The reasons why these teenagers cut their hair isn’t connected to aesthetic at all. It IS connected to respectability politics, shame, and white supremacy, though.
Perry’s remark that not only these kids’, but his own, natural hair is an “unkempt frosh” reeks of self-hatred that that is only compounded with Steve’s kowtow in the form of a forcibly squared hairline (a method employed by paler men to appear more racially ambiguous (as larger heads, sharper hairlines, and higher foreheads are traits of white people)). There is nothing powerful about feeling as if you need to assimilate into a society that makes no effort to disguise its mistrust and fear of your body, hair, and presence.
It’s no secret that corporate UK and America sees natural hair as dirty and unprofessional. This is an eight-ten decade old belief, and the stigma surrounding our hair is one of the many pushes behind the natural hair movement, which gained ground with women of color several years ago. Perry takes these beliefs much further, however, as a quick scroll through his Twitter feed or a Google search reveals that the doctor is of the opinion that institutionalized racism is predominately upheld by the inability of black people to meet white expectations. Relaxers, weaves, and wigs for women, and clippers for men are just par for the course. Every black child is in need of reform in Perry’s eyes. Without his guidance, most of the children in his school would be without confidence, without morals, and without the wherewithal necessary to graduate high school and start on the road to doing something productive with their lives. According to Perry’s philosophy, if we work harder and hold the correct values, white employers will cease overlooking those of us without records in favor of white felons. Landlords will stop discriminating against us if we wear suits every day and everywhere. The community will flourish, food deserts will fade like mirages, and infrastructure will magically appear if we only abandon our cultures, abide by gender roles, hetereonormativity, and white ideology/racist structures. Strangely enough, none of Dr. Perry’s solutions can nor ever will speak to the overwhelming educational disparities I wrote about last month. Steve doesn’t offer a solution for white teachers who fear black kindergarteners and suspend said children for yelling in class, nor those who call the police for the same reason. But why would he approach those issues? If he ever did, the doctor would have to admit that he is the L4 vertebrae of white supremacy and not an exemplary black.