Hair and Bias: Discrimination on the baseball field of Valdosta State University raises national concern

A recent video leaked from a Valdosta State University baseball player exposing his head coach for explicitly barring the Black player from participating in a game solely because of his natural hair. The incident might feel like a relic from a bygone era, but the sad reality is that this is America, and it’s 2023.

An anonymous Valdosta University baseball player recorded a video where the coach can be heard telling a Black player that he would not play in the game because of his hairstyle—specifically his locs. Yes, you read that correctly. A talented young athlete, whose name we are withholding for his privacy, was sidelined simply because of what naturally grows out of his head.

The discrimination against Black hair is not a recent phenomenon; it has been an ongoing struggle deeply rooted in American history. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, and systemic racism have all contributed to the devaluing of Black beauty standards, including our natural hair. From schools to workplaces, Black individuals have consistently been subjected to hair discrimination, sending the unequivocal message that conformity to Eurocentric beauty standards is the only pathway to inclusion.

The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act was designed to tackle such discrimination. This law prohibits discrimination based on hair texture and protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists, and afros. Though the Act has been passed in several states, Georgia has yet to adopt it. The Valdosta University incident is a glaring example of why such legislation is critically needed in every state.

It is disheartening to witness institutional environments like educational sports programs perpetuating discrimination. These places should be sanctuaries for cultivating talent and building character, not breeding grounds for racial bias. The coach’s actions not only derail this young man’s athletic experience but could potentially inflict long-lasting psychological harm.

Discrimination against Black hair is a microcosm of broader systemic racism. This incident at Valdosta University is not an isolated one; it’s a disheartening example of the pervasive forms of racial inequality that exist in America today. Until we confront these deeply ingrained prejudices, no place—be it a classroom, an office, or a sports field—can be considered safe from the plague of discrimination.

It is incumbent upon us all to stand against the blatant racial bias that still exists in our society. Let this incident serve as a wake-up call for Valdosta University and educational institutions across America. The immediate termination of the coach and comprehensive anti-discrimination training should be the least of the corrective measures taken. Furthermore, Georgia needs to pass the CROWN Act to legislate against such discriminatory practices.

We’ve come too far to turn back now. This young athlete and countless others deserve better. They deserve an America that values them for their talents and character, not an America that judges them based on what naturally grows out of their heads. The time for change is now. We can and must do better.

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