This Italian Classroom Just Schooled Everyone in Embracing Hair Diversity
It's no secret there are biases toward people of color who wear their hair "natural." Just Google "unprofessional hairstyles for work," and you'll see a slew of photos of black women's hair pop up. But the workplace isn't the only place where women of color face stigma for their hair — even children are at risk of being bullied in elementary school classrooms for "looking different."
Alexondra Purnomo, who teaches a predominantly white first grade class in Rome, noticed one of her new students with natural hair being mocked by other classmates.
She took this moment to teach her students the beauty in recognizing each other's differences — and have them all give one hairstyle a try. (*Heartwarming alert*)
"We talked about being different and it not mattering. Whether we are short, tall, light-skinned, dark-skinned, blond, brunette, with or without glasses, boy, girl, braid, bun, sneakers, shoes," Purnomo wrote in a Facebook post.
She further explained how after the discussion and encouragement from her fellow classmates, the child removed a hat she had worn since the bullying. Purnomo, along with a co-worker, copied the little girl's look and threw their hair into buns calling it the "Sasha bun," after the student.
"One by one, all the girls (and boys!) wanted their hair in a 'Sasha bun,'" she wrote. "We were able to come together as a class and bring a smile to Sasha's face after a long, tough week."
A week later, according to PopSugar, Sasha showed up to school with the hat on but quickly removed it when the classmates cheered, "Ma Sasha, sei bella," or "But Sasha, you're beautiful."
Unfortunately, other girls' negative experiences at schools haven't always had such uplifting results. In 2014, a 12-year-old was threatened with expulsion for violating the dress code. In February, a high school student was suspended for allegedly having hair that looked "untidy, ungroomed, unkempt, and like it would not have been combed for days." (Online, users responded in solidarity by tweeting #SupportThePuff.)
The users who commented on Purnomo's post agreed this outcome was clearly the way to go.
"Teaching the best kind of stuff right there. Well done," one person wrote.
"Life's lessons in embracing and enjoying diversity," another commented. "So very proud of you and the students."
All other schools grappling with biased "dress codes" should take note.