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Cornrows Create Controversy

Philadelphia Police Officer Thomas Strain was taken off the street earlier this month after he showed up to work with his hair braided in cornrows.It amazes me sometimes the scenarios and situations that are often reported in the news. A great deal of the time, it is not due to relevance and credibility of the news that is being reported, but the event that happened. Another one of those types of stories occurred this past week. It has been reported by the New York Daily News and Philadelphia Daily News that Thomas Strain, a white police officer in Philadelphia, was pulled of street duty, and ordered to change his hair style by his black superior. Now, what makes this situation so peculiar is that several of Strain’s fellow comrades also sport that same cornrow look, but are black, are still on duty. The report can be read here.

Despite the common tone of the story, there is something about it that raises several flags about our society.

First and foremost, let’s acknowledge the underlying, and obvious truth that cornrows are ethnical, and synonymous with blacks. In some areas, and some countries in fact, cornrows are indeed cultural. So with that said, yes I understand the double standard in the story.

However, my biggest gripe is with that double standard. Exactly what year are we currently living in? I’ve never been in full support of employers frowning upon specific ethnic and cultural appearances such as cornrows and dreadlocks. If kept orderly and professionally presentable while keeping the credibility and safety of the occupation in tact, they should indeed be allowed. Though, that is a discussion for another time.

Yet, we are all in agreement that if hairstyles are subject for employment suspension or termination in various fields, those rules and guidelines should be universal. Hairstyle compliance should not and cannot be judged based on ethnicity or gender.

With that said, the other alarm that goes off is the obvious discrimination that is taking place. Strain is obviously wearing cornrows in support of a specific lifestyle that he chooses to support. And well, hey, there is nothing wrong with that. Our world, despite the stereotypes that some may have and their inability to get passed them, is becoming more and more diverse everyday. If a white man decides to wear cornrows – cool. It is all cool.

After all, it is 2009. We have seen a white rapper, and a black country singer.

Blacks now play golf, Asians now play the center position in basketball, and Latino’s sing reggae.

And how about this, the leader of the free world is a man of color.

All situations stereotyped before towards specific ethnicities. All broken. All in some way, made this world a better (and civilized) place.

For years we were relegated to dress, act, speak, talk, and live our lives a certain way because of race and ethnicity. That has to, will, and must change. Stereotypes are a sickness, and its only cure is through education and blurring the lines between us.

And as for The Philadelphia Police Department, to second the quote made by a police officer in the story, “I can’t believe we are wasting time and energy on this.”

For I’m sure there are much larger issues to be attended to in the city of Philadelphia than who should be allowed to wear cornrows.

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