Childrearing

Little Girl Told Her ‘Black Girls Rock’ Shirt Is Too Sensitive for School for No Good Reason

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Black-girls-rock-T-shirtDress codes suck. A child can be going about her day, bothering nobody, and suddenly school administrators are all up in her business, measuring skirts, reading shirts, and deciding that 8-year-old girls can’t wear shirts that say “Black Girls Rock,” because they’re too politically sensitive.

According to Yahoo Parenting, 8-year-old Makiyah-Jae from Biloxi, Mississippi, wore a cool gray sweatshirt that said Black Girls Rock to school last week. Makiyah-Jae, who is only eight years old, had come home not long before that asking her mother if she could straighten her hair and dye it blonde because she thought that would make her prettier. Her mother was not having any of that.

“I’m like ‘No, baby. That’s not you. This is who you are. You don’t have to be like anyone else but yourself,’” her mother said. “She should be comfortable in her own skin.“

So she ordered Makiyah-Jae the sweatshirt, which came from an empowerment organization called Black Girls Rock, which is devoted to affirming the beauty, talent, and rockingness of black girls and women in a world that constantly tries to undermine them. There is no rule in the school’s dress code that comes close to banning the Black Girls Rock shirt, but the principal decided to intervene anyway, and when Makiyah-Jae came home from school that day, she was wearing a different outfit.

“When I asked him what was the reason for him taking the shirt off of her, he said, ‘You’re right. It’s not in the policy. Nowhere in the policy does it state that the shirt is out of dress code,’” said Makiyah-Jae’s mother, Sharika Jolly. “He said they made a judgment call, then I proceeded to ask, ‘Well who are the judges judging my eight-year-old?’ And he said ‘Well, I’m the principal so I made the call.’”

One of the worst things about dress codes is how unevenly they are enforced, and children of color seem much more likely to be singled out for these kinds of infractions. (Like, for example, when black children are told their hair violates the dress code just because of its texture.) Makiyah-Jae was wearing a shirt against which there was no rule at all, and still she was punished for violating a rule that does not exist. .

The principal’s judgment was ridiculous and unfair. Little girls all over the country are constantly absorbing messages that “beauty” is a thin white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, and nobody makes a peep. But God forbid someone try to point out that black women are beautiful, and then there’s drama and that’s just too political for school.

Jolly decided she wasn’t going to let the ruling lie, and she contacted her district superintendent, who agreed with her and said the principal “overreached.”

“We were trying to avoid a conflict. In today’s world we think about all the politically correct things [and] we don’t want to offend anybody; probably overreached in this situation,” Superintendent Arthur McMillan said. “We make many decisions every day. Sometimes with decisions we make even as parents, we go back and look and think ‘I wish I’d made that decision different.’ I think that’s the situation here. If [the principal] could make that decision again, he’d probably say ‘Hey, you know that’s not a big deal,’ but you’re always guarding against ‘how do we not offend anybody?’”

The school apologized to Jolly and Makiyah-Jae, and said she can wear her shirt whenever she likes.

(Photo: BlackGirlsRock.com)