The NSW government has finally responded to a petition calling for Black students to be allowed to wear their hair naturally to private schools, and their response absolutely fucking sucks.
The petition was launched by Sydney-based rapper James Emmanuel (also known by his stage name JamarzOnMarz) in July and has since amassed over 20,000 signatures.
At the time, he told PEDESTRIAN.TV: “As a biracial person, I feel racially ambiguous without my Afro. I wear it with pride, and it gives me a sense of belonging to my Kenyan heritage.”
In a letter sent this month on behalf of NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell, Emmanuel was told that because racial discrimination is “already against the law”, there should be no problem.
Obviously, there still is a problem.
“Please be assured that the NSW Department of Education rejects all forms of racism,” the letter continued.
“It is committed to the elimination of racial discrimination in public schools – including direcft and indirect racism, racial vilification and harassment – in all aspects of the learning and working environment.
“Its schools have trained anti-racism contact officers and provide timely and professional responses to complaints regarding racism.”
Because Emmanuel wants to make the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act apply to private school uniform codes, the department ultimately pointed him to NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman, to whom the petition is now co-addressed.
Emmanuel said the government’s reply is not good enough, and that there are still too many stories of private schools disciplining Black students with natural hair, or with hairstyles such as braids, cornrows and locs.
“I’m aware of these anti-discriminatory policies but they failed to protect me and continue to fail many others like me,” he said.
“Racism isn’t always overt vilification or harassment; it can be institutionalised under the guise of grooming codes.”
This lackluster response has encouraged him to keep going until every school – not just public schools – is held accountable for their discriminatory dress and grooming codes.
“For that to happen, we need to make more noise,” he added.
Emmanuel isn’t giving up just yet, and he’s even considering taking his former school in Orange to the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal for anti-discrimination.
In the meantime, he’s collecting stories from other Black current and former students about their experiences with racist hair policies.
You can sign the petition and share your story here.Image: Getty Images / Mark Kolbe | Supplied