Weeks after news hit that a Black teen from Texas was suspended from high school and his graduation threatened for wearing dreadlocks, he was a guest on the Ellen Show and got the surprise of a lifetime: A $20,000 college scholarship.
Before he was shocked by this amazing generosity, DeGeneres reassured him to not be nervous about being on television.
“I’m sure this is not easy or comfortable for you. “But I want you to just relax and know that I’m here for you.”
DeGeneres continued by admitting she was shocked as to why Arnold’s hair was even an issue in the first place.
“That’s why you’re here because I don’t understand this…”You get good grades,” DeGeneres said. “You’ve never been in trouble, ever. This is the first time anything has come up. And now, you haven’t been in school for weeks because of this situation.
As we previously reported, Arnold was recently suspended and told he couldn’t graduate in three months if he didn’t cut his hair. According to Arnold, he has worn dreads for years and has always followed the rules, but at this moment, he refuses to alter his hairstyle. However, this refusal means his only options are in-school suspension or an alternative school for children with behavioral issues, NBC noted.
And while his mother, Sandy Arnold, has called this treatment racial discrimination and has threatened to take the school to a federal court, officials from Barbers Hill High School were clear on their stance: “There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair. Our policy limits the length. It’s been that way for 30 years,” said Superintendent Greg Poole.
Meanwhile, on the Ellen Show, DeGeneres asked if girls had long hair.
Arnold replied: “There’s plenty of girls with long hair at my school. Like, if girls can have long hair, why can’t I have long hair?”
That’s a great question.
Arnold also explained that his culture plays a role in his hair.
It’s really important to me because my dad is from Trinidad. And I really wish the school would kind of be open to other cultures and just, at least let us try to tell you some things. Don’t just shut us out,” he says of his school whose Black population only accounts for a measly 3.1 percent.
While DeGeneres may not have gotten the school to take him back, she, along with Keys, presented him with money to help for his future.
“I want to tell you that, I couldn’t believe the story when I heard it,” Keys told Arnold. “And I’m super proud of you for standing up for what you know is right. And I know that the school needs to do the right thing.”
Arnold has plans on becoming a veterinarian.
While this is such an amazing turn in this story, it’s still infuriating that Arnold had to go through this in the first place. But he’s not alone. Right now, in 48 states it is legal to discriminate against natural hairstyles at school and in the workplace. While New York and California have both passed The Crown Act, it’s not a federal law across the board, but it can be if we speak out.
Remember: Our hair shouldn’t be looked at a distraction and it has nothing to do with learning. Most importantly, how we choose to wear our hair shouldn’t be used against our Black folks to stop us from succeeding or living out our dreams.