Disclaimer: This Article was First Published On Forreason.com and is published here with approval.
Most educational institutes in America have dress codes, and the laws regarding what those dress codes will be, and punishment for not adhering to them are very vague. Because of this, some institutes tend to enforce some draconian rules regarding not just how students behave. But how they wear their clothing to in some cases the smallest details.
No Real Choice
When Andrew Johnson, A student wrestler, was reportedly forced to cut his hair before competing in a match, many asked whether race was involved in the decision. In this specific case, the referee told him that he got only two options: Cut his hair or lose.
Andrew felt that he had no real choice. If he will stand up against the ref's poor decision - his team will lose. after a short consideration, he decided not to let down his team members - so he just gave in, and asked for his coach to cut it.
From NJ to Texas
The image of Andrew behind humiliated in such a terrible way, went viral. Abc's News covered the case and the referee got fired. At least Karma came back to bite him.
One would think that one racial incident was enough, but, as you will be able to read shortly below, apparently the educational institutes still have a lot to learn. Lucky for us, in this story - one brave student stood up against the system while seeking justice.
From Andrew To Deandre - From NJ to Texas
A community college in Texas went the extra mile. At Barbers Hill, students have to also have to think about how they are wearing their hair when they come to college grounds.
But the rules are not always clear, and only three weeks before graduation, a senior student named DeAndre Arnold found out that his dreadlocks were no longer accepted on college premises.
Separation From the Pack
It's no easy dilemma. Your a young black student, and you have to choose between the way you wear your hair or graduating with your peers. According to college code, a student's dreads are allowed on college premises as long as that student has the hair over his ears, and not touching his shoulders.
Which means he has to tie it up and keep it that way for the rest of the day. All of a sudden, just three weeks before its all said and done. A new rule came in.
The new rule stated that dreadlock was no longer permitted on college premises on any condition what so ever. This may sound ridiculous. That's because it is! But it's actually widespread practice for colleges to change dress code rules before graduation.
Its a way for the college to give the children freedom of expression throughout the year, and then be able to change the practices, so that all the students look uniform before graduation. DeAndre had many reasons to not comply.
The Worst Punishment of Them All
When DeAndre got wind of the new rule, he took it upon himself to confront the college before things get out of hand. He was met with nothing more than animosity from the college's staff and was given no permission to keep his dreadlocks.
More than that, he was given quite a few college suspensions for it too! One can only imagine the type of humiliation he most have been going through at the time. And when you understand what a college suspension is all about. It feels even worse in his shoes.
No Right Way to Go
A suspension is something almost every child in America has heard about, yet it is less common around the world. In most education systems around the world, it is the parents who are expected to carry the burden of heavy disciplinary actions.
But for those who don't know. A suspension is a period of time that a student is not allowed to enter or be near college grounds. In some states, the penalty for violating these terms can even mean jail time, and so does it reflect on a student's permanent record.
The suspension does not get marked on a student's permanent record and lets the student stay at college for their time alone away from their peers. It is usually saved for students that fight, steel, or tamper with college property.
Despite not being on your record.
No Breaking the Rules
Students serving a suspension are separated very far from one another. They have to spend the whole day supervised by teachers who do hour shifts throughout the day. Each desk has a separator that gives the student no vision of anything around them, and work, as well as lunch, is brought to them throughout the day.
Students are followed to the bathroom, to make sure they are not running away, or talking with other classmates, and they cannot speak to each other what so ever during the duration of the punishment. Any students the break an ISS is immediately either given more days in the hole or even worse punishment.
The Honor Student Given No Honor
DeAndre, despite having very high marks, and even an honor role, was given multiple suspensions for merely refusing to cut his dreadlocks. And eventually, the college decided to suspend him indefinitely, and not let him come to his very own graduation.
It may be common to ask, "why doesn't this boy just cut his hair. But its much more complicated than that. Having his hair like that was not only a fashion statement for DeAndre. It was much more than that. And despite explaining his situation, the college was still not willing to budge.
A History of Rich Black Culture
DeAndre's father is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. A small island in the Carribians. For him having dreadlocks meant much more than just a fresh look. It was the look of his ancestors.
A proud cultural symbol of being from the Island, and a tradition all grown men shared in his family. It is the same thing to him, as it is to a Jewish boy wearing a Yamaka, or a Muslim girl wearing a Hijab.
This explanation was not good enough for the college, though. And despite great offense taken by the Arnold family, the college had still made the decision to penalize DeAndrea for the remainder of the year.
This would mean that DeAndrea would have a long three-week suspension from college that will go on his permanent college record for no reason other than the fact that he wore his hair different than other boys. A choice that the college would eventually regret.
What In the World Were They Thinking
One has to stop and think. What in the world was this college thinking? Are you trying to save face? Maybe you want every student to look the same for the college picture so that it makes the college look for some reason in the odd mind of the principle "respectable?" so much so that you would dictate to a child to change his cultural decisions for it! But the Arnold family was not about to let this go.
Going To the Public
A few days after the initial decision made by the college to send DeAndre home and suspend him. The Andre family decided to take matters into their own hands.
And did exactly what any family would be expected to do in such a situation of injustice and lack of sensitivity. They went straight to the local news. The Arnold family ended up speaking at an interview with international publication NBC news to tell about their story.
He's Keeping His Hair
DeAndre had seemed to already be done even wanting to talk about it anymore. Who can blame him! Sitting next to his mother, the two discussed how the situation unfolded and go out of hand, and how important it was for the Arnold family's constitutional rights were not going to be infringed upon.
Asked whether he thinks DeAndre should have just cut his hair, His mother responded. "Of course not!' The interview and DeAndrea's story had trended internationally in the media, and the pressure was on at the college.
Meeting An American Hero
After the NBC interview. The Arnold family had become overnight stars and unknowing advocates of the right to freedom of religion and expression within the education system.
All of this got them so much attention, and rightfully so that the queen of all things justice & fairness, the one and lonely Ellen DeGeneres had already been preparing for months to make his life a bit more straightforward. So that he does not have to deal with the type of injustice ever again.
Coming Out In America
Ellen DeGeneres is known for generosity throughout the years. And has given some pretty great gifts to her special talk show guests. She tends to pick people who have gone something in life that is relatable and provide them with a platform to talk about so that the public can know and make a difference.
Ellen grew to notoriety after being the first female in Hollywood to come out from the closet in the 1990s. A not so distant time, with a lot of different unwritten cultural rules to it.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
The 90s were different, and everything before then is culturally distant to people today. Despite many injustices being spoken about, and the activists reaching high office.
There was still a lot of work to be done. One of the many things that society was still not ready to accept was the LBGT community being openly gay. Ellen wanted to break that glass ceiling and ended up coming out in her own sitcom. Her experience for expressing her true self was a lot like DeAndre's.
There was a reason no one came out from the closet in Hollywood back then. That reason is grim but accurate. It was frowned upon. If you were openly gay in Hollywood, then chances are you were not going to get hired.
Ellen had built her name, though. She had been a successful comedian for many years at the time and had her own hit talk show. Yet once she decided to come out, things took a turn for the worst. Ellen's show had been canceled almost automatically. With the network giving virtually no public address as to why.
Ellen ended up telling her story around the country and gaining her own notoriety for speaking up for the silenced communities around the country. She went to Opera and talked about what it was like. What it was like to be a lesbian growing up and have to keep it inside.
What it was like to have boyfriends just so she could pretend she's straight, and what feelings she had about having her show canceled after she had used it as a platform to help her community. give
Getting Her Own Talk Show
Eventually, Ellen got her own show, and it is one of the most-watched talk shows in the world, she even received the presidential medal of freedom for her contributions to the country.
Ellen has a segment in every episode in which she invites a person who is going through injustice, to speak about their experience to give them the same platform she was afforded. And there is always a contribution to their cause right out of Ellens pocket to help them with their future endeavors. And what she gave DeAndre was no exception!
On the Ellen show, DeAndre had been given not one but two gifts. After talking to Ellen about his experience, telling her that girls had long hair in the college and there was no problem with that.
Expressing to her how unaccepted he felt by his community because of their experience. She had also told him where she relates to him and how unfair she thinks this situation was. How it should be the college that is teaching him about new things and not him having to show the college what culture is.
At one point, Ellen brought out a close friend of hers to present DeAndrea with quite the gift. DeAndrea was telling Ellen that he wanted to be a vet. His college was not letting him back in, and his only options were to come back for an in-doors suspension or attend a correctional institue.
Then, out of the blue came Alicia Keys. DeAndrea was star struck, and emotional.
20-K Well Deserved
Keys was holding a lifesize check in her hand. DeAndrea had mentioned to Ellen that he wanted to be a veterinarian. So Ellen had organized a twenty thousand dollar scholarship for DeAndrea to take to college with him.
She was not going to let his college stop him from achieving the future he deserves. She then turned to the camera, and talked directly to the college district that had still made no comment to the media and said, "Do the right thing."
Not A choice
Both DeAndre's and Ellen's story teach us a great deal about life. One of the biggest lessons we learned is to never give up. Both had something very important to them they really believed in. Not a choice, but their way of life.
They were not going to let anyone dictate to them when it was appropriate to express themselves. Their story and many stories like it inspire future generations to grow up with confidence. Where is DeAndre today?
True American Way
The well deserved good luck did not stop following DeAndrea after being Ellens's guest. He had also been invited as a guest to the Oscars and wore his dreadlocks proudly for the world to see.
DeAndrea had shown his college what really matters and what gets you noticed in the world. And that's standing up for justice. And fighting for your freedom. The real American way.
During the Oscar celebration, DeAndrea was given a shoutout from ex NFL star Matthew A. Cherry who had won an Oscar that night, it was a short story about black hair called "Hair Love."
Mathew's message was clear. DeAndrea is not alone. And the country has his back. His community has his back. And as long as he keeps his head up, nothing is going to stop him from freeing himself.
This story really brings out the real heart of American values. It's not just about a boy who was treated unfairly, but about a community and a country that heard his story, and did not let it go.
They had his back, his friends, his mentors, and people with a platform to speak out all came together to support him and not let his experience ruin his life. Instead, giving voice to his courage and drive to still want to do good and be useful to his community, even though things weren't always faring to him.