The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education Fired An Educator For Speaking Positively About Black Hair
On Tuesday, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education released a campaign video directed at youth that shattered harmful attitudes surrounding “pelo bueno, pelo malo” — the idea that thin, straight hair is beautiful and afro-textured coils aren’t.
“In the Ministry of Education, no little girl, little boy or grown adult should be discriminated because of their physical appearance. We are committed to guaranteeing the equality in identity,” Marianela Pinales, then director of Gender Equality and Development at the Ministry of Education on the island, said in the video, as young Black and brown boys and girls send similar messages about loving their hair as it is.
The 52-second PSA is long-overdue in the Dominican Republic, one of many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that has held tightly to the white supremacist belief that skin and hair texture that aligns closer to European standards of beauty are both more attractive and deserving of better treatment than those with hues and locks that are darker and thicker.
For that, many on the island and diaspora celebrated the video, including Edith Febles, a respected journalist and natural hair advocate, who aired it on her show, La cosa como es. However, just after the video debut, Febles said Pinales was discharged.
While the Ministry of Education said that Pinales was fired because she missed several recent events — a claim the educator denies — and not because of the video, which some have considered controversial, many find the timing around her termination questionable.
“The timing is very *very* suspicious to say the least,” Amanda Alcántara, the digital media editor at Futuro Media Group, wrote in an article for Latino Rebels. “Much like the roots of anti-blackness in the country itself, the people in power seem to stop at no cost to maintain white supremacy. This confirms that even as consciousness grows, the problem is systemic.”
On social media, many others have shared similar sentiments.
The campaign, however, is reaching audiences in and outside of the Dominican Republic, where it has the power to challenge beauty ideals and young people’s relationships with their hair.