On Monday 29 August, black pupils at Pretoria High School For Girls, in the capital of South Africa, took to the streets after enduring years of racism and discrimination. Many complained that the school forbade them to have braids, afros, dreadlocks and other afro-textured hairstyles.
Allegedly, black pupils at the school are not even permitted to talk in their native African languages amongst friends. You can read more about the protest on The Daily Maverick.
When I was in bed on Monday evening reading the news, this absolutely appalled me! I could not believe what I was reading! Here we are, in post-colonial Africa and particularly in post-apartheid South Africa, and our young girls are being marginalized for being black!!! I almost cried when I read that a white teacher told a pupil with an afro that her hair was dirty and looked like a bird’s nest! The pupil was even given a comb to “fix” her hair!
There are many things that black people have to endure that revolt me, but the mere thought that young girls are being oppressed because of their blackness is something I cannot forgive! As a black woman myself, I know how hard it was growing up in a world wear my hair, my skin, my nose, my food, my accent, my culture and my language were not accepted and frowned upon.
The blatant racism that black people in South Africa still face in this day and age is unacceptable! In these same schools, pupils are forced to learn both English AND Afrikaans. Hairstyles that are seen as “acceptable” are based on Caucasian hair and white pupils are encouraged to speak in their native Afrikaans whilst black pupils are stripped of their right to speak their own mother tongues amongst them!
I can go on and on and rant about how appalled I am, but the highlight of all of this is that these young girls, far braver than I will ever be, sacrificed everything to protest and to say “NO” to the racism and discrimination. As I myself struggle in my natural hair and African identity journey, I can only applaud such integrity, bravery and determination.
Will this protest lead to change in the school’s policy? I think it just might. Will this protest educate the ignorance which prevails in our communities? Maybe to some extent. But the journey is still long, and we as Africans and black people in particular cannot remain desensitized.
Our children are paying the price and our children’s children will continue paying the price unless we stand up, and own our blackness, our African identities, our heritage, our culture – our humanity!