(Modern Covert Racism: Do Groomed Locks Illicit Fear?)
To whom it may concern,
In the politically charged and racially sensitive landscape of today’s America I have found myself in the crossfire of cultural insensitivity, racism, and prejudice. The aftermath of a power wielding institution that has not the individual in mind but merely its own power—maintaining its own survival. This phenomenon is being personified and actualized in the form of one Denis Kane (Basketball Coach: Mission Bay High School). I am but a student, a student who is by no means perfect but a student who is trying nonetheless. I attend classes and a big part of my life is basketball. It takes much of my free time, and it is a large focus of my life and of whom I want to be. I work hard like my classmates, I’m a tax paying citizen like my classmates, I expect to be afforded the extracurricular activities as my classmates, and to be held to the same standard as my classmates. My dream of playing basketball is being derailed by my conviction to stand up for my personal expression and cultural freedom. I hate that the two are conflicting but I feel obligated to take a stand as integrity leads me to do so.
Allow me to briefly explain my situation. I, Christopher (Blank), was kicked off of the basketball team for wearing my hair in a particular fashion. I have my hair in locks (often referred to as dreadlocks) which are common to my ancestors and have great cultural context which I will not expound upon here. In modern society I will admit, locks have taken on a phenomenon of their own, nonetheless I keep mine neat and aesthetic. I was told by Dennis Kane that he didn’t “like the way that I had to remove the locks from my eyes” while playing basketball and that he wanted me to fix the issue. I took the proper protocol and decided to put my locks up. This essentially is to braid the locks in a design that would keep them from hanging in my eyes. When Dennis Kane saw this hair style he told me that the hairstyle was “ghetto” and he didn’t want “ghetto” people going to his games. Implicating that I could not rejoin the team until my hair was cut. This leads me to my current dilemma.
I considered conforming to this man’s demands, but upon further contemplation I feel that this issue is bigger than me. The scope of this issue is a microcosm of a far larger phenomenon that is embedded in the psyche of the American conscious—its cultural and social implications are far grander. The intolerance and xenophobia imposed by this man’s will is merely a perpetuation of a supremacists view point—a view point expressed and felt by many that commonly leads to discrimination. For one man to deem my hair as “ghetto” what exactly does that entail? Am I being judged for my cultural expression? If so is it deemed with a negative connotation? It appears that I am being punished for one man’s fears and insecurities. And for a public institution to support this man’s decision would have far greater implications. Because I look a particular way, he has preconceived, ill contrived notions about a hair style and he is punishing me for his misconceptions. Now I’ve taken heed to all the young individuals in the media that look like me and brutalized by individuals that harbor adjacent mindsets. People see an image and they take action. ( See Trayvon Martin, Romie Mims, Jordon Miles, Joquan Wallace)
If my hair is “ghetto” it is also shared by Akintunde Ahmad and many other prosperous individuals. With Mr. Kane’s Mindset, should Mr. Ahmad not be “allowed” to play sports? With his 5.0 grade point average should he not be admitted to Ivy League schools because his appearance is “ghetto”, “threatening”, and not up to Mr. Kane’s standards? The fact of the matter is Mr. Kane’s rationale is solely based off his personal bias; it is bigoted, unfounded, spiteful, and unjust.
This letter is a call to action. I’m not asking for Dennis Kane to lose his means of income by being fired or anything of that nature. But I am asking for him to recognize that an injustice has been done. I am asking that this issue be brought to his attention in the manner of enlightenment not as an attack on his character. I am asking that I be reinstated on the team and I am asking that no retaliation be taken upon me. I do fear, that when a man who feels he has a secured arena of power and has that powered threatened, that he will be naturally inclined to retaliate.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my side of the story.
All for the good,
(Update: Since this letter was written, I regret to inform you that the above student did indeed cut his hair. His fear kept him from going through with the letter. I don’t know if it made a difference with him being on the team or not, for it is my personal belief that this coach had a bias against him.)
(I initially was going to leave out the coaches name school, but upon further thought the only innocent person here is the young man.)