Musician JamarzOnMarz is calling on the NSW government to change school uniform policies that discriminate against natural Afro hairstyles.
JamarzOnMarz, who’s real name is James Emmanuel, has launched a petition to present to the state’s Education Minister.
Musician says school uniform policies discriminate against hairstyles
In July, the Huffpost published an open letter from Emmanuel in which he recalled an incident when he attended school.
He described teachers forcing him to remove twist-braids following a family trip to Nairobi in Kenya.
The artist said the school considered the braids as an “extreme hairstyle”, and therefore, “unacceptable”.
“In my eyes, the braids complied with the uniform rule book.
“They were above the collar, above the ears, neat, short and sensible.
“I felt defeated and now insulted, realising my cultural identity (my Afro in its natural state and its corresponding protective styles) could not be embraced without being outlawed as ‘extreme.’”
The artist says the language used to describe his natural textured hair were racist.
For example, “inappropriate” “extreme” and also “unorthodox”.
“Whether my Afro is out or in a protective style of braids or cornrows, twists, buns or dreadlocks, it is a direct link to my heritage.
“My hair is my culture, and ultimately my identity.”
Christian school orders student to cut hair
Emmanuel pointed to the current case of Cook Island student Cyrus Taniela.
The Christian school he attends has threatened the 5 year-old student with expulsion unless he cuts his hair.
However, his mother refused.
She argues cultural tradition requires her son to grow his hair until he turns seven, when it will be cut in a traditional ceremony.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal is currently adjudicating the matter.
“TRIBUNAL WILL DECIDE IF CHRISTIAN SCHOOL CAN FORCE BOY TO CUT HIS HAIR”
Last month, Emmanuel launched a petition calling on the NSW Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, to change school uniform policies.
“I want NSW’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 amended to expressly protect Black students from inequitable uniform policies and grooming codes, that hinder their culture and identity.
“This would mean, the requested cutting of Afro-textured hair in certain circumstances, and the banning of protective styles (like braids, cornrows, plaits) would constitute a discrimination on the grounds of race. Pursuant to s 7 & s 17 of the ADA”.
However, a spokesperson for the Minister replied with a disappointing letter, claiming there is no problem with discrimination because racial discrimination in public schools is “already against the law.”
“Please be assured that the NSW Department of Education rejects all forms of racism.
“It is committed to the elimination of racial discrimination in public schools, including direct and indirect racism, racial vilification and also harassment – in all aspects of the learning in addition to the working environment.
“Its schools have trained anti-racism contact officers and provide timely and professional responses to complaints regarding racism.”
Policies ‘failed to protect me’
As a result of the disappointing response, Emmanuel took to social media to express his disappointment:
“I’m aware of these anti-discriminatory policies but they failed to protect me and continue to fail many others like me.
“Racism isn’t always overt vilification or harassment; it can be institutionalised under the guise of grooming codes.”
Emmanuel plans to continue petitioning until the government outlaws discriminatory grooming codes.
The musician also revealed he is now considering making a discrimination complaint against his former high school.
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