Natural hair discrimination against BIPOC is far too common across the United States and world.
Fortunately though, through the dedicated work of organizations like the NAACP LDF, these injustices are not going unnoticed nor unpunished.
A federal judge ruled on Monday that Kaden Bradford, a Black Texas high school student and cousin of De’Andre Arnold, is allowed to return to class without cutting his natural locs.
BREAKING: LDF won a major #naturalhair discrimination VICTORY that gives K.B., Black high school student & cousin to #DeAndreArnold, the right to attend classes regularly as opposed to being held in indefinite in-school suspension due to his natural hair.https://t.co/k4481QHWeJ
— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) August 18, 2020
The case is ongoing, but US District Court Judge George Hanks issued a preliminary injunction that orders the district to allow Bradford to come back to class without making any changes to his hair. This is a major victory for the LDF and natural hair discrimination suits.
Janai Nelson, LDF’s Associate Director-Counsel, had this to say about Monday’s victory:
“Bradford may now return to class and extracurricular activities after being unfairly deprived of an equal education for many months.
The court’s granting of our request means that K.B. no longer has to endure an unjust and educationally-damaging in-school suspension simply for having uncut locs, which are an immutable part of his Black identity and cultural heritage.”
De’Andre Arnold made national headlines earlier this year when the same school district as his cousin, Barbers Hill Independent School District, said they would not allow him to walk at graduation until he cut his natural hair.
Matthew Cherry and Karen Rupert Tolliver, upon winning the 2020 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for their beautiful work Hair Love, shouted out De’Andre Arnold and his circumstance in their acceptance speech. Arnold actually attended the Oscars after an invite from Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade.
Being persecuted is unfair, to say the least. Are these issues white people with long hair have to deal with? Are these circumstances that white people would ever even have to think about when letting their natural hair grow? Hell no.
Say it louder for the people in the back who still don’t understand what systemic racism is.
Still, Arnold’s poise amidst adversity and persecution is commendable, as is his cousin’s.
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Our identity is our power 👸🏾🤴🏾 Hit our story to listen to the latest episode from our #10K80 podcast with @naacp_ldf attorney Patricia Okonta (@pnokonta). For this episode Okonta spoke about everything we need to push the CROWN ACT forward, her beginnings as a lawyer, meeting De’Andre Arnold, and what black hair represents. #naacpldf #naacp #crownact #hairlove #hairdiscrimination #blackidentity #blackexcellence✊🏾
“The Bradfords are elated,” said Attorney Patricia Okonta, of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund about Monday’s victory.
“I just spoke to KB yesterday and he was thrilled. He had a zoom call planned with his friends to talk about what the first day of school would be like, what their outfits would look like, just normal 16-year-old excitement about returning to school.”
Join us in congratulating KB on his first day back at Barbers Hill High School!
In his own words, one of the most exciting aspects of his return is the opportunity to reunite with his Barbers Hill band family on the trombone.
— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) August 20, 2020
Bradford is gearing up for a school year already filled with an influx of changes and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The very least a school district can do is help him feel comfortable in his own skin, not persecute him for their own deeply ingrained systematic racism and prejudice.
Arnold has since transferred to another school to complete his senior year and graduated.
— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) February 27, 2020
The dedicated and diligent people at the LDF deserve credit for their efforts, though the battle is not won. Sadly, there are those alive that will fight consistently for the power to hold control over BIPOC bodies.
The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), is still being pushed across states in the U.S. to “ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles.” As LDF attorney Patricia Okonta told us in February about the LDF,
“OUR MISSION, WHETHER IT’S THROUGH NATURAL HAIR DISCRIMINATION WORK, CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM WORK, THROUGH ECONOMIC JUSTICE OR EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY WORK, IS TO ENSURE THAT BLACK PEOPLE CAN ENJOY THE SAME RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES OF CITIZENSHIP AS THEIR WHITE COUNTERPARTS.”
I have been completely humbled to begin my legal career with @NAACP_LDF serving PEOPLE and COMMUNITIES in pursuit of racial justice. Thank you @KultureHub for highlighting LDF’s broad work, including challenging hair discrimination and support of legislation like the #crownact! https://t.co/vgtbryI1fE
— Patricia O. (@pnokonta) June 16, 2020
We applaud Bradford, Arnold, their families and all of the people who sought to attain respect and justice against persecution. While the fight for justice is ongoing, efforts like the LDF’s and courage like Bradford’s will always be remembered.
And that courage will hold the torch for those of us who have to follow.
Continue to support the NAACP LDF and its journey to end hair discrimination