College Student Charged After Assaulting A Basketball Player For "Culturally Appropriating" A Hairstyle

Christine Rousselle
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Posted: Mar 21, 2017 10:00 AM
College Student Charged After Assaulting A Basketball Player For "Culturally Appropriating" A Hairstyle

Carmen Figueroa, a student at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, has pleaded not guilty to various charges of assault and battery stemming from a January 27 incident where she accused members of Central Maine Community College's women's basketball team of "culturally appropriating" their braided hairstyles. When the CMCC players did not remove the braids from their hair, Figueroa and another Hampshire student then proceeded to pull the hair of one of the players, started a fight, and stomped on a player who had been knocked to the ground. Figueroa also allegedly grabbed a CMCC player by the head and threw her to the ground before coaches broke up the fight.

From MassLive: (emphasis added)

During the incident, Figueroa allegedly walked up to members of the Central Maine Community College women's basketball team and demanded that they remove braids from their hair, calling "cultural appropriation."

When the girls did not do as Figueroa asked, she allegedly initiated a fight with one of them. At the same time, another Hampshire College student who has not been identified is said to have pulled the hair of one of the visiting players, which caused her to fall down.

Figueroa then allegedly stepped on the player who had fallen, which injured her, according to court documents.

One of the other players stepped in to attempt to protect her team mate, but Figueroa allegedly "grabbed her by the head and threw her to the ground"--which caused her to suffer scratches, say the court documents.

Coaches came to break up the fight--at which time Figueroa is said to have been "screaming swears and racial slurs" and had attempted to punch the visiting basketball players.

First of all, this is a completely inappropriate and unacceptable reaction to a hairstyle. College students should have the ability to discern how to appropriately react to something which they are offended by--regardless of how trivial the "offense" may seem. Grabbing someone by the head and throwing them to the ground is probably not going to be an appropriate tactic for dealing with these feelings. Also, a basketball game is not going to be an appropriate time to discuss supposed cultural missteps.

Secondly, no culture has a monopoly on braids. A quick Google search reveals that there's hundreds of thousands of ways to braid and style hair. It's not at all unique to one particular culture. Also, we live in the United States of America, where a person is free to do their hair however they please. It's fairly racist in and of itself to insist that only certain people can arrange their hair in certain styles.

Third--is it really all that shocking that the same campus that flew the flag at half-staff following Trump's election (and then temporarily banned it) breeds this kind of toxic violence?

Goodness gracious.