WaPo discovers incipient fascism in Jamaica

Many accuse the Russians of playing a spoiler role in domestic politics, but few seem to question the American media's fomenting cultural tensions in foreign countries.  Leftists never hesitate to accuse Western governments of imperialism for attempting to remedy problems in the developing world, though they appear oblivious to the use of Russia-like tactics by the media to stoke conflict in developing countries.   This was recently achieved by the Washington Post in a piece titled "Jamaican High Court Rules School Can Ban Dreadlocks."  It begins quite contentiously: "Jamaica's high court ruled that a school was within its rights to demand that a girl cut her dreadlocks to attend classes, a surprise decision that touched on issues of identity and one of the most recognizable symbols of the island's Rastafarian culture."

May Kate Chappell, the author of this piece, and her editors kindly clarify — what is surprising about a court ruling that schools have a right to enforce rules?  Despite the media's insistence in portraying the ruling as a violation of individual liberties, it is a bulwark of orderliness in a society whose values are being subverted by the licentiousness of identity politics.  Religious expression is guaranteed under Section 17 of Jamaica's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom.  Jamaican law prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion; however, in this case, non-Rastafarians Dale and Sherine Virgo were arguing that the rights of their daughter, X, were breached when they were informed that her hairstyle was noncompliant with the dress code of her school, Kensington Primary.  Although the institution discussed dismissing X, there is no evidence to suggest that administrators seriously intended to apply this course of action.  On the surface, the case appears to be straightforward, but its outcome has prompted visceral emotions outside the shores of Jamaica. 

As the report carried by the Post illustrates, Dale and Sherine Virgo wanted Kensington Primary to ignore its rules: "The Virgos say they do not identify as Rastafarians, but that wearing dreadlocks is an expression of their identity.  All Virgo family members wear that natural hairstyle, as do many Jamaicans who identify as Rastafarian."  Some courts have argued that the regulation of hairstyles is a First Amendment issue.  In an interview with Vogue, hair historian Rachel Gibson said, "Afro styles became intrinsically linked with civil rights, as natural hair came to be viewed as an important symbol of the movement[.] ... Hair has always provided a visual shorthand for something deeper."  Donning dreadlocks is emblematic of support for anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, black pride, and even anti-racism.  Therefore, one can easily argue that dreadlocks reflect protest culture.  Globally, children are also recognized as being eligible to express political opinions.  Yet these arguments were not cogently enunciated by the Virgos.  Asserting that dreadlocks represent your identity without specification does not constitute a legal argument.

In explaining their decision, the judges underline the silliness of allowing institutions to cater to the whims of all individuals and their evolving identities: "Self-expression for many people varies from day to day, week to week, and take on wide and varied forms.  I cannot envisage an orderly school society, and certainly not an institution run for the benefit of large numbers of children ... where they are exempted from the rules of the school, simply on the basis of individual self-expression[.] ... If that were so, except for religious idiosyncrasies, self-expression in their attire and adornment would potentially then, be just based on the student's own or the unstated choices of each of their parents for self-expression by their family."

Unfortunately, the Virgos expected to achieve a legal victory on the flippant assumption that courts are obliged to acknowledge unique peculiarities.  Individuals can create their own subjective identities, but they cannot force the wider society to accept them under the banner of "human rights."  For example, a man is free to identify as a woman but has no right forcing a women's college to admit him as a student.  In the same light, the Virgos should not expect Kensington Primary to alter its rules to suit their identity.  Hence, this judgment serves to remind us that in a true court of law, your feelings do not matter.

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