White People With Dreadlocks

One of my guilty pleasures is to browse the net, looking for gorgeous pics of people with dreadlocks. I had always been exposed to people of all cultures who grew dreadlocks and I’ve never seen any problem with people wearing them, regardless of their race. So I was a bit surprised when in the process of Googling pictures and articles about dreadlocks, this blog post about how White people shouldn’t have dreadlocks popped up. Even a tad bit more surprising was the fact that the author herself was White.

I do not agree with most people who make clear-cut judgments on the personal choices of others. Someone’s personal opinion is just that – personal. In my own humble opinion, I do not think that dreadlocks is the most aesthetically pleasing look on most White people. But then again, why should it matter what I think? What is important is how the person who is wearing that hair thinks.

The author echos the opinion of this article that states that White people who wear dreadlocks and mohawks are being disrespectful to African-Americans and indigenous Americans. By doing so they are hijacking a part of these peoples’ culture and robbing it of all of its original meaning and symbolism. Ok…well that is a nice idea to put out there. But the blogger equated White people wearing dreadlocks with White people having “Pimps & Hos” parties. And that I think is a bit of a stretch.

I always like to take a situation, and try to apply the exact same scenario to different groups. Let’s pretend that we live in a world that isn’t dominated by political correctness. Let’s move the shoe to the other foot, and say that it is disrespectful for Black people to straighten their hair — therefore emulating and disrespecting White culture. On one hand, you do have a point. Black people straightening their hair en masse is pretty disrespectful…but to themselves. But that’s an entirely different conversation. Let’s also say to all the White people who take martial arts lessons, that it is disrespectful for them to do so and to wear traditional Asian clothes while fighting.

Let’s try another exercise; let’s look at hair. Human hair can range from being incredibly straight and/or thin….to incredibly kinky and/or thick. Hair of any type can be easily cut, combed, colored and styled in a variety of ways. Certain types of human hair responds better to certain styling methods than others do. However it is ultimately the choice of the individual regarding how they desire to style their hair. For example, the majority of Black women straighten their hair; in spite of the fact that it is not exactly easy to do. Many White people braid their hair; even though hair braiding is a very popular styling choice for African people and their decedents. So the bottom line is that no one race of people has a monopoly on any one type of hairstyle. Hair is simply an easily-modified part of the body that every human being has the right to treat any way that they wish.

And finally let’s look at dreadlocks themselves. Contrary to popular belief, Rastafarians did not create dreadlocks. Hindu mystics have worn their hair in dreadlocks for thousands of years. Dreadlocks will naturally form on any type of hair that  is not brushed or combed (the exception being very straight, coarse hair…like the type that many Japanese people have). While many modern-day wearers of dreads sport something called “manicured dreads” (where they are started and maintained with a deliberate process to help refine their final appearance), dreadlocking human hair is a very natural, non-invasive thing. And to say that Africans or African/Caribbean-Americans have some sort of claim on this is very myopic in my own humble opinion.

It is very disheartening to see people make statements such as these; especially so called liberals who get so hung up on culture and race that they start to loose sight of our common characteristics as humans. Even if African/Caribbean-Americans did “own” dreadlocks in some shape or form…there is absolutely nothing wrong with adopting and celebrating  different aspects of other people’s cultures. Even when it comes to something as visible and meaningful as our hair.