Rights vs Rules – it's not about race


Recently An Afro-Caribbean teenager has won a ruling that St Gregory’s Catholic Science College in Kenton, Harrow, north London was applying a cornrows ban in a way which amounted to “unjustified” indirect racial discrimination.

The Schools decision to ban hairstyles it says have become associated with gang culture has resulted in the boy being excluded from school, in September 2009, when he was 11.  His family decided that rather than capitulate to the schools demands they would go to court.

The test case decision is a victory for the family of African-Caribbean teenager known only as “G”.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

The judge pointed out that exceptions were already made for Rastafarians and Sikh boys who wore hair beyond the collar, and similar exceptions should be made for African Caribbeans.

The judge said G’s family was not alone in regarding cornrows as part of their culture – “there are, on the evidence, other African Caribbeans who take the same view”.

Mr Justice Collins, sitting in London, said in future the school authorities must consider allowing other boys to wear cornrows if it is “a genuine family tradition based on cultural and social reasons”.

School Uniform Policies are freely available

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against Cornrows, I have worn them myself, and I currently wear my hair in Dreadlocks, as I did many years ago at University.  My feeling is that Schools have an Uniform policy. That policy is an openly available document that parents are free to obtain and read before deciding whether or not to send their children to the school.  Did G’s parents read that document?  If So they must have decided to abide by the conditions set forth in the uniforms policy.  So I cannot see what the fuss is all about.  School Children need to keep their hair neat and tidy, so the “short rule” is about 1) smartness, 2) uniformity 3)Cleanliness.

Cornrows can certainly be clean, but they are not uniform due to the myriad of styles available. furthermore, they are not truly, in my opinion a cultural hairstyle.  They may have originated with African /Caribbean communities but they are, in my opinion a FASHION hairstyle.  Cornrows have always been popular with African /Caribbean females, and generally we hear nothing about young black girls being excluded for this hairstyle. Young African/Caribbean men in the 1950s were not regularly seen walking around with cornrows. It’s a style that has gained popularity in the last 20 years amongst young males.

Schools are losing their authority

In a time when we are all concerned about issues of respect from our young people, schools are constantly having their authority eroded.  Is it any wonder then,we have a situation where young people defer to adults less and less,  adults are afraid to confront teenagers about their language, dress-style and general behaviour when the judicial system restricts the power of institutions like school to mould young people into responsible respectful citizens?

G’s family knew they were crossing the line when they sent their boy to school wearing corn rows.  They most probably thought they would get away with it, believing it to be a small matter.  When the school made an example of G , sending him home, a court case followed.  In truth I find it surprising that G’s family won.

Are rules racist?

The big question here is, is it racist to make black people abide by rules that other races have to abide by? In this case I don’t believe that it is.  Sikh’s and Rastafarians have a legitimate reason for wearing their hair long, it is their religion.  Cornrows are not fundamental to any specific belief system and therefore deserve no more respect than straight long hair or a large and bushy Afro.  All these three styles are in contravention of most School Uniform policies.

White and Asian boys attending the school are not allowed to grow their hair long.  Cornrows require long hair to be plaited.  I can see no sensible reason for this ruling, and it’s impact will simply serve the jingoists on the Right of Politics that Ethnic minorities receive preferential treatment, when in fact the opposite is the real truth.





5 thoughts on “Rights vs Rules – it's not about race

  • 3rd July 2011 at 6:07 pm

    I completely agree.

  • 15th July 2011 at 3:09 am

    Article 14 – Prohibition of discrimination
    The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status

    Whilst I concur that cornrows have along tradtition in African and Caribbean culture, as Phil says culture is not protected under the Human Righs Act 1998. This right does not extend to culture or other social reasons. G’s right to family life is not violated, and in denying the right to wear corn rows in school, he is no less of Caribbean descent as a consequence of the schools decision.

    Schools have a long tradition of making everyone as equal as possible and dress/uniform is one way schools achieve this. It is indeed inconvenient; if one is asked to remove cornrows; given the time taken to construct them in the first place. They do look neat and tidy, and display a concerted effort in grooming. However, in breaking the school rules, have G’s human rights been violated? I too must conclude they have not.

  • 16th July 2011 at 7:10 am

    Can’t say I agree with you here at all.

  • 14th August 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Hmmmm….have any of you ever tried to style afro hair? It is not silken and is very difficult to look after. The parents were right to take it to court. It is a hairstyle which has been around since way before ‘gangsters’. How would the school have reacted if he attended with a huge afro, like the style of The Commodores in the 1970’s?

    When I was in junior school in the 1970’s, many boys were sent home from school for having a skinhead…..they had nits so the parents shaved their locks.

    For heavens sake, get a grip…judging people by their hairstyle is beyond ridiculous.

  • 10th August 2016 at 6:46 am

    I really do not agree with you at all. Banning black hairstyles is racist we should be able to have our hair in box braids, cornrows and dreadlocks. The fact black women have to wear weaves is assimilation to white supremacy. We should never be banned for the way we are meant to perserve our natural hair. The fact cornrows were seen as promoting gang culture is also majorly racist. It assumes blackness is criminal and it enforces respectability on how black men should behave.


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