When your cosmetics make others ill

Student kicked out of class because of her hair product?

This article got flagged up on Facebook: an African-American schoolgirl was kicked out of class by a white teacher in Seattle because her hair was “sickening” because of the hair product the girl used. It looks like some people are trying to make a race issue out of it when it seems to be more of a health issue (more: Afrobella):

The child’s father, Charles Mudede, said “he had a lot of questions when his daughter, the only black child in her advanced-placement class, came home from school last month and announced her teacher made her leave the classroom because the girl’s hair was making the teacher sick.”

The father further explained that the school has not communicated with them to explain what is so appalling about his child’s hair. Therefore, he is reluctant to send her back to school.

Mudede asked “why did the school seem oblivious to the racial overtones of a white teacher singling out her only black student?”

This proud father said he has raised his daughter to treasure being black and to reject temptations of straightening her hair with “products in an effort to look more like her white classmates.” …

All teachers should undergo cultural diversity training because no child should be treated that way. And if her teacher is allergic to the child’s natural hair product, a quick trip to a pharmacist will solve that problem.

This is a really ignorant statement. A “quick trip to the pharmacist” will not solve a long-term allergy or chemical sensitivity. A few years ago, a cousin of mine had multiple chemical sensitivities and it made her quite ill and very weak for a long time. We all had to change the products we put on our bodies if she was going to come round or we were going to see her. I don’t know about everyone in the family, but I stopped using spray-on deodorants and haven’t used them since.

As this is a Muslim blog and most of the people involved in the discussion were Muslims, I should point out that in Islam, women aren’t supposed to wear strong perfume when out and about anyway. Now, traditionally in Muslim countries, people wore perfumes that consisted purely of essential oils and weren’t mixed with solvents and aerosols that are meant to facilitate spraying which are in commercial perfumes nowadays. A lot of perfumes that are available today aren’t alluring at all but simply stink. A few weeks ago I was on a bus across south London and a woman was sitting a couple of rows back from me and the smell of her perfume was overpowering — I thought it must have been the infamous “Poison” from the 1980s. I kept holding my breath because I couldn’t stand to breath the stench in. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for anyone more sensitive to it than I am, but it was a mystery that she didn’t realise the effect her perfume could have on those who were confined in that space with her. (I wrote about this here and the whole post, and several others at that blog, are well worth reading.)

Perhaps this incident could have been handled a bit more sensitively, but some of those on Facebook seemed to think that the teacher was just offended by her hairstyle or should have just put up with it, although others said that they had stopped using this or that chemical on their child’s hair because it was proving disruptive. It is quite obvious that nobody was trying to make the young girl straighten her hair “like a white girl”, rather they didn’t want her to use a chemical which triggered the teacher’s allergy or chemical sensitivity. I do not think schools have the right to stop children coming in with hairstyles or headgear which are traditional to them even if they aren’t to those who run the school; they do have the right to make sure their teachers and students aren’t made ill by other people’s body or hair sprays.

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