My mom tells the story of how more than 40 years ago, when she arrived for college in Topeka, Kansas about the challenge she faced finding someone to “do” her hair.

Think things have changed much?

Not if you go by a recent story in the news about an Ohio school that decided to ban puffs and braids.

Here is yet another reminder of what black girls and women continue to face when it comes to expressing our natural beauty. It also points to a huge divide, culture wise.

Can you imagine ponytails and scrunchies or maybe the Jennifer Anniston hairstyle being banned at white schools? Who ever made this decision, black or white, isn’t being sensitive to the needs of parents and their children. If they were, they’d know that a bad hair day is nothing to kid around about. With all of the things on the plates of children, teens and their caretakers, if they’ve found a workable style that makes everyone feel good, the last thing they need is for some bureaucratic decision to be added to the mix.

Even today in metropolitan cities full of black folks and black hair stylists, finding someone you can trust, depend on and afford isn’t always easy. Thankfully, I only have my hair to be concerned about since my two boys are very low maintenance when it comes to this area. A good barber, $30 bucks for the two of them and we’re good to go.

But I do have nieces and friends with girls and I’ve witnessed first hand the effort and sometimes struggles they have to go through to keep their hair looking right while having to make some major decisions regarding perms, excessive heat, extensions and even weaves.

In a perfect world, most of us would command our teens to go natural and to appreciate the beauty of their hair whether it’s curly, kinky, straight or a combination of all three. But this is the real world where not only do they have to deal with all of the images they see in the media, but they also have to have styles they can somewhat maintain themselves and that will hold up in the course of days filled with rigorous activity. We want our girls to participate in sports, dance, etc., without being under the scrutiny of often mean-spirited critics.

We all remember what Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas had to go through, not to mention the “nappy head bleeps” comment radio host Imus made about the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Team back in 2007.

I actually know women who grew up before braided hair and other alternatives were options who refused to swim and participate in other sports. Trying to manage a press and curl or even a perm wasn’t worth the trouble.

We’re trying to encourage our girls to be the best they can be and their hair shouldn’t hold them back.

If you have a story about how you were discriminated against or made to feel bad because of your hair, please share.

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