Sans Souci hair debate

Dr E V Rapiti, Kenwyn

Black people living in white dominated countries such as America have always been made to feel ashamed of their natural physical features, their hair, buttocks and dark skin, all of which has been the cause of a great deal of heartache and pain.

Back in the 50s, when artists like Little Richie, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis junior and Platters got the attention of the largely white audiences, the first thing that promoters did was to change their African look by making them use damaging skin whitening facial creams and highly dangerous hairs straightening chemicals.

Black people with a lighter skin and straighter hair adopted an air of superiority over those with darker skin, so black people lost out on contracts, not because they lacked the ability but because of their dark skin colour. Elvis Pressley only did well because he was a white man and could sing like a black person.

The music industry was controlled by big white businesses and people such as Frank Sinatra paid black artists survival fees but took the cream of the takings.

In the 70s, when Motown studios opened primarily to help and support black artists, it was a time of the Vietnam war, the hippie movement, reggae and the black-like-me movement with Malcolm X, who coined the phrase, “Black is beautiful”.

The Afro became fashionable, even among white people, who had a few curls.

This was the time of the Woodstock festival, where young people condemned America’s involvement in Vietnam. It was a time of LSD, marijuana and hashish, where people accepted each other as equals.

Many successful artists from that soul and Motown era such as Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Roberta Flak and even Oprah Winfrey wore expensive wigs from India and South Africa to acquire a look different from the Afro of African look.

This time, black people chose this look, unlike Nat King Cole who was forced to straighten his hair.

I wonder if these women still suffered from centuries of indoctrination.

In South Africa, the same scenario seems to be panning itself out especially in our former Model C schools, where rich black students out number white pupils by nine to one.

The principals and governing boards of these schools have shown absolute contempt for black children, who wear their hair in its natural state or in braids. The principals embarrassed these pupils by referring to them as being untidy and unkempt. Obsession with hair and the way itis styled has become a big business among all races with all textures of hairs. White people with blond hair would trade it for a range of colours and a variety of hairstyles.

Children are influenced by market forces so we will never win this useless and unnecessary war.

I wish to salute the pupils of Sans Souci and their fellow schools for coming out in support to raise their strong objection to being humiliated for being African. I fail to see what the fuss is. It’s not your hair that gets you your grades but your brains and hard work.

The curly African hair and braids are the most manageable hairstyles. They are so popular that even white people have gone in for it. Braids save them hours in front of the mirror.

The student demonstration is reminiscent of the fight by the Soweto youth, who opposed Afrikaans back in 1976. It is these students, who brought us closer to independence and not a handful of ill-disciplined MK soldiers in Tanzania, (numbering no more than 200 soldiers against a hundred thousand SADF white soldiers).

We need children from all schools to make a stand and disobey the stupid requirement to straighten the hair of black students. The die-hard bigoted principals of these former Model C schools should be immediately replaced by progressive educators and teachers. We do not have many of them so we need to train them.

If all the model C schools embarked on a strategy to respect each other as individuals, we will make a huge headway to bring about transformation in our very racially divided country.

This fight for racial transformation would be much quicker because the Soweto protests were only fought by black schools. White pupils must stand together to show solidarity with their humiliated black students. Racist parents must stay out of this fight because they are largely the cause of the racial stereotypes embedded in their children, who end up damaged in their adult life.

A final alternative is: why don’t these former Model C schools have a majority of black governing bodies if 90% of the pupils are blacks and they are the major source of the school’s income?