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“White folk wearin’ dreadlocks irks the shit out of me.”

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“Does anyone else get annoyed when they see white folk sportin’ dreadlocks, tribal tattoos, and stretched out earlobes with plastic circles in them? What the hell is goin’ on? It irks the shit out of me. ”

I am overhearing a conversation as I wait for my order at a café in Oakland, CA. The woman next to me is black and about 55 years old, wearing dreadlocks that are about 2 feet long with a plethora of glass beads flossed through them. She is speaking to her friend, a woman probably in her 50s as well with a shaven head and wearing yoga pants and a blue tank top. She has mocha colored skin tone and seems to be of East Asian descent.

I know what this black woman is referring to: a group of three white 30 something year olds sitting at a table about 8 feet away from the two women. Two men and one woman. They all have punk style dread lock hairdos. They have shaven the sides of their heads and there are interesting black tattoos on their scalps. They have piercings through numerous parts of their faces: a bull ring, a nose ring, a stud through the bridge of a nose.

I wanted to say something to the two ladies, but wasn’t sure what to say. After all, it wasn’t my conversation and I guess I had no business saying something… but I wanted to say something to this black woman. I had heard the conversation plenty of times, amongst black people, how it irks the shit out of them that white people try to ‘go tribal’ by locking their hair.

“Drives me nuts too,” I hear her yoga pant wearing friend say. “It reminds me of all the white people who jumped on the ‘I’m a Buddhist’ wagon in the Bay area, but don’t want to be all deep and reflective about their nauseating white elite privilege.”

Ouch. Did she just say that? And really loudly? Nauseating…. ?

Are white people not allowed to practice yoga, Buddhism, get tribal bands, or wear locs since it’s not ‘white culture’ (and what is ‘white cultures’ anyway)? If that is the case, does that mean I’m not allowed to continue with my beginner Zen Buddhism practice? After all, I’m not of East Asian descent; I’m a Black woman. Should my friend Heather, a Chicana yogi who studied in India, stop teaching yoga at a community center in NYC since she is not from India? Or, does our non-white identity make us exempt from “appropriation?”

Shortly after leaving the café, I passed by a Black heterosexual couple on the street, holding hands. The woman was wearing a punkish Mohawk style and ear plugs through her lobes. Was she appropriating by wearing that hairdo?

I had a friend, “Nicole”, who is Filipina and African-American whose take was, “Well, I think what pisses me off about dreadlock wearing white people is that they can wear our black hairstyles, listen to our black music, and be all hip but still they will always benefit from being white. They can just shave that shit off and that’s the end of the story. Yea, I used to wear dreadlocks, but I shaved it yet I still have to deal with the bullshit of what my brown skin means in a society obsessed with white European phenotypes.” But, at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I could completely agree with “Nicole.” When I first met her, she had the biggest afro I had ever seen. Two weeks later, she had it professionally locked and ended up interviewing for jobs in the finance industry and landed a phat gig at Morgan Stanley… but she also seemed to navigate through life rather well with her Dartmouth Tuck School of Business degree making six figures at some investment banking company while wearing her dreadlocks the first five years working there, and then finally cut it all off into a short afro.

…my close from “T” is a white Jewish woman who now practices Zen Buddhism for the past decade. She mentioned to me last year that she’s getting uncomfortable with a lot of what she is doing because she believes it is a form of appropriation for most of her white Buddhist fellowship to wear the robes, use the names, and do the practices of Zen Buddhism. She is deeply questioning if she is appropriating, without being mindful of what it means to be able to do something that is not associated with ‘the white race’, but not be at a ‘disadvantage’ because of her own white racial privilege trumping the non-white roots of Zen Buddhism….but I wasn’t sure if I agreed either, as her practice of Zen Buddhism over the 5 years I have known her, have made her practice a type of mindfulness towards structural racism and systemic whiteness that may not have been possible, had she not become a Zen lay nun. She seemed to understand that mindfulness should include awareness of race and white privilege. She and I have noticed the overwhelmingly whiteness of Green Gulch Zen Center and the Berkeley Zen Center that we frequent. The other month, I began reading Race and Religion in American Buddhism: White Surpremacy and Immigration Adaptation by Joseph Cheah. He quoted from bell hooks’s provocative essay “Waking up to Racism”, who reflects on how whiteness and racism operate even in Buddhist communities that are largely white:

Often white people share the assumption that simply following a spiritual path means that they [white Buddhists] have let go of racism: coming out of radical movements- civil rights, war resistance- in the sixties and seventies and going on to form Buddhist communities, they often see themselves as liberal and marginalized, proudly identifying with the oprreeseed. They are so attached to the image of themselves as nonracists that they refuse to see their own racism or the ways in which Buddhist communities may reflect racial hierarchies (hooks in Cheah 2011, 4)

According to hooks, many white Buddhists have failed to realize the extent to which African Americans feel marginalized and out of place within their religious communities. For some African Americans, choosing to belong to a Buddhist community “has been synonymous with choosing whiteness, with remaining silent about racism for fear of bringing in issues that are not really important” (Hooks in Cheah 5, 2011). Hooks contends that white supremacy operates as an invisible regime of normatily for white Buddhists of all political orientations. Furthermore, hooks mainstains that the ideology of white supremacy informas the individual interacations that determine the shape and direction of convert Buddhist communities (Cheah 5, 2011).

Leave it to bell to break it down like that…. But still, I can’t say I totally agree. Yes, I’ve encountered plenty of annoying white Buddhists who deny that their whiteness means anything and love collecting and wearing anything that looks Zen or Buddhist… but I’ve also met a lot who, like “T”, became Buddhist to become a better human being and make sure they are not being complicit to structural racism.

What is it all about? Are us people of color collectively annoyed when we see white folk doing things that we deem “non-white” because of the reasons that Nicole and hooks mentioned? Or because of what the Asian lady at the café mentioned in terms of certain white Buddhists being clueless about white privilege?

What do you out there think? I mean, I practice so many food, herbal, healing, music, etc stuff that isn’t “black” or “African”… does that drive people who nuts if I’m using their music, foods, etc? Can I use Chinese herbalism or am I offending Chinese people? Or is it okay since my great-great grandmother is actually Chinese? Not that I’m looking for permission…

Works Cited

Cheah, Joseph. Race and Religion in American Buddhism : White Supremacy and Immigrant Adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press.

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152 thoughts on ““White folk wearin’ dreadlocks irks the shit out of me.”

  1. You know what… I believe mindfulness, respect and reverence for whatever practice you take up is the most important thing. It is vital to connect with the root, or essence of whatever you do so you can most benefit from it.

    Doing thangs just cos they are cute doesn’t do anyone any favors. Thanks for writing this post. Julien and I have had this conversations quite a few times…

  2. Imitation is the best form of flattery….. I guess

  3. Breeze, a good (White) friend of mine and I have had conversations on this topic, and I remember laughing when we talked about it because she seemed so much angrier about it that I was. She called it what it was: appropriation. I understand your viewpoint here and feel that, in fact, we all appropriate in some way or another, White appropriation feel different to me, namely because the hallmark of Whiteness IS appropriation — to steal and then be intentionally ignorant about the theft.

    I’m not saying here that all White people steal, of course. I think that if we understand Whiteness as a social construct, though, we see the history of that construct in this country is to erase the more obvious vestiges of European-ness and replace it with, among other things, the idea that one’s phenotype equates to entitlement. I’ve heard Whites say, “We don’t really have a culture,” any while I’m sure many would disagree with that — particularly folks doing Critical White Studies — I think that there is a reason for that statement. Whiteness teaches that people of a certain phenotype have a right to everything. If I wear spacers in my ears and a White friend does, too, we’re both appropriating. But White supremacy teaches us that only one of us is appropriating a right, and, if you want to have any “culture” at all, a way of life. I think that’s why it stings a little more when we see Whites appropriating than when we see non-Whites.

    I’d also wonder here about when the act is appropriating and when it is learning, honoring, absorbing, adopting. Every time a White person does something “non-White,” does that mean appropriation is going on? Also, doesn’t all cultural shift and development hinge on an adoption, adaptation, absorption of/to others’ cultural practices?

    Thanks for the post, Breeze.

    • Wow. Beautiful! Couldn’t have said it better myself. I am multi-racial. If you looked at me you’d think I were white. Make no mistake! But it is often annoying when people assume one thing or another about me. I embrace all aspects of who I am. I have worn dreads. In fact I make synthetic dreads. I am part Native, part black & white. A lil Dutch & Irish in the mix too. Truth is it’s 2013. As much as we would all want to think were all 100% whatever it is we wish to identify as we aren’t plain & simple. It is my body, my skin, my heart, my blood & NO ONE!!! Has the right to interfere with my pursuit of happiness (as long as I’m not hurting someone or breaking the law) It’s very hard for me to describe what I’ve listened to & experienced as a multi-racial person. I have seen excessive racism in both whites & blacks. It’s been an eye opener. I think the tribal look, ear plugs, tats, piercings are beautiful & I embrace other’s rights to do that if it makes them feel good. Some people go to extremes no matter what they do. Ultimately what I do to my body is my choice! Not your! Not anyone’s Mine!Imagine what a boring world we’d live in if we were all exactly the same! Yuk! We are all from immigrants, we are all from transients. Whether through, slavery, Native, or immigration. We should all embrace each others differences. This would be a much kinder, more loving & accepting world if we did.

  4. yeesh. sorry about the typos above. in that last paragraph above i meant “But White supremacy teaches only one of us that appropriating is a right…”

  5. First, I’d say that obviously people can do / practice whatever they want. After all, it is a “free country.” I put the term “free country” in quotes because when people say that, I think of all the ways in which this place isn’t free. I think I agree with your friend Nicole who says “they can just shave the shit off.” That, for me, has a larger meaning. They can shed whatever marginalized identity they choose to put on, and still be White at the end of the day. As someone who wears locs, when I see a White person wearing them, I just can’t help but cringe. My hair is more than an aesthetic choice, it is a cultural and political expression. I know that everyone who wears them doesn’t feel that way (Black people included—even though I can’t imagine it’s a majority), and that should be okay, but somehow it’s not to me. Even if a White person had a reason for wearing locs other than for aesthetic purposes, I just wouldn’t be able to appreciate it. I know that Black people didn’t “invent” them or anything, but I can’t help but feel the way I feel. It’s kind of like when I see them a voice in me is like “they take EVERYthing!” I’m not willing to trivialize my emotions because they may seem illogical to some. When I say that, I mean, being called “overly emotional” or “sensitive” won’t make me think differently. Of course, there are plenty of things I wear for purely aesthetic purposes so really judging someone else isn’t fair. But I’m not pretending to be fair.

    • kaathe on said:

      thanks, that kind of thought helps me… i am a convert to Islam and i wear the headscarf. and I often think about thins in that kinda way too-that these might be cultural appropriation (like i thought about wearing dreadlocks as a part of becoming a sufi-in some tariqua this is a kind of tradition too) but i know i am white. i can put the scarf down, i can wear whatever i want, this wont erase my whiteness. i can put myself in a situation were part of society singles me out (and i think i have to because it makes me(and i think most people too) literally sick if i have to become somebody who isn’t me but what society wants of me. so in my young years as a goth and punk i was part of a smaller culture and got harassed and called out because of it-but i ve chosen it. i´ve could succumb to the expectations of society and could´ve gone relatively unharrassed (well, as a ciswoman there is always sexism, but my white privilege never goes away)

      so thanks for asking these questions–i can´t answer them..i mean, if i am like “my” culture, that doesnt feel like me. but what is me if I need to be something “other”(literally) to feel okay?

      hard questions.
      (Iam not a native speaker, so sorry for any grammatical or spelling errors if occur)

    • Ctfonehome on said:

      I am a “Caucasian” person because we all know that white and black weren’t the words used to fill out the act etc in school that were so important that they divided our culture more in the present than necessary. Surveys, you take them almost daily.

      I wear what some people would consider dreads, others mange. My hair is almost to my butt because it is do coarse but it is still a big pile on top of my head pretty much. I decided 3 years ago to stop brushing my hair. Not to look cool. Not to do anything other than go back to what is the most natural thing to do. We live in such an advance time it is almost impossible to disappear. Even though I grew up on a farm I don’t hunt and going back to WAY before we evolved into this society is so unreachable.

      I wanted one thing that I display daily to resemble the fact that we got here from a group of beings that didn’t look in the mirror daily to make sure there were no abnormalities in their image. I am not always looked upon well by white people with dread locks. I work a 9-5 job and have had the position For some time. People who don’t treat me with kindness, most people do, look at me like I am homeless. I once had an African American older male in a liquor store turn to me while checking out say “you’re hair is really matty” I said yeah. He finished paying and left. Maybe trying to insult me.

      Don’t judge others.

  6. I really like the article, Breeze. Personally, I’m annoyed when people adopt traditions (religions, hairstyles, etc.) of other cultures, but have no interest in or respect for that culture. I’ll give you an example. A former co-worker of mine once casually referred to multiracial children as “cute little nigglets.” There were several racist things said to me that day, so I filed a complaint and quit. The chick had her boyfriend give me some lame excuse about how some people don’t mean anything by what they say or just don’t know better. Soon after, this chick dreads her hair. She’s been wearing locs for 4 or 5 years now. Her choice of hairstyle strikes me as slightly antagonistic because of her appalling racial ignorance. Also, I’m one of those people accused of “selling out” since I’m a brown-skinned girl who enjoys heavy metal, speaks proper English and has a white husband. I’ve experienced so much ridicule and hostility from other people of color. While most white people don’t mention it, some have insulted me by saying things like, “You’re cool/pretty/articulate for a black girl.” Those types seem to think prejudice doesn’t affect me because I’m “not like the rest.” I like to point out the fact that what some call “acting white” doesn’t deter racism.

    • Jonathan on said:

      See that’s the problem……. you are deemed a sell out because of your choice of conformity. I bet most of the people of color had a perm. 2 me that’s a true sell out. speaking of women of course. I was off topic there.

  7. I imagine that the two women of color have dealt with a lot of racism. Their anger likely reflects their experiences, particularly the woman with dreadlocks. Maybe she experienced workplace discrimination for her hairstyle, or perhaps she’s been insulted or harassed by white people about her hair. There is an unfortunate practice among certain so-called counterculture types who dread their hair by not washing it, and some folks think lack of hygiene is the general rule for dreading hair. However, I don’t think the assumptions the women of color made were fair. I think people who have suffered frequent discrimination sometimes fall into the trap of projecting the resulting anger onto everyone around them. They begin to accept stereotypical ideas about other social groups without considering the negativity that ensues for everyone involved; that same negativity caused the initial prejudice that started the who stereotyping mess. Again, I’m glad you shared your thoughts on this subject, Breeze. I love the fact that you examined appropriation rather than assuming that those white kids with dreads are just privileged and ignorant.

  8. Now, for one of my off-the-planet thoughts: Maybe the deep-deep knowledge that we are all African from the very beginning has a pull in the DNA in these people. I know more than a few people of presumed European heritage with kinky/wiryAfrican… hair. The Irish-American guest did not hear the comment from another friend, “What is that guy? His hair is kinkier than anybody else here–a mostly black party. The guy’s features, skin and hair color were “white,” but my other friend was right about his hair. it was “close cropped.” If he had grown it the only way he could have managed it would have been dreads or Fro

    Kasheena, I hope you live to see a change in the obsession about color, hair, features, and other insignificant attributes. Like many Americans of African heritage my family is peopled with black to white skins, straight to kinky hair, blue to black eyes, stupid to brilliant. We were “mixed” before it was cool to say “mixed.” My granddaughters have Irish and Korean mothers. I have concern for their futures if our separating obsessions do not change. The “racial”/human environment appears to be worsening.

    • Love! We are one! Deep knowledge, indeed.

    • spinoza1111 on said:

      I am reading this undergoing chemotherapy for cancer in a Hong Kong hospital and I look up to see a TV program about three Chinese people transformed into caricatured black people.

    • dreads are a hair style that’s all … it don’t matter what color or race you are !!!!!!!! for those who think it should be for only a certain race or color are just STUPID and NARROW MINDED!!!! why dose everything have to be a color or race thing ….if you don’t think white people should have dreads then why is it blacks are straightening or dying there hair when they have curly black hair …

  9. I guess it comes down to the perception of co-opting and appropriation/misappropriation sometimes.

  10. i would have to agree with the two women in the cafe.
    i do think that 9 times out of 10, white people are appropriating those things, and yes, i do think that people of color can appropriate from different communities of color, even their own.
    the issues with appropriation, more so (or at least, i feel it is) is the structure of power in relation to many of the colored communities and traditions. appropriation contributes to the erasure of those communities. and it just adds another thorn to the issue when a white person, who more and likely benefits more so than anyone else from that culture erasure and whose ancestors (more and likely) were the direct destructors.
    i read an article a recently about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the “worlding” (term uses by the author, who was Chinese) of it, specifically in the US. his issue was not exactly who did it, it was mainly that…whereas a student may study TCM in China for decades, give free or nearly free services and work within the communities, now there are white people (or just US-ians in general) studying at some school in San Francisco for 6 months, opening a spa that caters to rich white suburbanites that charges fees most people of color or recent Chinese immigrants cannot afford. the same can be said of all the yoga classes that have become trendy ever since Madonna said she used it to stay svelte…without understanding that no one practiced yoga in India without the spiritual aspect of it; that yoga was not an exercise regimen, it was a physical complement to a philosophy.
    i think the issue with dreads is that non-Black people who have dreads do so to be rebellious, non-conformist, to fit some grunge or punk trend, or sometimes just to look un-kempt. this adds to the idea that our hair is something other than normal; other than just the way our hair is. it becomes a spectacle; a costume. which is why at times, one may have a hard time finding a job with natural hair. yet non-Black people can cut their hair and be completely accepted by society. it’s almost as if they’re waving their privilege in our faces without thinking about just hard one whose hair naturally locs has it in this society.

    i think the main issue is that most people doing these things that are termed appropriation, know very little about it, thus, adding to the erasure of those traditions. for those non-Asians who, for example might practice Zen Buddhism-i don’t think there is an issue if they genuinely study it, understand it, and then cautiously approach things like plugs, native tattoos, bindis, mohawks, feather headdresses, and other hairstyles (although i don’t ever think it’s alright for white people to do locs). but these people are few and far in between.

    • Johnny Nogood on said:

      I’m a white man with dreads & i really enjoyed reading this. great page with great thoughts, minus this comment. you have a great command over the english language, granted, but there are soooo mannnyyy contradictions in your words, re=read it please. as far as the opinions… i shouldn’t have dreads? come on. you shouldn’t have shampoo and french toast then.

    • Honestly, I think white people with dreads would have a MUCH harder time finding a job than black people with them.
      Culture naturally gets stolen and borrowed and changed by other cultures. That doesn’t mean that it is okay to be ignorant about where the things you’re appropriating originally come from (especially if you’re white or your ancestors have been oppressors). But you shouldn’t really tell people what they can and can’t do, you should educate them about the origins and teach respect. We should seek to preserve the roots, but not hate people for liking something from another culture.

  11. I agree with Nicole. White people wear our culture as a trend and it is unacceptable. The same people who want to say “wack” and “swag” fear the black and Latino sides of town. (I read a Tumblr post with this exact wording the other day.) I find it extremely offensive.

    I know that we live in a post-modern society where cultures ebb and flow and origins are pretty nebulous, but let’s be real with ourselves. Even if numerous cultures have worn locs for centuries, whites who don them now are often hearkening back to what they mean to blacks–resistance to oppression, specifically oppressive standards of beauty. What these white, self-proclaimed Rastafarians don’t understand is that locs were a tool to resist *white* oppression. When whites mat their hair, are they boycotting themselves, then? Please! SMH.

    I’ll finish by saying that earnest Buddhist study is different than Ras Trent, the Long Island suburbanite, turned Rastafarian, turned hedge fund manager. My people aren’t a trend!

    • there where no brushes in the begining of gods time. hair is meant to dread. if black people grow out their hair you get an afro, if white grew thier hair it would dread into a big a mat. everyone has to section their hair to get dreads. never forget.

  12. Thank you Breeze, for the post. Appropriation is the perfect word. About a month ago, I would have sided with the loc-wearing sister based on my experience of blatant racism, sexism (I am a lesbian), colorism working in NYC and now as a massage therapist (Life Essence Massage, LLc.) in Maryland. I am learning to accept the fact that white people and some non-color identified people adopt many attributes of African and African-American culture because WE offer the best of everything. I now take it as a compliment to my race, smile, embrace it and move on. I think everyone is entitled to freedom of LIFE in its totality, as being angry, causing your own suffering based on the actions or non-actions of others is well…..unhealthy. Please continue to post, your topics are great and always make me really think!!!

  13. As usual, your blogs open up chapters of experience for me incisively and I would say, safely. Allowing me to look at the effects of being visibly white and male — and remembering always to return to my center, my core, to be my most authentic self. Thank you for your consistent love activism.

    While writing this note, a wommin sends me a comment on facebook. Her words are hard, harsh, and have nothing to do with my recently updated “status” message. But this wommin has reclaimed the right to be on the lands of the West, appropriated by Manifest Destiny, cultivating food forests, rewilding with plants which are indigenous to the places she walks. Yet she does not write gently and her treatises evoke painful images, non sequitur to any discussion I’m generating. The pain has gone too deep, as she sees many people who choose a world of poisons while integrating with the land, desperately trying to save the traditions and reindigenize the spaces — yet undermined by local “authorities.” Her flames are notorious and have burned many — still some fairy moths are attracted to her trans* flame and they learn a new way.

    I wanted to write back and say you’re on to something … where you will go is beyond me. I am still engaging the inappropriate appropriations and, without the lived experience of people whose cultures I embody, find that my best laid roots are still ill in dysconscious femmefestation. I feel strongly after reading this today that my best decision is to cultivate stillness, remember the many lessons I have learned, and honor the many teachers who have come before me, engaging life in similar ways. I hope that I can cultivate this inner love in such a way so that I can return to this blog and meet you where you are at, ready to redress the important issues you do.

    Here is what I wrote in response, which is a narration of my experience and is not completely coherent.

    What troubles me these days is not so much being visibly white — for anyone who has lived in this world without such freedom papers can tell you that it is no trouble at all — but finding an authentic connection to my ancestry. As children around me sought out self-expression, I grew up with many people who were keenly interested on one’s “heritage.” When I brought the questions back to my family, I did not get a clear picture of where we emerged from. The only thing that was clear was that we had migrated as far back as anyone could remember in their lived experience. Running away from a past which called us “black Dutch” a then-respectable term for describing chosen displacement from any cultural background which could be seen as tainting one’s racial purity, my family continues to wander the Americas, laying roots in the soil and firmly blocking anyone else who isn’t visibly white, enjoying discourses on how immigrants are taking too much.

    Meanwhile, the inane wanderings of my culture of whiteness march on to the dead beat of fascism. And I am struggling to believe that James Baldwin was write, for me to identify as white means that he will continue to be seen as black. In practice, culture seems to be far more fluid than that. Some heritage is passed on biologically, it is true. But I have also encountered cultural preservation agencies working hard to ensure that the traditions, songs and memories are passed on from generation to generation. Where is the line? Perhaps there is something to be said for ease of access to cultural wisdom in the age of information. All you have to do is pick it up. Learn it and, perhaps honor what you learn by returning the favor for someone else — playing it forward. Yet this ease of access is informed by our industrial times, where money determines the ability of one person to step on others to get where they want to go in life.

    So I find myself glad, Breeze, that your words today have helped me to see my “hobbies” for what they are, and will do my best to commit myself to minimizing my agency in the first place. Perhaps at the moment of grounding within myself, I will find that authentic root to display myself in the fullness, rather than flaunting my labels, philosophies, and ideas as a self-made, self-serving guru.

    I appreciate the conversations that are generated as a result of your hosting this blog… and I enjoy hearing the responses, for the most part. Other times I am quick to judge and play “spot the problematic language” in someone’s comments in fear that I am going to walk that road again, or that I am still walking that ethereal world of oblivion. But it all helps, each time I sit to compost my feelings in this safer container for truly free expression. Thank you everyone for giving of yourself so freely. I am glad for this collective of writers, readers, activists, and lovers.

    Where would I be without the teachers who have walked this path before me? I am most especially glad for the black dyke mother/trans*parent Valencia Wombone for directing me to The Sistah Vegan. I encountered her love first in the space in which I now inhabit — a primarily white gay male commune. Without this blog, I would not be able to celebrate the worlds which are not white gay men and navigate the problems which are, I think, elements of structural racism. But that phrase “structural racism” is one I am going to have to look up today. “I still have more work to do” and if I’m lucky I will be able to pass on the loving work I engage onto the next generation, for I will be working until I die. Thanks to bell hooks I can rest a little more easily knowing that love is the work I set out to do.

  14. White dreads bother me for a few reasons, and the main one is because it can be assumed, and be correct 99.9% of the time, that they have no idea what they’re doing, no idea that they’re appropriating, no idea that it is a very difficult thing for people from the African diaspora to see something important to us taken by them, and also they don’t care what we think. Dreads ARE the cultural property of the African diaspora, and If you’re white and have the critical awareness of race and culture that you should, you’d know that and not want to wear them.

    Also, if you want proof that white people shouldn’t have dreads, ask them about their dreads. They always say the most mind-blowingly ignorant things. My expectations for their level of not being fucked hover around zero, and they still manage to shock me. One white woman said, “I got tired of living up to expectations of being pretty.”

    Lastly, white people, aesthetically speaking, cannot pull off dreads. Dreads on kinky textured or curly hair tend to be totally gorgeous, pretty, neat, and well executed. White dreads are a giant hideous matted hung of filthy dirty, did I mention hideous? – grossness. White people with dreads, having zero connection to or awareness of the black culture they stole from, also seem blissfully ignorant to this matter, as if their giant ugly hunks of matted hair are supposed to look like that.

    In summary: Yes it’s appropriation, and if they knew what they were doing they’d stop, and also white dreads are gross and if I’m ever in proximity to them I’m hyper-focused on trying not to smell them or have them swing and accidentally touch me.

    • B-girl on said:

      You are correct

    • First of all, I want to say I’m white and have dreads. Im from Texas I moved to Egypt, Africa when I was 14 and lived there for two years and just moved to Mumbai, India since things were getting pretty heated in Egypt. This experience has really opened my eyes to different cultures and I love to embrace them. I find different cultural aspects beautiful and have no intent to hurt people by embracing them. I was pretty shocked when I read your post to be honest. In particular “Dreads ARE the cultural property of the African diaspora, and If you’re white and have the critical awareness of race and culture that you should, you’d know that and not want to wear them.” this was surprising. I am aware of African diaspora but this does not make me not want my dreads. I also do not understand why you think we are stealing your culture. No one can take that from you it IS you. I do understand that it must be so frustrating to see people doing it to be “hipster” . At the same time though, if I was African, I would feel flattered that someone thought my culture was so intriguing and different. Please do not take that the wrong way. I’m saying if someone was to idk straighten their hair I would not feel like hey what are you doing this is MINE how dare you. (even though i actually have extremely curly hair just a typical white girl example). but instead id think wow my culture is pretty cool if people are adapting and shit. Even though some of the white/black people with dreads do not know your culture so well, the fact is YOU do. Their ignorance doesnt change the amazing culture you have and im sure they arent intending to “steal” it ya know.

      “Yes it’s appropriation, and if they knew what they were doing they’d stop, and also white dreads are gross and if I’m ever in proximity to them I’m hyper-focused on trying not to smell them or have them swing and accidentally touch me. ” Cultural appropriation is mostly seen as a negative thing when I believe it shouldn’t be so focused on that. Understanding and embracing other cultures has made a huge positive impact on my life. Cultural fusion is in a lot of ways great. In Egypt for example alot of the “white” group would not bother to even try to relate or socialize with the Egyptian group so there was an (mis) understanding that they didnt like each other. I however became very close with an Egyptian girl through our love for rap music and she introduced me to many things about her culture. She was happy to see that someone CARED and wanted to know. Which why when you say “all white people” or “always” it really gets to me. Say some.

      Finally, I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE. I cant imagine a world with out rap or all the BEST vines. Rap has helped me through so much and I appreciate it like crazy. Lil Wayne was one of my inspirations for dreads, along with the background of them and the that I find them so pretty. Another reason was to prove to the world dreads dont make you a pot head or unsanitary or less educated. Lastly I I was reading an article awhile back that was talking about how rastas would grow dreads to protest the traditional European standards and as a to show “black pride”. Yes I know IM NOT BLACK. But i do care and think that the way Africans were treated was just horrific. So take my hair as I am supporting you and going against what has happened in the past and continues to happen even now. My family is from arkansas so i go there to visit and there are some(not all of corse) pretty racist people there including a few of my family members and it just pisses me off endlessly when they say “niggers” and shit. I want everyone to remember that I am not responsible or proud of the “white man” history towards black people. I am simply a 16 year old girl who had nothing to do with that and that know i find it so shameful on the white mans part.

      OK VERY LAST THING! My dreads dont smell. Not one bit. My hair is a natural afro so um yes I can pull dreads off. SORRY THIS IS SO FUCKING LONG BUT I FELT THE NEED TO LET YOU KNOW NOT ALL OF US WHITE PEOPLE ARE CLUELESS OR OUT TO ROB U OF YOUR CULTURE AND IM SORRY TO THOSE WHO DISRESPECT IT.

    • JustSomeGuy on said:

      As a white person with dreads which I clean regularly and do not smell (I promise) I would point out that clean unbrushed white hair will naturally form dreadlocks. White dreadlocks are not stolen from African or Jamaican culture. I would go as far as to say they are not even the same hairstyle and perhaps should not be called dreads at all.

      You yourself pointed out the aesthetic differences. as for whether they look good or not well that is opinion. I personally have locked hair because I have met many (white) people rock climbing and at gigs with dreadlocks and I always liked the look of them.

  15. This whole issue of “appropriation” has too large a body of literature that cannot be addressed in a small space. Moreover, I realize that this is a type of issue in which no comment, no matter how elaborate, will change people’s minds. The issue of “appropriation” requires individuals to engage not only w/information but to also have a certain amount of emotional and psychological openness that neither the women you listened to, nor, am I sorry to say, many of the commenters of this post seem to have. People HAVE to be willing to take emotional risks in order to grow intellectually/conceptually (as do “white” folks when it comes to race and their thinking “im not racist”).

    Insisting on these “white” vs “other cultures” not only negates human history (and no, I’m not omitting racism, slavery and ongoing structural and social race issues) but perpetuates reductive, rigid categories that, quite simply, do not have universal application across time and place. The mentality of the women you listened to reminds me of Audre Lorde’s dictum that “the master’s house will not be dismantled by using the master’s tools.” They have borrowed from the master’s mentality that corrupts and misplaces anger in a manner that does not address legitimate social/racial grievances. Rather, sad to say, reflects a deep historical ignorance replaced by wounded and proud ignorance (it’s not only “white” folks who are capable of this). Why do wounds channeled in an ignorant manner get to pass off as “edgy” resistance?

    Perhaps these women shouldn’t be speaking English (or even attempt Spanish for that matter-let’s not forget it’s a colonial language as well), dare not EVER listen or perform “classical” music (nor should the Asians that nowadays predominante in the field), or even, speak of human rights (which are not an intrinsic category but much of the concept comes from-yes, folks-“white” people who nonetheless made a travesty of that idea for much of the last 200 years). Also, don’t use Listerine since because it was invented by a “white” man and lay off the CA burritos. And forget about the apple pie with that coffee.

    As for “C’s” comment on white dreadlocks being dirty and disgusting-shame on her/him. Talk about internalizing racism directed at you and projecting it outward.

    Just my two disgruntled cents-from a big brown woman with a crazy head of frizzy/curly hair.

    • what you’re leaving out of your analysis, PGD, is the relation to power and, as i mentioned, the erasure of culture that is the main issue inherent within culture appropriation.
      to act as if a non-Native rocking a feather headdress and saying they want to be “native today” (which i see on tumblr almost on a weekly basis) is equivalent to me speaking in English doesn’t recognize that the English language or anything having to do with the English is anywhere near extinction. whereas nearly every tradition of people of color is in danger. many Native, Africa, Pacific Islander, Asian, etc. languages die every day. and largely BECAUSE English (or French, or Spanish) are being pushed onto those people.
      me or any other person of color that speaks English is largely because the English came to our native lands and FORCED us to speak English. i am not speaking English by choice, i’m not in the US by choice, and listening to classical music (or rather, playing it in school, in my case) was also FORCED upon me. just this year, i believe there’s a number of cases that have been brought against public schooling by various Natives for being prohibited from speaking their native tongue in school. do you see the difference?
      it isn’t appropriation when you have to do something for survival; when someone forces your people to do something or suffer harsh, if not grave consequences. you cannot appropriate something that is forced upon you either by physical force or societal forces. and using something like “listerine” or anything made after the industrial revolution and acting that like “belongs” to white people lacks the understanding of the American US culture post 1500’s.

      “much of the concept” of “human rights” comes from white people??? what does this even mean? human rights is a concept that is a RESPONSE to human injustices/oppression, which largely come from western/European/white people. most indigenous peoples of this planet have believed in some level human rights all along prior to colonialism – colonialism brought about by Europeans. which is why we only see the Europeans taking slavery and other things that have always existed to a disturbing degree and irredeemable degree. so how white people orchestrated the concepts of something they brought on…is complete nonsense. and no, it wasn’t just the last 200 years. please, do some research. it was about 500 years that Europeans have been ravaging and executing various genocides throughout the world. and even that is a frugal estimation.

  16. Rosie on said:

    I know that dreads can most definitely be cultural appropriation. I researched A LOT and spoke to A LOT of people before thinking about the larger ethical impact of my appearance. While I also feel it’s sad that simply letting a part of my body be itself comes with so many ‘strings’ – I realise that the impact of cultural appropriation is bigger than me.

    I would never (for example) dress up as a Native American Indian with a headdress for Halloween, I understand how this is wrong. I’ve also helped my friend realise that a tattoo they previously wanted was inappropriate, that despite their personal feelings and meanings behind it being genuine, that there was a need to recognise the bigger picture when taking into consideration white privilege. I also understand that my sense of entitlement to personal expression does not trump cultural issues, and I have never wanted to cross any of these lines.

    However, dreads (specifically, I feel dreads are something which need a different kind of attention than what I previously mentioned) are something which stretch back thousands of years and stem both independently and are connected from a huge variety of cultures and parts of the world – dreads aren’t so black and white, and the line is not so clear, especially when taking into consideration where someone’s individual inspiration for dreads has come from.

    This is what I learnt from the people and research I encountered. The history of dreadlocks is very interesting, both oppressive and empowered meanings for a range of different ethnicities (including white folk). Some spiritual, some cultural, some purely for convenience and sadly and now in present days – some in ignorance. Used to both divide and unite. Not to mention (and this is where a lot of my personal feelings come in) that this is something that will naturally occur to your (anyone’s) body if you simply don’t intervene with modern day tools (but also not necessarily ending up in grossness either, I promise!) Now, this information is in no way an attempt to neutralise dreadlocks so as to erase the significant bond that many PoC have with them to make it ‘okay’ for me to wear them, I really hope that’s not the way I’m coming off! I’m just hoping to show my thoughts.

    The combination of both an ambiguous and clear/strong ethos of dreads along with the personal opinion of never seeing an instance where judging people by their appearance alone has worked out well, makes this a very interesting and confusing ethical topic. While one may suggest that white people should simply reframe from this ‘style’ (what a terrible word) to avoid the complexity of issues associated with dreads, I’m not sure (and neither are many people I’ve spoken to, both PoC and not) this is an answer which actually fixes anything. I feel like in this particular instance, it creates a stagnant barrier of communication, and unnecessarily polices other people’s bodies. However, I could be wrong and maybe one day I will come to that conclusion, despite feeling quite strongly about it now!

    I do wish people would talk to me if they are feeling negative about something I’m expressing, I think it’s important to talk! I’m not trying to make this about me, like – ‘wahhh poor sad white person having negative assumptions made against them’, and I’m not sure if it’s worth going into my own reasons for dreadlocks, because I’m not sure if people would agree with me in that intent is important, more so than appearance. I can see how it may not necessarily always work out that way with these issues, and not everyone is going to agree. At the end of the day I did choose this, knowing full well of the issues associated, but not from a place of defiance or arrogance. Btw, of course, I still wash my hair – my hair is clean and smells lovely! All I know is that communication is key, and it’s important to keep the conversation going and I’m really glad I came across this blog! I just thought I’d put my thoughts in here, I hope I have not offended anyone. If I have – I do apologise. I would never try to tell someone they shouldn’t feel something and I hope I have not intruded upon an autonomous space.

    • Out of sheer nosiness (and I am nosey) what are your reasons?

    • from what i’ve read, the few instances that mention Europeans having loc’d hair have been shown to simply refer to braids. which is not the same as being “loc’d”. although, i would like to know what instances you’re referring to of traditional Europeans with “locs”.

      also, it should be noted that, while some non-African or African-descended folk have what we might term “dreads”, they usually are not. Hindus from India (i believe they either identify as “untouchables” or “aesthetics”) have what we might term “dreads”, but they are in fact simply hair that is twisted. many Black people that have what we might term “dreads” is not, in fact, loc’d. locks, sometimes termed “free-form locs/dreads” are what no one’s hair but ours (Africans and descendants) can do naturally if left uncombed. this (http://www.onehairstyles.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Hairs_692.jpg) type of “dreads” is actually twisting; twisting the hair until it stays that way (which can be done without product on kinky hair). this (http://www.howtodread.com/dreadlocking.jpg) is also twisting.
      whereas this (http://naani.com/Articles/content_images/1/bobmarley1.jpg) is what is true locing/dreading. the latter is something no other hair other than kinky/African hair can do without chemicals or excessive drying. even going without washing for a long time-non-kinky hair still does not loc/dread as this does. this guy goes into it in a number of his videos (http://www.youtube.com/user/cupidvalentino1?feature=watch).
      the former locs can actually be combed out (see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJo1oQPoPmg&feature=related) while the latter has to be cut out.

  17. PGD, in order for straight-haired people (of any race) to achieve dreadlocks, one of their main tactics involves not washing them for obscene amounts of time. It’s just a technical fact of what it takes to get dreads if your hair doesn’t naturally do it. I’ve been submerged in white hippy spaces full of gross locks and this is just how they do it.

    • Hmmm… there are plenty of straight-haired people who aren’t white. I am trying to understand why the ‘repulsion’ of white people having their hair locked when it’s not the way an afro wearing ‘black’ person locs their hair?

    • Ernald Waltz on said:

      Spoken like someone who has absolutely no idea about the dreading process of hair. Oh, the irony…

    • JustSomeGuy on said:

      They are doing it wrong. Having had white textured dreads for a long time now, I can say that I would not have dreads were this true. I clean my hair regularly. it is true that shampoos which contain conditioners or leave residues will destroy white dreadlocks. you need only use shampoo with few ingredients.

      residue free shampoos do not perfume hair so dreads tend to smell of there environment. hippy’s in my experience tend to spend time in fairly smelly places…

      personally I fragrence my hair with herbs from my garden

  18. Thanks Breeze for noting that plenty of people around the world have straight hair (um, Asians?) as well as many middle easterners and latin americans (particularly in central and andean america where most populations are of native american descent).

    Also, Europeans have plenty of curly and kinky haired populations as well.

    • PGD see this is my problem with the use of “black” or white as if it is biological. When does someone become “black”? If race is a social construct and white people are not “biologically” white, what does it mean ? My son looks “white” but his mama is “black” and read as so in the USA. But I have been told that I would be considered “white” in certain countries in Africa because of my lighter brown skin, 1st world status, and ivy league education. If I moved there where i am not seen as “black” but as a “privileged white american” should i no longer wear locs? Can my son wear his hair in locs while living in the USA even though he looks “white” and my birth certificate says “negro”?

      What I am suggesting is that this is quite complicated and I can’t really say that I agree that all “white” people should not wear locs. There may be a significant number of white racialized subjects in the USA who don’t want to think about white privilege but that doesn’t mean all of them think this way.

      I would also say that the intense anger against whites wearing locs, from blacks, is more a reflection of the collective tension and frustration of living in a USA in which there hasn’t been any remediation or critical nationwide dialogues and policy changes and consciousness awareness around just how deeply traumatizing racialized colonialism was, and the messed up racialized hierarchies of power and privilege that it left behind.

      • Alchemist on said:

        Breeze,

        Most black people in the US have afro textured hair and very melinated skin. Your son’s ethnically ambiguous appearance in not the issue here. Most black people are not ethnically ambiguous. You don’t seem to really have any idea what a very melinated black woman with locs in a professional environment has to contend with daily. I am black, a woman and I have had locs since 1994. Am I ticked off by white people with locs, a little? Black women with locs don’t have to justify anger toward whites that view them as a fun hip hairstyle to you or gse. One poster mentioned that some white people have kinky hair well some people are struck by lightening but it’s not the norm. Title VII of the federal code covers grooming and dress standards. The only natural black hairstyle protected under federal law is a short afro. In Jespersen v. Harrah’s Operating Co. (9th Circuit, 2006) a black women sued because Harrah’s grooming and dress code required that women must wear their hair “down” at all times. Braids, twists, and locs were prohibited and considered extreme, unconventional and eye-catching. For most black women wearing our hair “down” would require some sort of straightening. The law ignores phenotypical differences between people of black African ancestry and everyone else. Countercultural whites with locs reinforce the idea that locs are extreme. You might find “Another Hair Piece by A. Onwuachi-Willig – Georgetown Law Journal, 2010” informative.

      • Alchemist, sorry if I come across as if I’m saying that black women with more melanin than myself, who wear locs, aren’t experiencing difficult work environments because of their phenotypes. I was not trying to say that but rather asking generally, how “white” is being defined in this conversation and are we only talking about the confines of the USA and only in the present sense. I know I am considered ‘lighter’ black woman. I never had locs but have always worn a natural afro in professional workplaces. Until 2005, I was always working in all white technology environments and I’d get a the stereotypical stupid comments about my afro. Even more, I’d just get ignorant stupid comments from the mostly white men who worked in the tech sector that were sexist, racist, white supremacist, homophobic. I remember when I wore my big afro at Ikena in 2000, where I worked as a software tester. When I came in, a man on my team commented that he didn’t like that my afro “had to be so big.” I had blown it out with a hair dryer and afro pick and it was 4x longer than it usually was (because I would just wash and go and let it dry naturally). I also remember him making a comment about a new Asian female hire and how she could be cute “If her face wasn’t so flat.”

        And yea, I am aware of the racist policies against women of African descent who want to wear natural hairstyles. The reasons I never straightened my hair in the workplace was because I thought it was bullshit to put myself in harm’s way by using toxic relaxers. I had always thought it was racist and was waiting for the day for a supervisor to complain about my hair or something so I could tell them that it’s horrific that I would be expected to give myself cancer by straightening my hair to meet some Euor Anglo centric benchmark of ‘hygenic haircare’.

        Hope that is clearer :-)

      • This reply is actually to Alchemist right below but I couldn’t seem to post it correctly. Thank you for your argument!In graduate school we had several conversations about the “social” construction of race. And for some time I completely agreed with it as a purely social construct. However, now I feel that yes the things ascribed to appearance have social effects and consequences but as you said most Black people are not ethnically ambiguous. I’m Black as well as the majority of my family members and you can look at most of us (even the lighter ones) and tell that African descent is definitely a major part of our make up. I just wanted to say that because sometimes I feel we get so caught up in the terminology of theory that the practicality is lost. And we have to be real, social construct or not, race is experienced as very real. And most minorities have the battle scars to prove it. So we’re not talking about individual instances but rather the politics of how race operates for various groups of people. In some countries, such as South Africa where there was a such thing as Honorary Whites or considering a person white, something makes me believe that the privileges afforded aside, the people were still very aware of white and nonwhite. So while a person may be afforded some standard of white privilege, I’m thinking the fact that it has to be afforded to you shows that people are still aware behind the veil of white and nonwhite.

  19. “Countercultural whites with locs reinforce the idea that locs are extreme” Thanks Alchemist. This explains a lot to me.

    Breeze, again, I don’t know why you insist on calling your kids “white”-they’re not and don’t look it either (i.e. it is patent that they are of mixed African descent). This is bizarre to me. I have a close acquaintance who is “white” and has a biological daughter with an “asian” woman. Their daughter looks extremely Asian, everyone assumes she is “in full” (including other Asians and Asian Americans) yet the father does not think she looks Asian AT ALL. This is fascinating to me how two parents with mixed race kids don’t see what others see but prefer to understand their kids as “white.” Why?

    • HI PG. I don’t think of my children as white but I was trying to say that they are ‘read as white’ but I don’t actually think that they do ‘look white’. I do not think they ‘look white’, but that is my subjective opinion and I think they definitely look like one of their biological parents is of black African descent. I should have typed ‘read as white’ not ‘look white.’

      When I said ‘read as’, or ‘legible as’, I am referring to how a significant number of people who have seen them commented on them (in racial terms). I hope this makes sense. I actually do not like it when they are referred to as ‘white’. I hope I am making sense.:-) And I want to clarify that I don’t hate ‘white looking children’, but rather it feels like my experiences as a ‘black racialized female subject’ are being erased when people refer to them as ‘white.’ I also have anxities around what it means that they could be ‘treated as white’ . The implications of them potentially being oblivious about racism because so many people afford them ‘white privilege’. does that make sense?

  20. Gotcha!! Thanks, Breeze, for always taking the time to respond thoughtfully.

    And thanks again for this great forum-it’s not easy to find an open and “safe” yet very honest space where to discuss these issues.

  21. Pingback: Secret Buddhist Reveal (Video) | Turning Wheel Media

  22. I try to learn French. Does that mean that I want to abandon being “American”? (Whatever that means lol). I don’t know – but I like the way you observe things. I can see you on the street looking at these things.
    I once watched this amazing travel video on India. It was made in the 1990s. The goal looked like it was to introduce English-speaking “Westerners” to Indian culture. So a guide, or narrator, and cameraman went around filming and talking to people on the streets and in their daily lives. They walked around – the film’s crew – it appeared, as guests to the country. It was a nice travel video, and I rented it from the library.
    A part of it showed this man with a large, large, what looked like a custom-made headwrap. And having what looked just like what people call “dreadlocks” in other places in the world, this man took down his headwrap and exposed all of its long glory to the camera. In the documentary, they narrator was saying how it was a very spiritual thing, for men in India to grow very long, and wear their hair in this very specific way. So as a white person watching this, I sat there and thought in my mind, “Well I thought that was a (imagine italics) black (imagine close italics) thing”. It’s interesting.
    Why can’t we all just teach each other, and share? I like what the above person just said – that imitation is the best form of flattery. Thanks for letting me post this.

    • an Indian man wearing “dreads” (which i showed the issue with calling them “dreads” in one of my previous comments) is an Indian man who has religious, cultural and traditional reasonings for their hair. this is not an OK for someone whose ancestors came from Europe to do the same.
      and no, imitation is not the best form of flattery when people’s cultures are on the brink of nonexistence. knowledge and understanding of the culture, practices and norms is the best for of flattery.

      • Hmm….what about the millions of mixed people here who have ancestors who come from Europe but don’t identify as ‘white’? For example, a girl whose mama is Irish and Ethiopian and her father is Italian and Chinese? Just putting it out there, as this child as “ancestors [who] came from Europe.” Not a strange question, as here in N. Berkeley and the San Francisco area, we have a lot of ‘mixed’ identified people.

      • Kristen on said:

        What is wrong with appreciating and respecting someone elses culture? I would think it would be racist to not be open minded, hmm?

      • @ Kristen:
        nothing is wrong with appreciating and respecting something from another group of people. however, one also has to be responsible in how they “appreciate” and “respect” those aspects. i may enjoy Navaho spiritual leaders wardrobes, and i may very well respect and appreciate them, but if i do now have the knowledge (the responsibility that goes along with that respect and appreciation) as well, then it voids the supposed “respect” and “appreciation”.
        if, for example, i did dress as a Navaho spiritual leader, yet i know almost nothing about what they do or how the Navaho are different from other Natives, if i didn’t know that only certain people are permitted to wear this clothing possibly specific to age and gender, if i didn’t know that the Navaho are barely surviving on reservations, that their culture is dying and that a few that have dressed in traditional ways outside the reservation have been physical assaulted or fired from jobs….and i wear this wardrobe as if its “just a wardrobe” and don’t acknowledge the privilege i’m flaunting in their faces….then it isn’t respect and it isn’t appreciation. it’s elitist, highly disrespectful, and yes, racist if you are white.
        in your other response you said “it’s just a style”. wrong.

        Black people have been barred from and fired from jobs for having dreads (google ‘six flags and dreads’). dreads are still seen by the larger society as dirty, unkempt, signal a pot-smoker, and rebel, etc. but we have to chemically alter our hair NOT to be that way. yet you, who doesn’t have kinky hair, do it because you simply think it’s a style. you can look at tenets of Rastas and others and see many spiritual reasons for BLACK PEOPLE to have locs, you can look into history to see why they are termed “DREADlocs”, you can access plenty of sources that tell you how locs have been seen throughout history (in the US and the Americas) and are still seen today. it is far from just a hairstyle. that is simply something you tell yourself because you don’t want to deal with the very disrespectful and privileged stance you have taken because you like this supposed “hairstyle”. and no, it isn’t a hairstyle. ponytails, buns, and braids are “hairstyles” – locs are how they naturally grow from our scalps.

        also, i think you would benefit from reading up on critical race theory, like…whats on this blog. not partaking in something does not deem one a racist. the only way i can see that making any sense is if it’s coming from someone who doesn’t really know what racism is. i’m also unsure why you felt the need to share that you’re a Zen Buddhist because that has nothing to do with locs…

  23. true, Breeze. there are a number of people of mixed heritage who may identify as something other than European. however, i was under the impression that this discussion was about white (self-identified, or societally-identified) people wearing dreads. and to a degree, one has to discuss mixed “race” considering the term “white” is very limited and elementary as a category for humans.

    my point is that…and i think this should be the general rule…if one’s hair does not kink naturally, and they have to drastically change the texture of their hair in order to get it to loc, they run the risk of cultural appropriation, disrespect, and disregard for the social (color/racial) hierarchy that exists, mainly within this and other western nations. there are a number of people that have African ancestry whose hair does not kink. and they have their own choices to make about that, seeing as how their situation is a difficult one in such a racialized country. however, to those people whose hair does not kink and as far back as their ancestry goes, it was in Europe (although, i believe a small portion of white-identified American have someone Black in their family tree), they should seriously reconsider doing such to their hair. mainly because of the implications within this country.

    learning that Hindu Aesthetics have their hair “dreaded” is not a go-ahead for white Americans to then say “hey, this man…who i know nothing about in a country i, nor anyone in my family has ever been to…did it to his hair, therefore i can as well..”. even Indians living in the US who have no knowledge of why certain Hindus do this to their hair should reconsider (it should be noted that those in India that do this to their hair are doing it for spiritual reasons, which i believe has to do with some type of oath one takes for a path within Hinduism-and note that even Katy mentioned it was just men who partake in this hairstyle. yet, she – sorry is that pronoun is inaccurate – thinks this is ok for her to do ???).

    and while there are many Black people who loc their hair without knowing any reasons why their ancestors may have loc’d theirs…the situation is different because our hair locs naturally. if uncombed for a few months, our hair will loc – that is with daily washing and without changing the texture or adding beeswax or knotting the hair. the situation for a white-identified person who does this to their hair have a plethora of separate, mostly negative, implications. this is why it has, accurately, been associated with Black-identified people.

    i have no issue with someone who has straight hair having dreads who understands and knows the reasons why people do it, and do it with that knowledge in mind. but 99% of the time, this is not the case.

  24. Well, I would never wear my hair in locs. I would feel uncomfortable. And yes – I would feel strange because I don’t intrinsically ascribe to anything spiritual that would inspire me to do this with my hair.
    Yes – you know -I understand where you might be coming from. Out of compassion because I think when white people “conquer” a land – or dominate a people and a culture – yes I think a lot of people’s cultures have been destroyed the way Rome and the Christian church has done to peoples as well in history.
    For one – I am very saddened by the story of the Native Americans here in this country. I think it is awful what happened to them, and I think Andrew Jackson was a mean creep. So, I am not going to wear Native American dress and walk around and think I am cool – I don’t know if that has ever helped them – the damage is done – and it is pretty much too late. So I can tell you that if you feel that is a part of African culture, and you feel that is is hurtful when whites do it, because after all, it was their culture – and color that have oppressed people of color for centuries – well, then you have a right to your feelings.
    To wipe out a person’s ability to clearly trace all their roots – to take people away from their homeland and families – yes it’s evil and barbaric. People do it to animals, and do it to other people.
    I am thankful I am growing into a person who tries not to be like that. I can’t help being a white person, because that was how I came out of the womb, but I think I can understand what you are saying and I understand how that could upset you.
    And yes, I am a she – it’s ok. Thanks for letting me share.

  25. Screamen eagle on said:

    To end racisim we need to share cultrul differences. White people dont wear there hair like that, thinking it upsets african americans, they wear it cuz they like it. Why classify anything for one or the other. By doing so you are enforcing and prolonging what we want gone, racisim. I like dreadlocks wish I could have them, I am “white” but not. No one is one race nemore. In the future the world will be so mixed you want be able to xlaim anything but American or what country you arw from. It thats makes you upset does it make u upset to see interacial relationships? I love black women, I think they are beautiful. Iam not trying to offend anyone, but we cant set rules to what one race or another race can do or what is acceptible.

  26. Kristen on said:

    While I can understand how certain things could be misinterpreted, I fail to see the logic behind it. I am a 25 year old white vegetarian theraveda buddhist whom has dreadlocks. I have dreads because I like the style. That is what it is. A STYLE. Who cares? I have been a veggie for 11 years, and I believe highly in ahimsa… To the point of having it tattooed on my arm. I do not understand how people can become so irked by different people dressing a certain way. Does it effect you or your life in any way? No. Every person in this world is different. If someone wants to tattoo their eyeballs, good for them. I would not choose that path, but who am I to judge their path? Oh, and believe me when I say that “white” people do not have it easier than anyone else. If some do, it is because they were either born into money or they busted their butt to be successful. I am poor as hell fiscally, but I know that having dreadlocks or tattoos or green eyes or no color in my melatonin… Doesnt make me a bad person, or an “elusive racist” or anything other than just differwnt than you. Dont be so quick to categorize people.

    • Who is this in response to? The entire article? Or in response to a specific thing that a commentator posted?

    • Kristen on said:

      @jamiroqaigurl3000: How is it any different for a girl whose hair has natural kink and does not grow long to get straight hair weaved in? That is not natural for them. But it is not discriminated against. I don’t agree that having dreadlocks and being white makes you a racist. Thinking your race is superior would make you a racist. Thinking that a white person does not deserve the “privilege” of having their hair a certain way because it is reserved is ignorant. A person that does not know about the extensive history of a hairstyle does not make them a racist. It makes them uninformed. Perhaps I am not the one who should be reading the responses in this article.

      • Kristen on said:

        I can understand how you could be offended with the knowledge you have of the history, but you really cannot be mad at someone for not knowing it would be offensive. I seriously doubt that any white person has specifically loced their hair to be specifically disrespect any race or creed. I certainly did not.

      • Kristen on said:

        However, I feel I mudt share that Druids, the shamans and mystics of my celtic ackground, wore locs and wraps not only to intimidate warriors, but they believed that they kept the spiritual soul from escaping the head

    • Unknown. on said:

      Man, you need to check your privilege at the door. FYI, it’s already been explained in great detail by other commentator how dreads are not just a style.

      “How is it any different for a girl whose hair has natural kink and does not grow long to get straight hair weaved in? That is not natural for them. But it is not discriminated against.”

      … Sigh. I don’t even know why I have to explain this. We live in a society that not only values and promotes Eurocentric norms of beauty but also denigrates the aesthetics of other cultures (particularly, Black people). Contrary to what you might believe, a racial hierarchy still exists. And, in order for whiteness to maintain its’ “superiority” blackness must act as a diametrical opposition. So, what’s at play when a girl with natural kink weaves/perms her hair is not at all the same when a person who is white dreads her.

      • Kristen on said:

        It is the same thing. Also, you just contradicted your own stance. Black women choose to do their hair that way because they want their hair a certain way that does not come naturally. It is a STYLE. If I were to get offended by that, I could say it is racist or something a like, but it would be very narrow minded and just not fact, point blank.

      • Kristen on said:

        It is the people who keep breathing luife into racism that are keeping it alive. You can find something in anything if you look hard enough. I am not racist, nor prejudiced.. Never have been, never will be. But my ancestors put a permanent smear on my skin tone. My having dreads, or listening to rasta music or rap or whatever has nothing to do with skin color to me. Its just what I like. If you have a problem with that, you may be the “privileged racist”, not me.

  27. I agree with you, Kristen. You don’t get born of a particular religion or culture, you ALWAYS appropriate, no matter who you are. Yes, I’m white, I’m Australian, and while I understand the importance of understanding something before you do it, I don’t see the big hoo-haa.

    Should we not eat curry because we don’t understand the culture and history behind it? Not happening in this house!

    Thanks for all the well informed opinions guys, very fascinating.

  28. Antoniese Meissner on said:

    I think people should realize that despite race everyone is HUMAN! Stop creating lines and walls between people who have different skin tones, different hair textures.. The variety of human beings is a thing of beauty…. I’d also like to add that racism wasn’t just the whites against blacks. Africa is a freaking continent! Had all of Africa’s people stuck together and fought against the opression from the start, there’d be no black and white racism crap…. The whole point of history is to learn… not hold grudges and spit out so called reasons to justify hate! There is no reason for hate… no one grows from it and only hurt people and hurts feelings are the result. It sucks that racism ever existed…. Right til this day it’s very real, I won’t pretend it isn’t. But no one chooses to be white or black so why try and hurt someone for NOT being a stereotype of their race? Why not admire them if their doing it simply because they appreciate the culture or because they feel it’s a thing of beauty? Why should anyone have to explain why they live their life to anyone? Who here on earth is GOD? If no one here is God no one has the right to judge. We are all brothers and sisters because we are all human. Oh and btw if white people don’t wash their hair it gets oily and will NOT loc. They can achieve locs by using wool hats, crochet needles, etc. If people want to embrace what is looked down unto by many to show their indifference to the way HUMAN BEINGS were treated why not appreciate the support and the courage it takes to do so?

  29. Marcus Woody on said:

    John Butler isn’t ‘white’ or ‘Northern European’, he’s Ashkenazim ( a group more notorious for wearing dreadlocks that standard WASPs) – just saying.

  30. geoff on said:

    This author is a rascist cunt. Dreadlocks have been sported by euro (aka white people) tribesman long before Rastas or Africans were even an identifiable peoples outside of their own communities. There’s Roman currency showing Caeser sporting dreads. Greek aristocracy had locks during the draft of Solom if they weren’t bald as fk. It has nothing to do with assimilation or privilege or appropriation, and you are narrow minded as fuck for even spouting such nonsense..

    • actually, i think it’s been shown that what Europeans had their hair in were BRAIDS, not loc’d hair. if Julius Caesar “sported dreads”, why would he describe the Celts hair, upon seeing them, as having “snake-shaped hair” (as if it was something odd)? so it isn’t likely that his hair was loc’d, it was more and likely in braids that he maybe did as such for special events. but do please explain why every depiction of him (including statues made of him during his lifetime) show a short cropped haircut? as i said, this does not prove that the Celts’ hair was loc’d (this being the only shred of “proof” white dreadlocked individuals have clung). it was more and likely in braids. but please do provide some sources of Greek aristocracy having loc’s.

      the only way one can even think to say that this topic has nothing to do with assimilation or privilege is if you have no knowledge of history or realities existent in the US today. Europeans who colonized the Americas were not wearing their hair in locs until they saw Black people’s hair like such. and only that started around the middle of last century. it was not some tradition that everyone who identifies as “white” today was doing for all of their history. and furthermore, being white does not mean that you descend from Greeks or Romans. Rome colonized the rest of Europe. know your history.

  31. Thank you Breeze for writing a beautiful, peace-bringing, and well-thought out article. I very much appreciate hearing all of your thoughts from all the perspectives you shared in the article. I have thought about these specific things and do not really have anyone to speak with about them — or anyone whose opinion I truly trust as coming from a mindful and fully understanding place when it comes to privilege, particularly racial privilege, so I really appreciate hearing (reading) your perspective, and it definitely helps push my thought process.

  32. I like what Bell Hooks said about white people ‘refusing to see their own racism’ and ‘thinking of themselves as ‘non-racist.’ Too many times over and over again white people do ignore the racism that is clear to the black/brown yet whites tend to ignore or push the weight of their racist parents, friends, co-workers, professors, etc. off by rebellion.

    Dreadlocks were called dreadlocks because whites referred to the hairstyle as dreadful (in more modern cultural times). The history behind locks for whites wearing and appropriating them is they were adopted from the Moors back when the Moors brought style, inventions, sciences, riches, organizations, and such to Celtic culture and other European cultures. Thus, many during that time ‘locked’ their hair appropriating with the Moors of that ancient time… Locks date back to ancient historical times which originated from Africans, Moorish peoples, people with dark skin and kinky/curly hair, as seen by many African descendants.

    Nothing to be alarmed by, but let’s really look at what the Author is saying above. She pointed this out, brought it to our attention. I think in our current melting pot culture which has a deeply rooted history in colorization and racism in America, she is asking a valid question, all the same with Bell Hooks mentioning in the quote above ‘whites trying to identify with the oppressed.’ From my personal experience and opinion, I think whites who wear locks a) either like the look or b) see it as a way to show their contribution to diversity by standing out. Not necessarily trying to identify with African culture or Tribalism, but to stand out as to look different amongst their traditional whiteness. I think it might be a way for them to show their rebellion to white society. I think this is what Bell Hooks might be referring to.

    As for Africans to pursue Buddhism, I don’t think it warrants appropriation on Asian culture, as Buddhism predates Western historical ideologies behind Buddhism. As Buddha himself was African with the knotted hair and African Features as many of the world’s Buddhist sites and figures clearly show. Asians and Africans are people of color, no appropriation needed when they are both oppressed people in our western globalized racist society.

    Lastly, I want to point out that Africans and folks of the African Diaspora will always be followed, we are the root of the mother. Am I annoyed with whites wearing dreads? Not at all, I take it as flattery and with a grain of salt. Ask many why they wear dreads and they can never tell you this deeply, as to why. So smile everyone!

  33. This was a really interesting and informative discussion until geoff veered off into inappropriateland. Geoff, your comments about Rome and Greece are perfectly acceptable (I’m not confirming that they’re true, but they’re totally a fine thing to post here). Even arguing that some of what Breeze originally wrote is racist and telling us why you think that is ok. But to call her a racist cunt is totally out of line. You can’t possibly want to connect with and learn from someone if your first sentence goes all the way to this sexist and misogynistic insult, and if you’re not looking to talk things through an think about them deeply, then you have no place on this site. If you do, maybe you want to think about what it means to hurl an insult like this in the context of a discussion on racism and beauty politics.

  34. I really enjoyed the post and at the same time feel an overwhelming sense of my own ignorance….I recognize that I come from extreme privilege and really try to keep it in check.

    This post does have a personal connection to me…

    My little sister a few years ago decided to become a gypsy as I like to joke. But seriously she lives on the road with her dogs, is a dumpster diver, does bizarre artistic stuff with roadkill like making hats (shes also a vegetarian so she doesnt hurt them – just is very resourceful). But as one could imagine, hygiene is not on her to do list. She doesnt shave, rarely showers, and usually wears one pair of clothes for an extended period of time. AND she has (usually mohawk) dreadlocks. I saw the comment about a white woman having dreads bc shes sick of beauty standards or whatever, but I don’t really think that is my sister because it does come from her lifestyle.

    This is the thing. I love my lil sis dearly, but I do get frustrated by her lack of awareness about her own privilege. She didnt finish highschool although she is extremely resourceful and street smart. But she has this attitude that her lifestyle is the best and kinda looks down on us for not living that way. This where I get so mad at her complete disregard for how goddamn privileged she is to have my mom be able to help her and really have a place to go if she was truly in need…and thats just the surface of her (white) privilege. Now I know my sister is a very loving person that is not racist/xenophobic and interacts with all walks of life in her experiences.

    But I guess I was curious about what people thought about her dreadlocks? I think it’s much more complicated than I can wrap my head around because I know she has no clue about the history of dreadlocks or that she appropriated them…I mean I had no idea, and I do take in a lot of independent media that discusses privilege/racism/feminism, so I am somewhat versed about privilege in general.

  35. Pingback: ‘Racist cunt’ and Cyberbullying: Ruminations on the Troll Life | The Sistah Vegan Project

  36. Quite a long post and I mostly skimmed, but it seems to me that most people are way, WAY too concerned over race, and the root of this seems to be hurt…being made to feel invalid in one way or another. It seems to be an obsession in our society. We need to start seeing people as individuals rather than colors; what most have is not a healthy mindset. It is almost understandable since we’ve have had years of conditioning by our closet racist society. To the blacks who are opposed to whites wearing dreads, are you also opposed to blacks chemically straightening their hair or wearing wigs/extensions/weaves to where it appears like natural causcasian hair?

    Also, alot of people seem to be under the impression that dreadlocks were only worn by blacks a few hundred years ago. Bob Marley or a stereotypical rasta is what sprouts in the minds of most Americans when dreadlocks are mentioned, but dreadlocks were and still are also worn by indian sages, vikings, buddhists etc. I’m half white and half middle eastern; though I appear mostly white…and I will wear dreads if I please…anyone who looks down on me for that have their own set of mental issues to work out before worrying about other people’s hairdos.

    • Amber,

      I don’t understand your question about black people chemically straightening their hair in the context of the USA, at least. There is a rich history of, and social science reports about, black women chemically altering their hair over 100 years ago because a white racist society did not want to hire black women who had natural hairstyles; instead, black women were, and still are to a large degree, expected to chemically straighten their hair and poison their bodies so they can look more ”white” in terms of hair features and secure employment. I disagree that this is the same thing as when ‘white’ people in the USA at least, decide to dreadlock their hair.

      Thanks for joining the dialogue.

      Best,
      Breeze

      • If I ask the next black woman why she straightens her hair would she say, “because it is better for my job?” Whilst this may be true to some extent I believe whole heartlessly she’s just doing it because she likes the style. Many black women let their hair grow naturally now. Regardless of reasons behind why someone would straighten their hair or don fake lashes and wear fake hair or dread their hair it all boils down to personal choice. If one is against white people dreading their hair they should be against blacks straightening their hair.

    • Yes!!! I agree. I have dreads and I won’t apologize. It’s as if they think because I am white I have to stick to a strict rule of not crossing cultures. Yet they can do whatever because a bunch of white people I am not related to did some fucked up things in the past. I can tract my family back to Ireland and Jewish Germans. The end. My family owned no humans. They did their work themselves. People can get over it and need to stop being so offended and bitching about whatever upsets them. No one cares what color you are. The ones whining about the dreads on whites are actually being racist here.

  37. dhani on said:

    I am a buddhist who used to have dreadlocks. I know i may look white but I am actually hispanic. I do not deny my privilege of being light-skinned. I do not like however, how many people complain about white people having dreadlocks. That irks me. Dreadlocks are in every culture from shamans in ancient mezo-america to sadus in India, Nepal and Tibet. Jamaicans were introduced to dreadlocks or jata by Indian slaves that came to Jamaica from England and introduced them to Ganja (a Sanskrit word). Anyone can be a Buddhist or have dreadlocks. It is all about respect and being mindful.
    Peace ☯

  38. B-girl on said:

    You’re not because that’s not YOUR culture. These are just trends and religious practices you stole for yourself because your people HAVE no culture. i agree, if you’re not a Rastafarian, not of a Indonesian or african tribe why the hell are you practicing their customs as a FASHION statement. Not only do you lack creativity and originality, you also lack CULTURAL RESPECT. You are devaluing ancient customs into a fucking trend.

    You’re all a bunch of barbaric cry babies, terrorizing people for hundreds o years, destroying the world with pollution and deforestation then taking from those persons your ancestors enslaved, rapped, tortured and called animals for YOUR OWN. It’s the ultimate cultural disrespect in the world. I understand what that woman is feeling, but you never will because you’re just a prissy little white child living off the land their fathers killed for, in your own little world pitying yourself. Oh boohoo. Get over yourself

    • B-girl,

      Who is this post in response to?

      Not all ‘white’ looking people have ancestors that raped, killed, colonized, etc. Just like not all non-white people have come from lineages that were non-exploitative. Though ‘white’ looking people in the USA benefit from structural whiteness-as-the-norm (whether they want to or not), how does this help the dialogue to make the claims that you have?

      Breeze

    • You’re calling others crybabies when all I see in your comment is WAAAHHHHH STOP IT YOU’RE OFFENDING ME BECAUSE ITS NOT YOUR CULTURE WWAAAHHHHH

    • Seán Mór on said:

      Really……..”White people” have no culture? You are obviously another uneducated moron! What you stated – “your ancestors enslaved, raped, tortured” is exactly what has been happening to my peoples for over 800 years! (White Irish) Also, my ancestors had “gruaige nathair” or “dreads” as you say, 2000 years before the Rastafari Movement existed! Read up on Irish slavery in the Americas and then tell me we haven’t suffered! We are lucky to even exist as a people at all! As for your “All Whites are privileged” outlook……. That proves my point that you are a moron, because only a moron would make such a sweeping generalization! Hunger, Poverty and War do not discriminate! They do not care about colour! WHO ARE YOU TO SAY WHO HAS SUFFERED AND WHO HAS NOT??? I also strongly believe that it is you who should “Get over yourself” as you obviously have no clue as to what you are talking about!

  39. So. Because I’m white, I should watch what I do. Because I chose to be white ya know. Wherever my spirit came from, I chose to go to a white family. Yes. that’s what happened. And now because I am white, i should watch what I do even though I remember going without food growing up and was abandoned by my parents…. Yet my whiteness means I have better opportunity. Haha. I like to know things. I like to find history of things. But I guess since people at a cafe can’t possibly know what I’ve learned since they aren’t mind readers and don’t know my story, they’re right to judge and assume everything anyone does outside of their race is wrong if it happens to come from other cultures. Sounds like a bunch of racism tome. Ps: I’ll keep my dreads. Hawaii doesn’t mind your color or hairstyle haha

  40. I found this page when thinking about what I’m going to do with my hair if I have more children. I’m German, English & Native American by ancestry, but I guess you could say my phenotype is like “Mariah Carey” white (however you interpret that, because I don’t even understand it myself). I spent at least five years in a white, upper middle class school as a kid… which sort of sucked. Because my hair texture isn’t “white”. Around forth grade my hair kinked up in the most serious way and I was called everything under the sun. Brillo pad, Woolhead, etc. For awhile, I ironed my hair with an ironing board everyday. Once a kid said “Oh my god, you actually ARE pretty”. Which was awkward, but goodness I clung tight to that iron then! After several years, I managed to learn to work with my hair, though it had a life of its own, and my hair turned to my glory. Now I can do all kinds of things with my extremely thick, unruly, and bodacious hair. I have one child now, and earlier I was thinking “I don’t really want to deal with all of this hair if I have more than two kids.” Dreadlocks are the obvious answer. But goodness, it is disheartening to be aware of all of the negative connotations I’d have to contend with! I’d certainly do it anyway, if that’s the path I go on, but it really is sad that I’d get so many judgments passed on me for it. When my dad was a kid, his mother took him to a regular white barber shop, and he got made fun of and they had no idea how to cut his hair. He hasn’t gone to a shop since, and he’s 54. He just stands in the mirror and cuts it himself, and doesn’t really do a good job! Two days ago, I picked my daughter up from daycare. She is a two year old white girl with long, thick, unruly blond hair. This particular day was 80-some degrees outside and very humid, and her hair was (adorably) all over the place. Her teacher informed me that the next day was “crazy hair day.” I said, “What should we do with your hair tomorrow, baby?” Her teacher said, “she can just wear it like that.” I thought, here we go again. Anyone who is different from ‘you’ is a target, I suppose. I guess the moral of this story is, you’re never going to make everyone happy. So do what makes you happy.

  41. Cayl on said:

    If somebody’s hair style pisses you off you’re an idiot. black, white, Asian, mexican, you’re an idiot. Judge somebody by whats in their head, not what’s covering it.

  42. dizzylox on said:

    obvious ignorance is obvious. people just have nothing better to do with their time than complain about what other people are doing with theirs sometimes. its pathetically ironic.

  43. dizzylox on said:

    furthermore, I am white and have had locks for over a year. they were a testament to my patience. Also I may add that locks (and not cutting them off) was referenced in the Bible in Numbers, and even egyptians have been depicted with locked hair, and mummies dug up with wigs of locks. I’m sorry black people, but other people have been locking their hair even longer than you, and this is nothing more than an uneducated case of reverse racism.

    • whatsgoinon on said:

      I think you missed the point of the article or blog or whatever this is. This is not a condemnation of all whites with dreads. Well I do not condemn all whites with dreads. Just the fake ass posers. I think that is at the heart of this. If you are getting dread because you think they are just cool. Then you are lame. Also I think it’s thing where people are not learning how to care for their locs they just don’t wash them and let them mat up. Then calling that nonsense locs. No that is a bastardization of dread locs.

  44. Your all basically a bunch of “Politically Correct” educated racists which makes you way more dangerous then most people. Unbelievable underlying racial tones within this article and the posts that follow. Makes me sick to my stomach that such focus is oriented on meaningless crap.

  45. Lola on said:

    Egyptians, caananites, and majority of ancient folks were black. There are some who contend that so we’re the Celts.
    Www. Realhistoryww .com

  46. Seán Mór on said:

    My hair is the way it is in honour of my Celtic ancestors! Not all Celts today have “gruaige nathair” but there are a few who still honour the tradition of the Laoch Ceilteach! This type of hair has roots (excuse the pun) in many different cultures and goes back thousands of years and the sooner you realize that and stop judging people by the colour of their skin then that is when you will grow as a person and realize that you don’t know everything! What is it to you if a White person has dreads or nathracha or what have you? We all have culture and heritage regardless of colour! Some of our Brothers and Sisters may have lost their way so therefore it is up to us to keep tradition alive! We need to learn to respect, not just our own culture but all cultures! Síocháin.

  47. If a white person rocking dreads is appropriation, then do you consider it appropriation when a black girl wheres weave?

    • sawitcoming on said:

      I do, but its appropriation arising out of a history of being devalued by the dominate culture and to some degree self-hatred.

  48. I like this article a lot. I’m white and for years I have admired the dreadlock hairstyle. I spend a good bit of time researching the history and the spirituality behind it. I would really like to dread my hair but I’m afraid of coming off as racist or ignorant.

    • whatsgoinon on said:

      Who cares what they think. Get your dreads. I am black and I am thinking about getting dreads. I have done no research on the spirituality or whatever. I just stopped relaxing my hair about 8 years ago. It was this black power thing I was doing but my afro is so hard to maintain. I say all that to say you are probably more qualified to sport the hair-do then me or other people who have then that are of color. NO one thinks they are ignorant. I say do it.

  49. Of course it’s cultural appropriation. They themselves don’t have a culture, unless you consider thievery and genocide culture. Just as white (or blanco, blanc, blank) is the absence of color, White is the absence of race, and so it should be no surprise that Whiteness is the absence of culture. Also, a “White” accent is the lack of any other accent, while an English accent is nothing more than a snobbish, stuffy version of White monotone. This is why when a Black or Hispanic person speaks in a flat voice, this is “talking White”.

    And to those white folk who say “No, BLACK is the absence of color”, that is a lie you have been taught by White “scientists”, the same White “scientists” who thought injecting people with plutonium was a bright idea . BLACK is the absorption of light, and thus, color, while WHITE is the result of an object not absorbing light, and thus, color. Black is what light looks like when ALL of it has been absorbed, just like mixing all six paint pigments together gives you black.

    There is no

  50. Hello. I just wanted to point out that dreads do not belong to any one race or culture; in ancient times all different races wore them. In India the holy men wear them. Please look this up if you do not believe me. Wikipedia and dreadlockssite.com white people have been wearing them for just as long as any race.

  51. We are all people. We are one. Each individual should be expressive in a way that makes them feel beautiful. And all others should be respectful. We are all children of mother earth.

  52. This whole conversation is racist end of, and it is perpetuating racism, It is not only white people whom are racist as this thread shows!! what we all are is HUMAN and I do not care what shade your skin is or how you wear your hair, your choice of music or the language you speak!

  53. Well you dont see me bitch’N when U black folks get your lips peirced and ride skate bords and listen to Rock Metal Alternative and techno .I have seen black teens dressed goth or punk and it dont bother me…sounds like u mite just hate whites!!!! PS Im Dutch witch is a white race and I got dreads cuz I think they are pretty and look better on women …… Not to mention black people in the US all have white last names and most got white first names…but u dont hear me complaining…your just a white hater..shhaaaame on U!!!!

  54. And another thing no white person ever said black is the absence of color, if U mix lots of different colored paint it turns black, and black people dont even got black skin its really dark brown, and white people don’t got white skin its light peach or olive… And Many Vikings had dreads because their hair never could be brushed and just dreaded naturally …

  55. Really? Us white folk can sport dreads, tattoos and whatever else we’d like. If you have a problem with that, I’d suggest you move somewhere secluded where you don’t have to see it because the trend isn’t going anywhere. I’m tired of the racial stereotypes that come from blacks who constantly complain about white people being racist toward them. Hypocrites! Wahhhh your life is so hard because you’re black and your great great great grandparents were mistreated (which yes, that is awful and unforgivable- but it’s not our fault… It’s 2013, get over it!!!!) Byw the guy in that pic is HOT =0

  56. Luke Kuechly on said:

    I think most of ya’ll leaving comments on here a little too salty!!! haha don’t worry if non-blacks try to rock dreads, most of them look retarded anyways….let em’ look dumb!!! Imitation is one of the best forms of flattery.

    As a matter of fact – I’m growing my hair out right now in the effort to twist up some dreads later. I play college football in Alabama and I’ve always liked dread heads – a lot of people from THE ROCK (Rock Hill, South Carolina – where i grew up) had dreads & i always wanted to get me some.

    I’m white but my hair is pretty damn course……not nappy but still its pretty close haha. In high school my dad used to have a big ole’ afro when he hooped – had the head band and everything. Anyways – our hair is extremely thick and curly – dark brown.

    Anyways about the whole racial thing…. I feel ya’…… then again I don’t – I’m not black so I don’t really know “the struggle” or where you’re coming from – haha Its easy for me to say this, but we should all just forget about people’s skin tones cause its really not important. To be honest, the majority of all my friends in college are black……one of the reasons is yall can be so much cooler!!! Same thing back home….white people can be so uptight and awkward ….its weird but then again everyone is different.

    I guess what I’m tryna say is… if yall gonna have a negative attitude about it – its just going to make the situation worse. Dont get salty — just laugh your ass off at the fuxk ups of society…lol

    Anyways—I’d appreciate if some of yall could give me some feedback on what ive written and also WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE DREADS – Deuces

  57. Anytime I hear this argument, I feel very conflicted as well. As a young, white woman that has wanted dreads, wanted to do yoga, wanted an assortment of these “hip” things because of the social pressures I felt as a teen, my first thought is “well I’m not a bad person for wanting these things, am I?”. I’ll admit, it has taken a lot of growing up to realize that my thought alone is inherently racist and while I might not be a “bad person” for wanting those things, I am, however, very privileged for not being able to refer to dreads or yoga as anything other than a “thing”. To me, they’re part of a trend. They hold no significance in my life, and that is a problem if I would wish to practice them. Part of white privilege is that we can be lazy. My identity does not have to be made by personal, spiritual or cultural events. Not only do I gain praise if I wear “bed head” as a style, I have the power to call a POC’s natural hair “nappy” as a joke. It’s these things that disgust me about my privilege, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have it. While dreads may have come from other cultures, how does that make it any better? It is still appropriation, and it still makes people who actually hold their culture close feel like we’re (whites) making a mockery of something that’s important to them. I think this is the most important part of not only this article, but the argument in general. The United States is founded on cultural appropriation, but that doesn’t mean we have to continue. I know I’m still learning. I still get hurt when I find out I’m doing something wrong, but I’m trying to grow.

    • Nun ya biz on said:

      Whether people are doing dreads for style or religious purposes is no one else’s business but their own. It is sad in a way to see others religious cultural icons be fashion, like the bindi third eye or the goths wearing crosses when theyre not christian. But at the same time if a bunch of people get together that are white with dreads and they feel oneness and spritualness and share that hairstyle, what does it matter? many of us are still searching for ourselves and in a way it’s a wonderful aspect of this multicultural nation we live in, regardless of economic privilege. We may be different races and different cultures but to broaden oneself outside of your skin color and upbringing is truly a growing experience. Bob marley, would he care if I were a white woman with dreads? Rastafarians get their dreadlocks commands from the bible, which is for all humans not just black people. They would say Jah loves all and accepts all. I have gotten more complements on my white dreads by black people than white. (Maybe bc im the minority in this predominantly black and latino town) One black woman was rude to me about them but I was kind and we ended up having a great conversation that ended with her hugging me. I may have appropriated by definition and being disrespectful to others in others eyes but as marley said, judge not before you judge yourself. The road of life is rocky and you may stumble too so before you talk about me someone else is judging you.

      Do what you think is right for you and not for others. If they have a problem with it it is their problem, not yours, and if they’re vocal about it perhaps it can lead to both of you growing and appreciating each other even more. My reasons for my dreads are both Christian, fashion, and to fulfill other personal needs. If someone asks, I tell them. If another handsome dreaded black man asks me to shake them then I will and ill admire his. Yes this is a country of appropriating, that’s why we r called the melting pot, but what would a life look like for a white woman who had a life empty of all cultural appropriations, just to not be viewed as a white privileged racist? What food would you eat ? What kind of shoes would you wear? What language would you speak? What color would you wear at your wedding or flowers would you have ? Cultural appropriation doesn’t only exist in the privileged either. Historically it is applied to all cultures and races, not just negatively to the ones with the upper hand.

  58. Brennan on said:

    That was the longest rant of unnecessary bullshit ever! Just live your F’ing life. I would hate to have any of the crap you went off about in my head. People are people styles are styles. I don’t stab myself in the head for putting on a robe after a shower. Or worry that someone will think I’m trying to be Iranian cause I’m wearing pants. Your life sucks! Be who you are wear what you like or nothing at all and stop thinking/talking shit about people you know absolutely nothing about. You’re so ignorant it’s ridiculous! Black people didn’t even invent dreadlocks you fucking Vegan idiot. Read a fucking book or research shit in life before you begin you entire negative thought process. Good luck with your soul searching. I hope this pisses you off and you begin to realize that by people adopting different cultures and they’re beliefs or traditions or styles we then begin to adapt as a race. The race being human not a color. People are beautiful. You got to see white people that looked unique that day and those “whites” saw some unique “blacks”. Nobody owns a style, YOU think they do but every style is one in its own because of the one that expresses it.

    -Brennan

    • U can’t hear but I’m in applause.

    • I am a black woman and I have to agree with you. Black woman want long silky hair like our white sisters, therefore I see nothing wrong with the white man wearing dreads. It’s just hair, like who cares? Have fun with your hair now because majority of us won’t have much hair for long. Dread on white man!!!

  59. Really well written article, I have to say, since I started my journey with dreadlocks it kind of irks me that black people have such a stance that it’s only them throughout history that wore dreadlocks. I did a lot of research before starting this journey and dreads have been dated back to Roman times in 43BC. Scholars and royalty wore dreadlocks, also Celtic warriors wore dreads for intimidation purposes. Rastafarians didn’t start wearing them until the 1930s. Anyway, I think people should educate themselves before making such comments, but this is the world we live in. I don’t apply the to just dreadlocks, in all cases whether freedom or religion, style, whatever the case may be. Thanks for your time. -Kat

    • Hey Kat, rock your dreads man who gives a s**t!! I said it before, black wear silky long weaves and slap perms in their hair for that sheek European look, so why not be happy for the white man wanting dreads. Not even going too far back in history, just recently. The awesome group Korn, who I actually listened to as a black girl in a majority white high school, they were sporting dreads long before Lil Wayne. But I guess since Lil Wayne and Lil Jon, amongst others, are popular black rappers then it is automatically a black thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love black people. Married a black man and have three black kids. But sometimes black people can make the biggest argument over nothing. Sometimes the overuse of black power can create ignorance. Rock your dreads white man!!!

  60. I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. I feel as though black women throwing a perm in their hair and seeing weave all through is simply imitating the European woman. So it cannot be a double standard here. If black woman have long silky hair, then why can’t the white man knot his hair up? My mom always said to me “people want what they can’t have.”

  61. I have a question, and I don’t think it has already been addressed because most of this feed has been about dreaded hairstyles, but I have been considering getting either “jumbo” senegalese twists or havana twists for some time. So not dreadlocks, no rasta culture references, but at the same time a traditionally african hairstyle (or I suppose ancient roman/celtic as some people above were saying… I am not of roman nor celtic decent either!). I am white, although like many other people on this thread have discussed, while I am white I am of mixed heritage. No doubt however, I benefit in some ways from “white privilege” or some equivalent, in addition to the privilege that comes from growing up in a predominantly upper-middle class area. However I am not racist either overtly or subconsciously; I strive against it! I can not stress this enough! I actively fight the racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. prevalent in my home town. Some of my closest friends are: african american, half black half white, asian (grew up in china), white, a french lesbian, etc. I tell you this only to stress that I am aware of the prejudices they face on a daily basis and which their ancestors (or in the case of my lesbian/gay friends, what other LGBT people) have faced since early human history.

    BUT I STILL LOVE THE HAIRSTYLE SO MUCH…

    Each time I am on the brink of finding a salon and making an appointment to get havana braids I go online and somehow find a feed which makes me change my mind. I want to be clear that I’d like honest opinions, don’t hold back, but at the same time let you guys know that I have thought through the purely aesthetic parts of havana braids. I think they would suit my features and my style. So I’d prefer not receiving any unkind replies about how often white peoples’ dreads or braids are unflattering, unhygienic, etc. Aesthetically speaking I know I will like them. And unlike dreads they are not really associated with white people appropriating “rasta” culture, and perhaps similarly, unlike cornrows being associated with white people being “gangster” or being insensitive by feeling the need to return from expensive vacations in the caribbean or jamaica with cornrows. And yet.

    What I really want to know is whether havana braids would have the same result. I really, really, really do not want to offend people, and while I know I won’t offend my friends, I’m still worried. These would be purely a choice motivated by my love for how the braids look, not a social commentary or statement.

    Thoughts? Criticism? Advice?

  62. sharon on said:

    Wow…interesting opinions & comments. My parents are both Jamaican…i have chocolate brown skin & I was born in Britain. Whilst visiting a friend in italy (italian jew who also wore dread locks, piercings etc)I met an Italian rasta. My friend introduced me & told him I a from Jamaica, she also told him I had native American, African & Spanish roots. Well he became very angry & pointed at me, “you are African” . I replied I have the blood of more than 1 race running through my veins I give respect to all of my forefathers! No but, this Roman with dread locks, strawberry blond hair & blue eye insisted I was 100% African! A white man sportin dreads telling me what I am & should be! 😂funny guy!

  63. I really hate it when people talk about stuff that they don’t understand !

    First off dreads are NOT black culture, they are not any culture FACT!

    There is a temple in india were the monks grow dreads from the day they are born and have been doing this for over 5 thousand years !

    Before humans invented the brush everyone had dreads, yes that means cavemen had dreads.

    Dreadlocks are formed by the hair knotting together.

    the reason dreadlocks and black people are put together is because of the rastafarian movement formed in the 1930’s, Most rasta’s are nazarite’s and do not believe in cutting hair.

    By the way i’m mixed raced and to all the people here i don’t think people should wear dreads for fassion, but people are free to have whatever hair style they want and thinking that way is disrespectful. there are bigger problems in the world !

    Links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadhu

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazirite

    Image of Sadhu Dread :

  64. I’m a Black female dread. I do use the term dread and not “locker.” Anyway, personally I don’t get annoyed when I see someone of another race wearing dread. I think you are missing the point of the conversation of the two ladies as well as perhaps some others who feel “annoyed” when they see white people with dreads. The thing is even though a white person wears dreads, whether they admit it or not there is still privilege involved. That does not say that the person wants it or is proud of it: and that is what privilege is, it works as a part of a social system and has implications other than just personal preference. Their annoyance may also be the fact that white people can reintegrate into mainstream white society after cutting or sometimes while wearing dreads. The issue with appropriation of culture is not if a Black woman practices Buddhism. Most times appropriation is related to a Eurocentric world view: that something (culture) can become popular or trendy and then discarded once the fad or trend has found something else for the time being. The problem with culture is that when you belong to an oppressed group (whether in the past or contemporary) your norms, fashions, speech, adornments, behaviors are villanized by the dominant culture. Once they have convinced you it’s not good enough, eventually it becomes popular, but when you practice it, it doesn’t translate the same. The overall problem is that people’s cultures are not respected. If you tell them a practice is vile then you do it, ultimately you lied and felt envious in the beginning. However, I’m not saying all nonwhite people are genuine when they practice elements of each other’s culture but I hope this helps with explaining why those two women may have been turned off by what they saw. As I said, it doesn’t offend me because dreads have a long history but understand that what you heard was not two disgruntled middle aged women, there is history, culture, sociology, and group psychology behind that conversation. Just ask any Jamaican who wore dread back when dread were discriminated in the streets of Jamaica or Black southerners about how they feel about the Dixie flag.

  65. courtney on said:

    I am from the south and i have a rebel flag in my room and if you actually read your history its not a symbol for rascism. Its southern pride not southern prejudice. Further more i have dreads and i can promise you i get more shit about being white with dreads than anyone i know. The real irony of it is people talk about rascism and how unfair it is and you bitching about white people having dreads is rascism. I am a redneck hillbilly with beautiful dreads and im proud as shit of them. Maybe one of these we will all stop putting up more barriers between the races and show some acceptance understanding and love. Thank you and God bless.

  66. Annie on said:

    I’m a 59 year old white woman. I’m getting dreads next week. I don’t define myself as racist, appropriator or whatever the term people of differing racial backgrounds might call me because I choose to wear my hair in a style of another culture. Good grief! It’s fashion. I embrace the look on all peoples. One can analyze to death the notion of why we adorn ourselves with certain fashions or choose a spiritual path, etc. etc. etc. (yawn….yawn…yawn. Because we are all individuals, I do not judge folks and offer no analysis as to why they choose a particular fashion. I can only tell you that I’m getting dreads. I love them! I think I will look beautiful in them. I’m also Buddhist. Not white, black, green, yellow Buddhist. I am Buddhist just like some are Born Again Christians or Baptist. I follow the Buddhist precept that everything in this big beautiful Universe is connected. I don’t define myself as white. I define myself as a human being.

  67. leonard trent on said:

    we are all people my white skin bleeds red blood just like your colored skin does …for some one to say hey you cant do this or that becuase of you pigment is racist in its self if people do something thats out of there culture and it bothers you then you are a racist….”i have a dream that one day all men will be created equal “….i guess only some of us got that point…ill keep dreaming that dream for you doctor king untill simple people learn to free there minds

  68. mamaboo on said:

    I’m sorry to inform you but, my “white” ancestors wore dreads also. Please do more research into different cultures and how they also adorned dreads. Celts, Druids, Viking, African, East Indian and so many more had dreads. In seperating and saying one way to one culture infiltrates more racism than ignorance. Enlightenment is key to ending racism not seperation.

  69. Hi,
    Nice article. I read through a lot of the comments and their’s a lot of good comments on both sides of the argument over “white” people with dreads and appropriation. Though I do think that many “white” Americans adopted wearing dreadlocks during and after the 1970′s with the influence of Rastafarian culture, many cultures around the world have worn dreadlocks. It is a common practice among Hamitic people, Maasai, Semitic people of West-Asia, Indo-Europeans, Spartans, Sadhus, Turkic, Sufi Rafaees, and many others. So, to say that a “white” person is appropriating this style from black culture is somewhat misleading. In America, I would say it is highly likely that it is the case, but somewhere in the human timeline the style has been continuously appropriated. Further, anyone who follows many of the world religions strictly, would end up with a similar hairstyle. This is of course the reason for the many groups of people mentioned above wearing locks. Why the punk kids at the coffee shop are wearing them? Who knows and who cares. To think it says something about “black” people because these kids are wearing locks is a stretch. I would be interested in knowing what cultural traits “black” people have absorbed from “white” people that we can overanalyze in a forum?
    I also wanted to address the many comments in the forum over “white” privilege. In most parts of the United States, white privilege is a very, very real thing. The country and corporations are run by elite white people. However, there is also elite privilege that poor people don’t have, and their are many poor white people. Visit the Appalachian Mountains and tell me how much white privilege there is there.
    Lastly, not all “white” people came from oppressors. I come from Irish and Jewish immigrants, that came to America in the 1920′s. For anyone who didn’t know, Irish people where slaves brought to America as well. I’m not saying my Irish family were slaves, but I think it’s a point worth making. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves. From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. I’m not comparing Irish slavery to African slavery, but slavery is slavery, no-matter who is enslaved. My Ukrainian, Jewish grandmother had to sneak out of her country rolled up in a carpet to escape persecution. So, PLEASE lets stop lumping all “white” people together!!!
    We, as humans, really must stop causing separation from each other over such trivial matters. Black, white, red, yellow. Bald, dreads, long hair, short hair. Straight, gay, bi-sexual. We humans love to take the world and pick it apart to pieces and judge it. This only causes separation, and it’s separation that causes hate, and it’s hate that causes all the pain and suffering in the world.
    Yes, I’m “white”. I’m also bald by the way. I’m also of Irish and Ukrainian Jewish decent (I know Judaism is not a race). I’m also a twin. I’ve also dated African girls, Asian girls, Mexican girls and Caucasian girls. I like rock, folk and punk music. I also like jazz, reggae and an assortment of different world music. My point is, we are all a lot of different things. We all do things for different reasons. Sure there are a lot of people that do things in the world because it’s the trendy thing to do. There are as many “black” people wearing dreads because it’s trendy as there are “whites”. In fact, I’ve known a few “black” people that were seen as “outsiders” on visits to Africa as were “white” people. Same with American born “Mexicans” going to Mexico.
    It’s time for EVERYONE to stop judging, so that the human race can actually achieve equality for all people of the world. a

  70. Eyes2C on said:

    actually ancient Celts and Norse wore dreadlocks as they are seen commonly not in a matte thousands of years ago, historical fact same with Celtic and Norse tattoos they are appreciating the ancient traditions and their heritage.

    • Eyes2C on said:

      they would tie it into a pony tail and or adorn with beads. which is easy to do with long fair hair… my fiancee has hers from her teen years “in a plastic bag” I can assure you it was in reverence to her heritage please stop acting so naive. Why else would we do it.

  71. Jenny on said:

    There’s a neat Q&A about this in the advice column at http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/06/dreadlocks_should_white_people_have_them.html
    Jenée Desmond-Harris got a letter from an African-American woman whose white male good friend asked her for advice on whether or not to get dreadlocks. Desmond-Harris goes into a lot of detail and analysis, all of it worth reading. :)

  72. T raww on said:

    Haha this is a joke, if a white person said something like this, it would be on the 5 oclock news and jesse jackson would be on tv in like 5 minutes. -the truth

  73. starchild on said:

    First off your too hard on yourself and other people are too hard on everyone else.I am of a mass of races. I am 5 tribes native american Haitian french german irish and Israeli. I still look like a white girl. I love having my hair braided. I dont care what others think about me. I used to thou. Braids are comfortable and functional. I am also mildly gothic but I am also a mother so when my hair is long I braid it and leave it at that.I do believe it is wrong for african americans to claim that I am not allowed to braid my hair. Hair braiding is in every culture. It is easily maintained. It kept your hair out of the way and allowed the scalp to breath. I find the last trait best because im an epileptic with a heat trigger. We should stop caring what other people wear and focus on our own happiness.
    Sincerly,will braid again.

  74. I am white and I’ve been wanting to get dreads for over 2 years now! I absolutely LOVE them! I can understand the frustration and irritation that black people have when they see white people with dreads… Because 99% of the guys & girls know, use it as a “trend” … But I am NOT like that! I don’t want to get dreads to offend or irritate, I just like how they look, and to me- it does not matter which culture came up with the whole idea first. I find that cultures “borrow” and get ideas from other cultures, that is what makes them both, different/unique but also has something in common, it can bring the two on “equal ground” … I’m not sure if that made ANY sense, but people should be able to express themselves how they feel, believe in what they think is right (religion, etc). And yes, Some white people do not do this for the right reason, simply because they think that it is “cool”… But we are not all like that, I think that the people who do it for wrong reasons look like complete fools! It is past the time of slavery and un-civilised acts, those were the people of THEN- we are the people of NOW. We should move forward and become equal on all terms! Peace is the WAY!!!*

  75. Dana on said:

    Thanks for this. I am a white woman who has a pretty dedicated Zen practice – I struggle with confusion over cultural appropriation and fear becoming complacent with my white privilege, but I feel pretty strongly that my Buddhist practice is one of the main things that allows me to open my heart and mind to all the inequality around me, the privilege and ignorance I experience, and the best ways I can help to dismantle oppressive systems and act/stand in solidarity with those who are doing such great work.

  76. I think everyone is overthinking it. People need to stop caring about what others think. I am not racist at all. The word shouldn’t even exist in my opinion because we are all the same: human beings. I think people should do and be whatever they connect with in their heart and if other people, like the 2 women in the restaraunt you were referring to, have a problem with it, well then its their problem. If they want to obsess over race and nit pick at others then fine. I understand there is still a lot of anger and hate towards white people because of the monstrosity of slavery, but I thought we were all trying to evolve past that now. We should be, but not if people can’t move past it. All their stateme ts are doing is spreading negativity and hate and slight racism towards them now, its a never ending, vicious cycle. Im not saying forgive and forget(never) but lets try and move forword making our world a more positive one;filled with love, light, and happiness.

  77. Mark on said:

    I’m white and have locks and It has been the biggest spiritual journey of my life. Regardless of race, people will look at you different when you stand out in a crowd. White people with dreads standout because its unique. I remember being told by an African American individual that my hair can never look as good as black dreads. but im not trying to make them “look good”. Now, This is what puzzles me. When people say whites are taking African American culture by sporting locks there is contradictions in some cases. If it is in African American culture to get your locs retwisted every month or however often they are done, then I am honestly not following that culture at all. My hair has naturally locked over time and in no way is retwisted. I dont go to African American salons. I learned about dreads from the fact that they looked radical on white dudes. ever since I saw them I wanted them. The other concern i have is that if black culture is to let your hair grow naturally and form dreads then I follow the culture and do it more spiritually then many black individuals. Its all individual preference. I am not one to say “we are all the human race” or “race doesn’t exist” I acknowledge race i just dont think it should define an individual. I see black men with permed straight hair, I see Asian rappers, I see Latin American yoga instructors. My dreads are apart of me. Im not on this planet to insult anyone, but I didnt get my dreads so they could be approved or disapproved of by anyone. Im just doing what I want to do. I will probably be the dude smiling when you pass and think “nauseating” thoughts and i dont care, it wont affect my day. I would encourage anyone that wonders why white people have dreads to just ask them. 9 out of 10 times they will very nice and tell you exactly why. not saying it will change anything but at least you can maybe see some personality instead of just a “stolen” hairstyle.

  78. A fellow human on said:

    White people have been dreadlocking their hair probably since the origin of white skin. There are historical records and images on pottery and such depicting white people from all walks of life dreadlocking their hair. When you make a big deal about something or saying anyone of any skin tone should or should not do something with their body or their hair based on skin tone alone that is just silly and just as racist as a white supremacist. We are all one species period. We ALL originate from africa Period. We all evolved from the same common ancestors so why should it matter what the melanin content of our skin is. Saying white people should not dreadlock their hair is pretty much like saying black people shouldn’t straighten their hair because that is a white person hair style. That just sounds silly, opinionated and racist. You cannot steal something that no one owns or that belongs to everyone. If you want the world to stop being racist then you first need to look within and stop yourself from being racist first and start accepting all the walks of life on this earth.

  79. I feel like white people (or anyone for that matter) can do or wear what ever. But when white girls are wearing bindis they should respect that culture and educate themselves before they stick that thing on their for head! And don’t do things if you are rascist towards tht culture. Some white people will wear dreads and hate black people. I feel a if they have no right…

  80. asia ferrell on said:

    All hair mats when it goes without being combed….. Even straight hair. So what’s the problem? Lol its just hair. We as black people have fought to be “equal” to whites so why do we care if they let their hair loc? This is just another way that we as people are using race against each other. Lol ITS JUST HAIR.

  81. Thanks for the article. I stumbled upon it because my spouse keeps suggesting to me to dread my hair. He is African. I’m white. Of I was going to do it, I would want it professionally done and I have yet to decide. I work in Civil Rights & get pretty annoyed reading articles about cultural appropriation because to me it always emphasizes division, stereotypes & points back toward racism almost reinforcing it and making it stronger. I don’t believe we can keep assigning cultural appropriation in an integrated, global society. Go out into the world, travel, take what you love and embrace all the goodness you can, that’s living a full life. I know some of my choices challenge other people to question my professionalism, but good. Let them be challenged. Great article. Thank you.

  82. K.La on said:

    Sigh. Is this what people are whining about these days? Someone’s clumped up piece of hair? I don’t speak for all Caucasian people, but my hair dreadlocks if I don’t brush it for a few days. Even if I was and shampoo it, my hair has the tendency to dreadlock. That said, I find dreads absolutely unappealing so I would never keep them regardless of it being appropriation or not.

    Not all caucasian cultures are the same. There are some with dreads, some without them. Also, why do many black women wear weaves? Aren’t you appropriating those poor Indian women’s hair and cultures. Everything can be appropriation and whine-worthy when it suits you. Wearing winged eyeliner should be appropriation of Egyptian culture cuz Cleopatra. Or growing hair long should be approproaton of Native American culture because long hair holds importance for them. See how stupid that sounds? Dumbass.

  83. Tawny on said:

    @ k.la – yes!!
    First off, I don’t think any one culture or race “owns” dreadlocks. People all over the world have been locking their hair for thousands of years and I think anyone can wear them. I can understand a few of the concerns and feelings people have expressed here but I believe it’s being looked at the wrong way. For a lot of people, it’s just another hair style, purely aesthetic. For others, it’s a deeper, more soulful reason. It seems to me that if someone’s hairstyle or lifestyle bothers you, it’s because you yourself are not comfortable with an aspect of yourself or maybe your heritage.
    Secondly, as history shows, white people have taken everything from hair styles and language to food and land from other peoples and amalgamated into the english language, western food, America… I think this is why a lot of people in western society suffer from a lack of culture. And I think people, especially these days, are really feeling this lack. They are searching for something, themselves essentially. When one has no culture or is not fulfilled by their own, it seems only natural that they would explore other cultures trying to find what resonates with them.
    I am considered white by most people. I’m half German, and half Puerto Rican. So should I not be allowed to rock dreads? Or is it okay because I may have some distant African lineage in my DNA? Lol, it just seems so stupid to put stipulations on how people wear their hair.

  84. art4lyfe84 on said:

    While no one may “own” the history of dreads, I think the person who brought up the point about a white person cutting them off and goes back to living their life made a good point. If you google the word, “beauty”, what race of women will you see?
    The fact that people of a certain race have a right to wear dreads is besides the point for black people. True, but besides the point.
    No other race of people’s have been vilified, degraded, and made a political statement as much as “black hair”. A black women with dreads is at times seen as militant, lesbian, afrocentric,etc. Which has negative connotations in America. Dreads were not called “dreads” until black people started wearing them(dreadful).
    I think the point that is being missed here is that anyone has a right to wear their hair any way they want, but whenever a non black person appropriates a style, only then is it seen as cool. We see this everyday in the media and that is where the anger from some black people here stems from.
    Black women relaxing their hair/weaving it, etc. Is not really the sAme as a white person locking their hair. A black person straighten their hair because of a conditioning to their thinking that straight hair is better and that they will be more accepted( not all black people). It’s been this way since slavery with the good hair(curly, straighter hair, light skin,closer to white) and bad hair( kinky,coils, dark, ) issue, but it’s changing a little with the natural hair movement. I personally would’ve all black peel to embrace their beauty but everyone likes what they’ve( or have been conditioned to like).
    So a white person wanting dreads to appear more “cool” isn’t the same thing. Different perspectives is why some people are angry.
    I you want to wear dreads, wear them, but realize what other people are feeling too.
    I personally think if your dreads(locks) look nice and are clean, regardless of cure then cool. Beauty is beauty and everyone’s story behind them is different. :)

  85. art4lyfe84 on said:

    Regardless of culture*

  86. Jerod on said:

    I’m white. I have dreadlocks. I have a Buddha tattoo on my arm. I have both earlobes gauged to an inch and a quarter. I ain’t mad or nothing. But why judge someone on their features? So black people with straight hair or weaves irks you too? I get called many of different things so I’m not mad at all. You have your own opinions and I have mine. But what I do get mad at are people being racist. Racist toward any culture and ill get pissed right off. I’m not trying to be black or hide who I am by getting dreads and piercings. I just like them. And I’m also not this wanna be Jamaica guy either. Cuz like I said I’m not black and I was born in Canada.

  87. Black people certainly do not hold a monopoly with locked hair.
    The misconception stems from the fact that most black people can easily lock their hair without any products, so it is assumed that dreads belong to black people. This is not true at all. While it might take longer for a Caucasian person to lock their hair, whose to say that they have no right an d is appropriating from another culture that didn’t “invent” them in the first place.

    And even if history proves that blacks were the first to wear them, so what? All hair is made up of the same chemicals and history shows that many cultures had them.

    Another point I do not get is, why are some referring to hair as “black” and “white ” hair? There are some Caucasians with tightly curly hair and there are some blacks with straight hair.

    Anyways, I can see both sides to the argument and some of the comments are a bit racist.

  88. Vanessa on said:

    I spent some time in Oakland while attending CCA over a decade ago. I recall a lot of black people I overheard on a public bus or another student I met at school woulf bring up some type of black/white issue. I completely get where the women you were overhearing meant by their dusdain for folks that jump on “trends” which come from cultures/lifestyles of other ppls lives. This also could have also have applied to the three white people the women okaced in the general pop of backwagoners but drawing that conclusion must have come from seeing white people follow the dread trend many times before. For those that wear dreads due to their backgrounds and not something affiliated with Bob Marley or weed, they will feel insulted/some type of way as to why others that don’t have an authentic reason, rock dreads. Coming from someone who is a Black American, I don’t care for dreads at all but I do know people who wear them to represent their people, their homeland and holds meaningof being proud of their cultural. I also have known people that just rock them because they are lazy but don’t have the decency to keep up with the style..to the point of going months before getting them retwisted. To me, it does not work for every hair type but if one chooses to rock their hair that way, at least attempt to keep up with it rather than having the dread unravel and get so kinked up. A girl that began going to that school with me was a poser..pretending to be this wordly artsy fartsy to fit in..a lot of people in my dorm were vegetarians or vegans which was odd for me since I had only known one person that was a vegetarian back home. It gets so annoying seeing people act like they are into what the majority are into and ignore being themselves just to feel accepted!

    I took a Busdhism class at a university that required its students to take a religious course. I didn’t know too much about the religion but through some research, was happy I had chosen it. Now, I had expected my professor to be of Indian background just because they either practice Buddhism, Hinduism and a few other similar religions..however, the professor looked like a blond surfer dude from sunny California that moved to New Jersey. I could tell that some of the students that were Indian were also stunned to see their professor was not Indian. There’s a hige difference when taking courses like religion or language where someone interested in learning these courses expext to some level to have a teacher that was raised in that given environment whether religion or language instead of just having it being taught by someone that learned from it being his/her major. There were questions that were asked in class about the monk life or Buddha that the professor could not answer–not saying that this couldn’t have happened to the professor if he/she was a Buddhist–but you expect the professor to have mastered he subject matter. This experience would be like a man trying to teach me how to be a woman or my terrible Spanish teacher that was Italian..I couldn’t really get into the lesson because she half-a**ed the dialect, would ignore or give the wrong word for an animal or w/e was apart of the day’s lesson and she couldn’t show/tell us much about the Spanish cultural because that wasn’t apart of her life..a person should want to learn about this new language, be fully sucked into all that the language and its people have to offer the rest of us, not dread having to come to the class!

  89. Ashley on said:

    It makes me sad to read most of these comments. What is it with this “appropriating” bullshit. Need I remind every single one of you that WE ARE ALL ONE SPECIES! If you’re black and you complain about racism yet get mad at white people for doing a certain thing well then that makes you racist! Basically saying another race should not be able to do something. Separation, separation, separation. You are lacking something very important with this mindset, and it’s called love. WAKE UP, we are all one. We are all in the same universe, the same galaxy, solar system and by god we are all on the same fucking planet! We need to learn to get along with each other. Truthfully I believe we are all interconnected. Screw the cultures, screw the border lines and the skin colors. It’s called a HUMAN species, get over your opinions and judgements and spend some more time on the opposite spectrum of you’re negativity bubbles. One love, one consciousness.

  90. Pingback: A Human Heritage | L K Tamaya

  91. Sugar InThe Raw on said:

    I feel a hunnert times badder ’bout Black folk pressin’ and nukin’ their hair to be straight or at least less “kinky” because of either a) White-supremacist cultural brainwashing and subsequent internal, eternal feelings of inferiority, b) racist (“non-ethnic”) hiring policies by all economic entities that practice intolerance, or c) to attract romantic partners among those who prefer Caucasian or Asian hair to African hair. I dreaded my silky tresses to sport the message that African hair is acceptable and okay. I learned that it isn’t, even with “privilege.” I guess I’ll have to get a weave, now… or a Brazilian or Japanese straightening. That, or swallow those capsules that made James Whitmore’s character in the film based on the true story “Black Like Me,” turn black. He shaved his head (I did read the book). I won’t have to. I had African braids before that, BTW. White folks hated me in corporatia. Black folks there were accepting when I had a real deep suntan, and passed, light as I was, by contrast. Now if I were really African American, I would’ve been ostracized for bein’ light-skinned, just like in the book, “The Color Complex.”

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