You have to feel sorry for DeAndre Arnold. Or do you?

The senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belview, Texas, wears shoulder-length dreadlocks. He claims it’s part of his Trinidadian heritage.

The appearance rules in his school district, however, permit dreads, but not long ones. So he’s been barred from regular classes and told that while he would be eligible to graduate on time, he cannot participate in commencement exercises unless he cuts his hair.

“He should get to choose who he identifies himself as, and he shouldn’t be discriminated against,” insisted his mother, Sandy Arnold. “You don’t tell girls they can’t have short hair. It’s so much bigger than DeAndre.”

Indeed it is. Dress codes and such, however, have been around for quite a while, and we hear frequently of things coming to a head (no pun intended – or is there?) such as a recent report of a high school wrestler banned from the mat until he shortened his locks.

Sometimes strict dress codes are modified over time, as is true of Anderson Community Schools. There was a bit of flak some years ago when the existing (albeit now eased somewhat) dress code was adopted. But I recall my own school days when girls had to wear dresses or skirts (no jeans or slacks), and no one could wear shorts. As for long hair on boys, it was no problem; most wouldn’t have been caught dead with hair down to their shoulders.

I suppose if today’s youngsters want to wear long hair, it’s their business. Of course it’s also the business of personnel offices that hire workers. And should they seek to join the military, they will be in for a rude awakening. Elvis Presley, the 1950s rock and roll idol, found that out when he had his trademark sideburns shorn upon enlistment.

Dress codes, though, are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being different.

Racial tensions, for instance, have festered even decades after the civil rights movement produced a legally integrated society. Even as increasing numbers of interracial marriages occur, they seemingly have yet to serve as a unifying factor.

And more recently the issue of homosexuality and related gender identity questions has come to a head with the alphabet movement: LGBTQA-and-they-keep-adding-more-letters. Understanding the difference between transsexual and transgender becomes problematic; it seems transgender individuals seek to identify themselves as whatever gender they feel like, regardless of their physiological makeup. And we are presented with the dilemma of how to solve the bathroom thing.

I would suggest that if we are going to halt the increasing fragmentation of society there will have to be a sense of accommodation of different points of view. We are going to have to have a measure of tolerance and acceptance and for those with different lifestyles.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean we need to celebrate the differences.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Saturday. His regular column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.

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