Experiencing the harsh realities of stereotypes, and issues related to race and culture brings certain feelings to the forefront. I've always been of the mind that if there is going to be systemic change, there needs to be on-going, real conversation, and we need to do it now. Sometimes it's the observer who calls someone out, and by doing so, builds strength in continuing this long conversation. Emma, whose been a part of the long conversation about stereotypes and race, witnessed an incident and chose to respond to it by first asking questions and gathering information. She took one step further and addressed an issue that did not sit well with her. I'm proud of her for doing the right thing, and for modeling action in a diplomatic, thoughtful way. Read it right here by my audacious 17-year-old . . .
Dear Ms. Domini,
My name is Emma Werntz, a senior, and also the girlfriend of Trenor Seals. We
have never spoken before, though one of your actions came to my
attention on December 4th during the passing period after late start. I
don’t mean to alarm you, I would just like to point out a cultural
difference that is both overlooked by the Code of Conduct and your
came to school with a black head wrap. The ‘Dress Code’ on page 31 of
our student handbook states, “No hats or head coverings are to be worn
or visibly carried upon entering the building until the end of the
school day.” Let me begin with saying that this part of the Student
Procedures section, I believe, is poorly written in regards to race and
religion. I understand that this is out of your control and I will
address this problem with the administration separately.
However, there is a clear difference between a head wrap: (imagine the material of a pair of black tights):
a beanie: (knitted and considered a hat)
and a cap: (clearly a hat)
hair wrap is what many African Americans wear during the transition
period of their hairstyle, what they use to protect hair that is being
conditioned for a length of time, or they may simply just not want to
put the effort into their hair that morning. (A hair wrap is to an
African American as a ponytail or messy bun is to a white person.) In
Trenor’s case, he is in a hairstyle transition. Normally, as you are
probably aware, he has cornrows or long braids that have the look of
dreadlocks (or dreads.) These styles require much attention and time
(hours). At this point in time, Trenor had to take out his cornrows
because they had overgrown and were beginning to fall out of order.
With no one to immediately do his hair, he chose to use a hair wrap for
the day to protect his hair and keep it out of his face.
understand that you are enforcing the ‘Dress Code,’ and you have a
right being in the position of a Dean or any other adult figure.
However, when you asked Trenor to remove his “hat,” it was culturally
insensitive because a hair wrap is more than just a “head covering,”
it’s a tool. In no way was his face covered, but clearly visible and
out of shadow. Trenor also explained to me how he passed Mr. Brown and
Mr. Antonio in the hallway, and neither said anything. Being that they
are African American, they understand the use of a hair wrap.
page 31 of the ‘Dress Code’ it also indicates that, “Prior permission
to wear head covering may be granted by a Dean.” Although Trenor did
not have “prior permission,” there was also inconsistency between your
enforcement and Mr. Brown’s. I believe that the wording of this code
puts many students in the position of accusation when it comes to race
and religion, however it also relies on the Deans to be fully
knowledgeable of culture.
you, I am also a white female, and I am learning about cultural
differences everyday. Trenor’s hair wrap is no different to a student
who practices the Islamic faith and wears a hijab, or a student who
practices the Jewish faith and wears a kippah, a Buddhist who wears a
kasaya, or a white person who wears their hair in a bun.
Thank you for your time,
Counselor: Gust Athanas
is a high school senior and a lover of all things good and kind. She enjoys
dancing, nature, and family. Her adventurous spirit shows up in her
life list, where it’s not just about the things she’s crossed off, but
the things she adds to it. Of all the important things, she's a wonderful big sister to Misa and John-Pio.