Schools are sanctuaries of learning. They are where we teach our children to expand their minds, learn about other cultures and grow socially and emotionally. That is unless your hair doesn’t look “right,” as defined by Eurocentric standards of beauty and decorum.
When your hair looks like mine, schools tell you that you won’t succeed, get a job or be taken seriously.
As a first generation son of an Ethiopian immigrant, my hair has never conformed to these standards. I wore it naturally in school, and I’m proud to wear it naturally today on the floor of the Illinois State Senate.
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Black and Brown children should not grow up with a constant message from institutions that how they present themselves is inadequate, wrong or less professional than how their white peers present themselves. Make no mistake, these attitudes towards our natural hair are based in racist and outdated ideas that our bodies, with its black and brown skin, are inferior to white bodies.
This is why I believe that schools should not be allowed to enforce dress codes that demand students alter their appearance for any reason other than basic hygiene and attire that provides appropriate coverage. Hair and hairstyles should never be of concern.
I am sponsoring a bill, which passed out of the Senate on Tuesday and moved to the House, to prohibit this kind of discrimination so that all our youth can feel comfortable in their own skin and take pride in who they are, which means they will grow up to be authentic, creative and productive people.
This is a systemic solution to the systemic problem of racism. It is a change that relies on policy incentives to right these wrongs instead of placing the burden of change onto the same people who are shouldering this discrimination.
Kids and parents shouldn’t have to file complaints in order for us to address the systemic issues that we know exist when we can make laws to curtail the problem in the first place.
Let’s teach the next generation about diversity by allowing them to live out that diversity in our classrooms, not fight for it in the very place that should be nurturing and protecting them.
Illinois Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago
Now distribute education
That’s great that Chicago’s schools will be distribution centers for kids to get COVID-190 vaccines. Now if only schools were distribution centers for education, we’d be all set. Kids should be in school five days a week. No excuses.
But remember, it’s all about the kids. Rinse and repeat.
William Choslovsky, CPS Local School Council Member, Lincoln Park