“The issue of my hair has been a thing that has followed me my entire life, even in Primary I was told that my hair is not natural — it’s exotic, my Afro was not wanted or anything like that.. and the issue followed me to High School. Asking me to change my hair is asking me to erase my blackness”
Zulaikha Patel, a 13-year-old Pretoria Girls High School student, faces racist allegation regarding her natural hair. The headmistress and teachers force her to straighten her afro, so it looks more poise and neat. Pretoria’s Code of Conduct consists of conservative rules, even if it does not mention any specific hair styles.
Ever since she was little, Zulaikha — a gentle and fragile child — has endured continuous bullying due to her hair. She’d go home from school crying, telling her sister that everyone at school nicknamed her “cabbage”. Zulaikha recieves severe treatments from her colleagues and even teachers, just because her hair looks atypical. Refusing to be dictated and oppressed, Zulaikha starts a campaign with her fellow black girls, who have also undergone the same thing, to chastise the school’s poor treatment upon black pupils. Described as a soft-spoken adolescent, Zulaikha attempts to raise her voice against the prejudiced paradigm that degrades black beauty.
This girl is beautiful, and no one can deny that. Her hair epitomizes a crown, which she wears it proudly despite her friends’ ridicules. Growing up in schools with only 3% diversity, I know that there will always be disgustingly racist kids out there, taunting on things which seem a bit different from them. Kids imitate the elders — and what if the more educated elders are similar to Zulaikha’s teachers/headmaster? It’s unfortunate when respectable people who are supposed to emphasize on equality, instead teach things otherwise.
What surprises me the most is the fact that all of this racist hair issue happens in South Africa. How naive I was to think that Zulaikha was from the U.S, a country famous for its bigotry and racism. I’m so uneducated to the point that I haven’t fully realized the institutionalized racism which is also currently happening in Africa and affecting its own natives. A week ago or so, Zulaikha and her friends planned a protest at the school’s public fair. Pretoria High School then hired armed-guards and trained police dogs.. Can’t you believe that? Why.. why would they hire men with pistols to guard a protest conducted by 13-year-old girls? On what measure, really, would these girls be jeopardizing the public? The protest was only intended to deliver a relevant message for people to hear the girls’ voices — their suppressed outcry about their rights on innate beauty and appearance. During Zulaikha’s campaign, the school board sent the white pupils home for the sake of their own safety. What a joke.
I found the website of Pretoria Girls High School, and just look at the school’s ad picture:
After seeing the website and the picture above, I have no more questions about why Zulaikha Patel has to experience racism in her own home country. The school itself was initially established by white people, you can read its history here.
According to the website: “The school was founded in the earnest hope that here girls of different races and different denominations might meet in that commonwealth of letters which gave Erasmus and Shakespeare to the World; to acquire there, in accordance with the ideals of Christian Duty, the healthy physique, the trained mind and the disciplined character which should fit each to live worthily in that state of life unto which it should please God to call her”… What a complete and utter bollocks. Look at the picture again; they probably decided to put a couple of colored people to advertise the “diversity” of the school. Look at those white girls all smiling, probably glad that they clutch their own full privilege in their own little dandy hands. I used the word ‘probably’ too much, but that’s just life.