In an atmosphere of increasing intolerance in a nation of immigrants, discrimination against minorities is reaching very alarming levels. Coming on the heels of Trump’s silent endorsement of purging Muslims from our nation, it is upsetting to learn that a Native American second grader in St. George, Utah, was sent home from school for cutting his hair into a traditional mohawk. The seven-year-old is a member of the Seneca and Paiute tribes and wanted to express his heritage, but the school felt that his hair was apparently “distracting” and violated the dress code.
He was only allowed back into school after the Seneca Nation sent a strongly worded letter to the school, explaining that “It is common for Seneca boys to wear a Mohawk because after years of discrimination and oppression, they are proud to share who they are.” William Canella, a Seneca Nation Tribal Councilor, went on to chide the school for their decision: “It’s disappointing that your school does not view diversity in a positive manner, and it is our hope that (the boy) does not suffer any discrimination by the school administration or faculty as a result of his hair cut.”
The repression of Native American culture and forced assimilation was once an active policy of the US government, and as socioeconomic stress between ethnic and racial groups in America reaches shocking levels of tension, it is imperative that absurd little incidents like this are responded to properly. School official Rex Wilkey equivocated, saying that “some things are a little more clear cut, and some things are a little more controversial. You try to manage it the best you can. Kids come in dressed all kinds of ways and it can be an issue for the school.” At a time like this, we need to be celebrating our diversity, especially among children. Encouraging and exploring cultural differences is what fosters tolerance in the next generation, and discriminatory incidents like this are certainly not helping.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.