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E! Fashion Police Masks Racist Speech Towards Zendaya As Comedy

02/25/2015 11:17 am ET | Updated Apr 27, 2015

Sign the Change.org Petition Demanding That E! Fashion Police Officially Apologize And Stop The Racist Bullying

The beautiful 18-year old Disney starlet Zendaya looked absolutely ravishing at the Acadamy Awards in her satin ivory Vivienne Westwood gown and her elegant dreadlocked hairstyle. But Giuliana Rancic of E! Fashion Police did not agree. While critiquing Zendaya's Oscar red carpet appearance, Giuliana Rancic commented on Zendaya's choice to wear her hair in dredlocks saying, "I feel like she smells like patchouli oil or maybe weed."

Zendaya did an amazing job of defending herself and her desire to bring traditional afro-textured hairstyles to the red carpet, as she pointed out that there is a fine line between comedy and disrespect. She also stated that luminaries such as filmmaker Ava DuVernay, singer Ledisi, author Terry MciMillan, Professor Vincent Brown and Professor Heather Andrea all wear locks.

However, I and many believe that Zendaya and the rest of the afro-textured hair community deserve MORE. We deserve an official apology from E! Fashion Police with a statement regarding how they will change the rampant, sometimes racist, bullying on their show. This is the petition to sign if you agree.

There is a reason why Rancic made a joke about Zendaya smelling like weed, and she did not make a similar joke about Julianna Moore who wore her straight hair in a bun. Rancic's wicked jab at dreadlocks is based on the stereotype that all people who choose to wear their hair in dreadlocks smoke marijuana. Despite evidence that locked hair was worn in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece and that locks are currently prevalent on both the African and Asian continents among the Maasai, Himba, Hamar and Sadhus, among others, locks are still often viewed as the faddish and rebellious hair-style of choice of drug users.

Moreover, because dreadlocks represent a historical, cultural and spiritual style for Africans and people of African descent whose kinky afro-textured hair can lock very easily, Rancic's comment has serious racist implications.

This is not the first time that the E! Fashion Police has made a racist comment against afro-textured hair. In 2013, I was appalled when the late Joan Rivers criticized Solange Knowles' appearance at the Great Gatsby premier by saying that although Rivers loves afros just as much as anyone else, afros are an inappropriate style for the red carpet. I was so horrified by Rivers' comment, and other disrespectful comments regarding kinky hair, that I wrote a children's book, Sunne's Gift, in order to honor afro-textured hair and teach the world about the beauty and power of difference.

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Courtesy of Milestales.

Two years later, E! Fashion Police still has contempt for natural afro-textured hair and continues to mask hateful speech as comedy. You may say that I am being too sensitive or that it was just a joke. But it is the idea that gave rise to the joke which is no joking matter.

The idea that afros and dreadlocks are radical and sub-par hairstyles gives rise to the fact that women of African descent in the army are still banned from wearing dreadlocks.

It gives rise to the fact that a seven-year-old girl named Tiana Parker was expelled from her school for wearing dreadlocks, despite the fact that she was a straight-A student.

It gives rise to the fact that 12-year-old violinist Vanessa Van Dyke was threatened with expulsion for wearing her hair in an afro-like style.

Moreover, it is this belief that gives rise to the fact that millions of little girls and women are exposed to chemicals in relaxers because of the fear that their natural afro-textured hair will cause them to face bullying and discrimination.

Such statements should not be tolerated. We can work towards getting rid of stereotypes by ensuring that such stereotypes are not promoted in the mass media. I created this change.org petition to demand that E! Fashion Police officially apologize and put in procedures to prevent such bullying.

My colleague actually believes that this petition is not going far enough. She believes that E! Fashion Police should be pulled off air because the show's very goal is to disrespect, bully and demean others. I would like to give E! Fashion Police a second or third chance. However, if we continue to see such brazen race-based bullying and bullying of all forms, I would be happy to work to eliminate the show.

Naturals4Change is a movement created to mobilize the natural hair community in advocating for issues that affect the black community socially, politically and economically. Follow Naturals4Change @Naturals4Change on Instagram and Twitter.

Together, we can make sure that all people from all continents and with all hair types are equally respected. Please sign this petition and we can help to put an end to such bullying and bigotry.