To say that my country is in an uproar over this ruling is an understatement! To say that we are embarrassed that our Supreme Court can rule to ban dreadlocks in school is another understatement.
August 1st is Jamaica’s Emancipation day! A day when the country is supposed to be celebrating freedom from the grips of European standards, norms, and rules. Yet here we are.
This is what was reported in the Washington Post today:
Jamaica’s high court ruled Friday that a school was within its rights to demand that a girl cut her dreadlocks to attend classes, a surprise decision that touched on issues of identity and one the most recognizable symbols of the island’s Rastafarian culture.
The ruling by the Supreme Court of Jamaica capped a two-year battle after the girl — then 5 years old — was told she must cut her dreadlocks for “hygiene” reasons to study at Kensington Primary School in a Kingston suburb.
A rights group, Jamaicans for Justice, had initially lent support to the family, saying the order for the girl to cut her dreadlocks amounted a denial of her freedom of expression and her access to education.
Others viewed the court battle as a stand against rules seen as discrimination against people who wear “natural” hair, including Rastafarians whose dreadlocks are part of their religious tradition.
The Virgos say they do not identify as Rastafarian, but they say that wearing dreadlocks is an expression of their identity.
All Virgo family members wear that natural hairstyle, as do many Jamaicans who identify as Rastafarian.
Andrew Holness, Jamaica’s Primeminister recently tweeted a press release stating emphatically the following:
The government has always maintained that our children must not be discriminated against, nor deprived of their right to an education on the basis of their hairstyle.
#PressRelease: This government has always maintained that our children must not be discriminated against, nor deprived of their right to an education on the basis of their hairstyle. pic.twitter.com/vxhpHzZGQk
— Andrew Holness (@AndrewHolnessJM) August 2, 2020
But Jamaican’s are not consoled by his words, social media is on fire!
Does the Attorney General have knowledge of this? Wasn’t her office and the MOE backing the principal and the school board in the matter at hand?
— Maria (@Maria_Tomlin) August 2, 2020
I’m EXASPERATED by systems where black ppl wear wigs to resemble a ppl who oppressed&enslaved,while holding themselves as leaders from whom ultimate decisions are handed down,while turning a blind eye to the irony their post emancipated-blonde-wig-wearing-colonial image projects
— Yendi Phillipps (@IAMYENDI) August 1, 2020
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I am from a country where it is not only the colour of your skin but also the length and style of your hair. The irony of this fact is that it is that same hair (dreadlocks) plays an integral part in the national identity of the nation. The poster of Jamaica is bob marley with a a ganja splif. How is it possible that in 2020 the (people of power)which has so many flaws and corrupt individuals find time around a pandemic, a global recession, poverty, hunger, violence which plague the Jamaican society. To focus their time and energy on banning dreadlocks from schools? There are more important issues in the country right now for example the amount of politicians being investigated for corruption, the dolly house I see taking place in parliament, petrojam scandal, Ruel Reid scandal etc… than thinking theres a direct correlation with dreadlocks and learning in schools.
Then there is this? Take a listen!
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So where do we go from here?
I think in this case we will wait for the written judgment to determine the basis of the ruling as stated in the Prime Minister’s press release.
There is still some confusion about how the ruling was handed down! However, the fact that it had to go to court in 2020 is something else!
Word on the street is that the judges did not reject the case for the little girls hair but rather ruled on a procedural technicality – legal squad chime in for me please @jomariemalcolm @RushCam @kamroye pic.twitter.com/XtxdofiKI3
— 👋🏾 Black Lives Still Matter (@naomicowan) August 2, 2020
Additionally, we would expect based on the fact that Jamaica should not discriminate according to hair, that the child should attend school as normal and. We also would expect that if discrimination was found then an appeal process can begin and legislation put in place to ensure this never happens again.
Only time will tell!
On a positive note, the united outcry and rallying together in celebration of locs on the island based on this story proves that these old ideals will not be tolerated.