NewsBlack Student At BYU Hawaii Is Fighting To Keep His Locs

Black Student At BYU Hawaii Is Fighting To Keep His Locs

A Black student enrolled at BYU-Hawaii finds himself embroiled in a dispute with the institution over hair policy, which targets his locs.

The Guardian reported that Kanaan VyShonne Barton, a Black student enrolled at Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYU), finds himself embroiled in a dispute with the institution over its hair policy, which he claims targets his shoulder-length locs, a cultural symbol he refuses to cut.

Since September, Barton has been at odds with BYU-Hawaii staff regarding the length of his hair, which he maintains is spiritually significant and emblematic of his cultural heritage. Despite the school’s requirement for “neatly trimmed” hair in its honor code, Barton contends that his locs hold deep personal and cultural significance, representing his identity and ancestry.

“Regardless of the length of my hair, I am spiritually involved. I am actively going to church,” Barton asserted in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. “But my locs mean something to me. They are culture. They are family. I shouldn’t have to cut my hair to get an education here.”

BYU-Hawaii, a satellite campus of Brigham Young University, operates under the umbrella of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and enforces a strict honor code that governs various aspects of student behavior, including grooming standards. While the code stipulates that hair should be “clean, neat, modest, and avoid extremes in styles and colors,” it lacks specific guidance on length.

In a meeting with Jonathan Kalaonalani Kau, the vice president for student life, Barton alleges Kau instructed him to trim his locs, deeming them “a distraction” and accusing Barton of “pushing his own agenda and being defiant.”

As a compromise, Barton has begun to style his locs in a manner that keeps them above the collar, but he remains adamant about preserving their integrity. He views his locs as a symbol of strength, courage, and freedom, deeply rooted in his family’s heritage as Afro-Guyanese Americans.

While BYU has made efforts to address past racial biases, including disavowing previous teachings associating blackness with divine disfavor, Barton’s case highlights ongoing tensions between institutional policies and the cultural identities of students of color.

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Source: Black Enterprise

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