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[COMMENTARY] White People, Stop Doing Clueless White People Stuff

Seven-year-old Jurnee Hoffmeyer was on the bus heading home from school when a classmate cut her long curly hair several inches on one side to around shoulder length. When she got home that day, her family was stunned to see what had happened. Jurnee’s father, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, was upset when he heard what happened, but then he took her straight to the salon and let her choose a new look, understanding that his little girl couldn’t go to school with half a haircut.

Two days later, Jurnee, who is biracial, came home hysterically crying and nearly bald. Her hair had been cut to her scalp by her library teacher, the work of “women who didn’t have the first idea of how to care for the hair of a Black child”, according to the story about Jurnee posted on The Black Wall Street Journal.

hair cut

hair cut

You can read the rest of the story as I’ve linked it above. It should infuriate you regardless of your background. As a mother and a human, I wanted to teleport to Michigan and slap that librarian. It is yet another example of white people extending their white privilege far beyond where they should even attempt to stretch it, but they do it anyway. Because white people.

I am a white woman and I don’t know how many more stories like this I can read. It’s not my place to speak for any community I wasn’t born into, but I can certainly be an ally and an advocate by elevating and amplifying stories that might otherwise fly under the radar. When the stories involve yet another Black girl or another Black woman being disrespected by white microaggressions, what else can I do but make sure as many white people see it as possible so we can all hold each other accountable?

Because we need to be holding each other accountable, my fellow white people. You can put all the hashtags in your tweets that show your support for #BlackLivesMatter. You can feel relieved that George Floyd’s murderer will never walk free, but you can’t breathe too easily because in that same moment we watched Derek Chauvin getting remanded to custody, Ma’Khia Bryant was being shot four times by the police officer she’d called to protect her from two girls who had been bullying her. We need to scream at each other when this happens, because it keeps happening.

Jurnee Hoffmeyer was traumatized to the point that she changed schools and is going to therapy. She has her father advocating for her, which is wonderful–we don’t hear enough about Black girls having loving relationships with their fathers–but he shouldn’t have to fight so hard in the first place for his daughter’s hair to be left alone at school or anywhere else. Jurnee’s story is just one of millions because people of color in this country have learned to live with what white people do to them like it’s no big deal.

 

But it IS a big deal. White privilege blinds white people into deciding which Black stories are more important than others. It is not enough to just share these stories, although it’s vital that we keep sharing all of them. But we need to do more than just cluck our tongues and wish it would all end. The endless cycle of systemic racism in this country will only be broken from within. How hard is it to just be a better human? Do you have to go as for as to ask yourself, Would I do this to a white person? Is it that difficult for you? Don’t touch someone else’s child. Don’t touch someone else’s hair. Don’t touch someone else’s child’s hair. It’s really not that hard.

And then just keep that going. Don’t be a jerk to someone who has more melanin in their skin than you do. It’s also not that hard, either. Whatever your damage is, you learned it from someone else, so you can un-learn it. I’ll leave you with the genius words of Jane Elliott, who says everything better than everyone. Please share this with some white people you know who need to hear it (ps, that’s all of them, just in case you didn’t catch my drift).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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