Charges of discrimination are being made today over a dress code, but it is not what you might suspect. The dress code is for parents visiting James Madison High School in Houston, Texas.
Even stranger than a dress code for adults is the way it came about and by whom. Carlotta Outley Brown is the principle of the school and issued a letter to parents after a mother demanded to see a dress code for visitors following a confrontation at the school door.
Carlotta Outley Brown
The offending parent was wearing a t-shirt dress and a head scarf.
In the letter that was issued, a number of items of dress were banned that had to do with being dressed decently; low-cut tops, baggy pants, “shorts up to your behind”, “pajamas or anything that could be construed as pajamas”, yoga pants and leggings among the banned dress. What has created a real flap, however, is that some items such as satin caps and bonnets, worn to protect the hair, are items that are more or less specifically worn by black women.
The letter to parents was composed and issued by the school principle without any conversation with other teachers or superiors, apparently.
A teacher in another school described the letter as “classist”, and that seems the crux of the complaint.
Black children who have not dressed in certain styles have been accused of not being “black” enough. But is it about race or class?
The principle of James Madison stated that the school attempts to prepare children for a prosperous life, and certain dress styles interfere with that. Is that a statement about race or class? Is the prohibition against wearing corn rows or dreadlocks about race or class?
My blonde daughter had dreadlocks at one time. They smelled bad because it is really hard to wash them (and she probably didn’t have the opportunity) and fine blonde hair doesn’t form dreadlocks very well. It just looked like she had tangled up masses of blonde hair. She was wearing them out of sympathy for Rastafarians or something.
Other than the fact that corn rows require a lot of work to put in, I can’t see a problem with them.
The principle of James Madison is black. It hardly seems that she would have discriminated on the basis of race. It probably is about class, and is that wrong?
Those who complain say that white parents in wet yoga pants don’t usually get stopped and turned away, and that the rules are about race.
It is probable, I think, that the letter is going to be discussed by others in the school district and either modified or rescinded. It has started a discussion that ought to be had among those in the black community; what is the effect of “dressing black”. Does dress affect career paths?