The biggest day in the life of any child is that very first day of school, where they leave their parent's side for the first time and enter the big, sometimes scary world on their own. It's a next step in their evolution into an identity separate from their parents. It's the day when they finally become big boys or big girls, forever.
It's a day you only get once in life, and a west Texas school managed to fuck it all up for a five-year-old boy—simply because he didn't look like the other kids.
According to CBS-7 in Odessa, clueless school officials in the ironically-named town of Seminole sent Malachi Wilson—a member of the Navajo Nation—home from school last week because they said his hair was too long.
Malachi's parents say that it's against their religion to cut their hair, but that didn't stop administrators at F.J. Young Elementary School in Seminole from sending the boy home until he got a haircut.
"Our hair is sacred to us, it makes us part of who we are," Malachi's mom, April Wilson, told CBS-7. She said that her son had been excited to start school all summer long, but her son's once-in-a-lifetime experience was ruined.
"It's kind of heart breaking because how do you explain to a five-year-old that he is being turned away because of what he believes in, because of his religion, because of what's part of him, how do you explain that to him?" said April.
School officials claim that they were only following procedures, and that Malachi was allowed to begin school with his hair intact once his parents provided paperwork showing that he was a member of the Navajo Nation.
The school administration's demand that a Native American child get a haircut before being allowed to attend school is a disturbing flashback to an ugly and not-often discussed chapter in American history: Indian schools, in which supposedly well-meaning but undeniably racist white folks opened schools that tried to strip Native American children of any cultural identity, in essence trying to turn them white.
The process—typically enforced through often cruel if not barbaric forms of corporal punishment—included banning the use of native languages, the forced adoption of white names, dress and customs, vocational training in fields (usually farming or other manual labor) that weren't relevant either culturally or economically and the indoctrination of the children into white churches.
April Wilson says that she's contacted the American Indian Movement for assistance, and is considering pulling her son out of public school over the incident. She's also looking into finding a lawyer to open up a discrimination case against the district.
Welcome to the big world, Malachi.