It seems that braids, dreadlocks, twists, and other traditionally black hairstyles have been in a controversial spotlight constantly as of late — whether they’re being banned at schools and workplaces across the country or appropriated by those who, critics say, have no right to claim them. And the latest situation, happening this week in North Yorkshire, England, encompasses it all.
The issue is with Chenise Benson, 13, who was sent home from classes at the George Pindar School on Oct. 20 for allegedly breaking the dress code with her new extensions: bright white, waist-length braids (incorrectly referred to as “dreadlocks” by U.K. media). She got the Beyoncé-inspired box braids for her birthday over a recent school break, according to her father, Darren Benson, who tells SWNS that he paid $170 for the braids, which “will stay in her hair for a year so it won’t be coming out.”
“One of her friends at the school, who has Jamaican heritage, has the same style of haircut but with a red stripe in it rather than white, and she has been allowed to remain,” Benson noted, inferring a double standard was at play for his daughter, who is white. He added, “I’ve read the policy regarding haircuts, and I can’t see what rule she has broken.”
The policy posted to the school’s website says the following: “Please note we do not allow extreme, unnatural hairstyles or coloring. Any hair accessories should be of a practical nature and should not be decorative. If you are in doubt please contact your child’s Tutor at the School. … Please be aware that what is and is not acceptable will be decided by the School in line with this Policy and the School’s decision is final. Please note that in sending your child to George Pindar School that you are
agreeing to ensure your child abides by this policy. If you have any queries or questions regarding any aspect of uniform, jewelry, hairstyle, please could you contact the School.”
No one at the George Pindar School was available to comment on the situation, and a spokesperson told SWNS on Thursday, “It is the first time I have heard about the matter, and obviously, with it being half-term [break], there is no way I can get the full background details about the matter.”
But it seems clear in the school’s policy that the problems with Chenise’s hair are likely that it is “extreme” (at least subjectively) and objectively “unnatural.” Darren Benson, apparently missing the point, told the Daily Mail it was unfair that her black friend could have braids while she could not. “I’m not racist in any shape or form,” he said, “but this is like racism against their own.”
He went on to say, “Chenise is being picked out here because she’s white — if she was black or mixed-race they wouldn’t have a problem. … Part of me agrees it is over the top, but they are going to get it done whatever, aren’t they? … Chenise is quite dark and tanned anyway, so it doesn’t look too bad. But that’s not the point, is it? I was furious because of the principle of it.” Benson added that his other daughter would be having the same style done as well.
On Facebook, Chenise’s mother, Lindsey Calam, posted that she was shocked by the amount of hubbub around her daughter’s hairstyle, noting, “Wow, never thought this would happen,” and prompting a handful of supporters to note the hairstyle was “beautiful.”
A small smattering of Twitter responses were less forgiving, insulting the teen’s father and noting that the “dreadlocks” were, in fact, “braids … ugly braids at that.” The latter point was causing the most uproar online:
Idk what’s more funny, the fact this white family thinks cultural appropriation is ok or that they’re confidently calling braids dreadlocks https://t.co/kFUD434Jfw
— Bradley (@brxdthomas) October 27, 2016
1) they are braids not dreadlocks 2) wtf was they thinking agreeing to let their child do this ? https://t.co/GNf9UFabvd
— Bella ???? (@bbyvegan) October 27, 2016
What’s worse than you confusing braids for “dreadlocks” is that you were so confident in it you went so far as to capitalize it. WRONG. https://t.co/ClzsHQwUBW
— slim. (@KILAHstaysBASED) October 27, 2016
In any event, stay tuned for an update on the day that Chenise — and her sister — defiantly return to school with their braids intact.