Justice

#SupportThePuff Is Spreading For A Beautiful Reason

February 20th 2016

By:
Taylor Bell

A teacher's shaming of a schoolgirl in the Bahamas over her so-called "unkempt" afro-puff has lead to a popular hashtag: #supportthepuff

It all started when the principal at CR Walker High School in Nassau Bahamas told a student that her natural hair style looked “untidy,” “ungroomed,” “unkempt” and like it “hadn't been brushed for days,” according to Bahamas news television station, NB12

After the incident, the student's mother, Turkessa Deleveaux, used Facebook to voice her outrage over the school’s decision to call out her daughter’s hairstyle.

I have a question.. Why would a high school principal tell my daughter that she cannot wear her hair like this anymore...

Posted by Kessa TD on Friday, February 5, 2016

Soon, the community was in an uproar, and the Bahamas Ministry of Education was forced to released a statement to address the issue. In its statement, it clarified that no student had actually been suspended and that "young women have always been free to attend the school with their hair in its natural state provided that it is properly groomed." 

But as a result of the controversy, the Bahamas Ministry of Education added a new requirement for students to graduate. According to their statement every student must now complete "20 hours of job readiness in senior high school", part of which includes "proper grooming (including hair)."

"You're preparing them for the job market so you're pretty much telling my Black child — with kinky hair — that her hair isn't good enough to get a top-paying job or any job for that fact," Deleveaux told NB 12. "And she wants to be an accountant, and she's an A-student in accounts."

But despite school officials' attempts to discourage students from wearing "unkempt" afros, the following day students came to defend their natural hair by “telling their teachers they were supporting the puff,” BuzzFeed reports.

Support for the puff raged online as well, with women who sport natural hair posting photos of their afros, along with the hashtags #isupporthtepuff and #supportthepuff.

 

A photo posted by Jazmine McPhee (@_lovejaz_) on

The Natural Hair Stigma

Women who prefer their natural hair have long expressed that they feel pressured to change their appearance in order to appeal to employers.

For instance, in 2007, former associate editor of Glamour magazine Ashley Baker "told a group of women at a New York Law firm that afros were a 'no-no'" and that hairstyles like "dreadlocks were inappropriate for the workplace," according to the Huffington Post.

In 2012, people celebrated African American actress Viola Davis' at the ESSENCE Black Women luncheon in Hollywood when she stepped out in her natural hair. When asked about her "brave" decision to do so, Davis said her husband encouraged her to embrace who she really was.

"I feel very powerful, I really do," Davis told ESSENCE at the time. "I feel more powerful every day, more secure in who I am, and I've waited so long for that.... It feels so divine."

Historians assert that the stigma against natural hair stems back to at least the days of slavery in the U.S. 

As New York Times' writers Ayana Byrd and Lorl L. Tharps point out:

The bias against black hair is as old as America itself. In the 18th century, British colonists classified African hair as closer to sheep wool than human hair. Enslaved and free blacks who had less kinky, more European-textured hair and lighter skin — often a result of plantation rape — received better treatment than those with more typically African features.

As recently as 2014, twists, cornrows and cornrows — hairstyles often worn by Black people — were banned by in the U.S. Military, according to the Daily Mail.