Cornrows and Cultural Climate

Nina Thompson, Staff Writer

Homecoming is a memorable week in all high schools- a football game, school dance, and school spirit add to the excitement every fall. A tradition at Roseville Area High School creates is brought to controversy every year, and the worry for cultural appropriation in public schools is brought to the attention of students and staff.

Cornrows,, aA hair style designed for African women and men’s hair texture, is being worn by white teenage girls which has brings frustration to the surface during homecoming festivities.

Some students wear cornrows to participate in a long school tradition. Jayda Johnston, senior, has experience in making cornrows.

“I have done cornrows in my friends’ hair in the past… I’ve also had them done before a basketball tournament and on vacation,” said Johnson.

But as a white woman, Jayda also acknowledged the sensitivity around the controversy. “I’ve always been a very confident person. If people want equality then things like this need to not be a problem. I know I might get looked down on, and that’s okay,-” she said.

Cornrows were brought to America from African slaves, who needed hairstyles that would be comfortable and low-maintenance while working intense labor. But the intricate designs were also used as maps, showing turns and direction in hopes of releasing others from bondage. The historical connection of cornrows and slavery makes the topic all the more sensitive, with ignorance deeply rooted.

Kaemia Chia, senior, finds cultural assumptions and mockery, with an insight of today’s cornrows. “I feel like they wear cornrows to feel tough and scary. If that’s what your connotations of corn rows are, it’s going to be offensive to black women,” said Chia..

According to administration, Roseville students have only shown good intentions when wearing cornrows on homecoming Friday.

Assistant Principal Shlynn Hayes said, “I don’t know if cornrows originated from African Americans, but I do know it’s one of the most identified hairstyles with black culture.”.

Because of this, admin keep a close eye on the tradition every year.

“What I have seen is that it is merely used as a hair style,” said assistant principal Mrs. Angie Woods, admin of 11 years at Roseville. “But if you do that along with other things that you perceive to be of black culture, now we’re talking about something totally different.” She is referring to: cultural appropriation.

But Talia Mcwright, grade 12, says cornrows is enough to be considered offensive. She believes “It’s not as overt as something like black-face or afros… but it can still hurt.”.

Chia and McWrightTalia, along with other students, find the tradition outdated, and should be questioned by today’s generation.

“To be able to have sympathy and compassion is really important, because if you don’t have that, you become ignorant,” McWrightTalia says. “It’s important to know the history behind anything that could become cultural appropriation, and make the decision if that’s something you want to contribute to.”

This tradition is hoped by many to become history at RAHS, a homecoming thing of the past.

“I just want to know why. Why corn rows when we can do any other hairstyle?”. Asked Chia. She raises a question that is imperative to start the conversation about cultural appropriation, hoping to educate others on the sensitivity around the hairstyle and fusion of cultures in our school.