Our hair is unique. Our hair is beautiful. Our hair requires the use of products that give it moisture and nourishment. And yes, some of those products have fragrances that are remarkable.
But it seems to me that a certain teacher at Seattle's Thurgood Marshall Elementary School is overreacting in a troubling way right now, all because of an allergy to the fragrance of a fairly commonplace African American hair product.
Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Moisturizing Hair Lotion has NEVER had this much media attention, I promise you.
My first reaction to this whole story? That teacher was doing the most. OK, maybe you're allergic to the scent of a child's hair products, and in close quarters it bothers you. But there's gotta be a better way to deal with the situation, than making an eight year old leave a classroom because her hair is "making you sick."
According to the Seattle Times, the main bone of contention by the little girl's father, Charles Mudede, is that the teacher and by extension the school, was lacking in cultural sensitivity.
"Mudede, who is black, said he has talked with his daughter about valuing the way she looks and about resisting pressures to straighten her hair with products in an effort to look more like her white classmates.
"I want her to know she's beautiful," he said.
The product she was wearing when she was removed from the class - Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Moisturizing Hair Lotion - was a compromise, he said, something light that kept her hair in its natural state.
"It was a very serious thing to our family," he said, recalling incidents in his own youth that made him feel like an outsider because of his race.
"There is a great sense of embarrassment for us," said Mudede, who seemed surprised the situation had reached the point where there was talk of a lawsuit, the very thing that would shut down discussion.
"How do you neutralize this exactly?" he asked. "It's the last thing I wanted to happen. … But you get bloody angry. It's infuriating.""
It seems to me this whole controversy could have been avoided if only the teacher and the school had clearly communicated with the little girl in a private and non-embarrassing manner, and if they had also reached out immediately to the child's parents. Because of the way they handled this, the school is getting some mighty unwelcome media attention, a lawsuit, and a complaint from the NAACP.
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