to see young students take a stand for what they believe in, even if it is about something as simple as a du-rag.
What do you think? Is the Pasadena School District wrong for proposing this ban?