So, I was going through my Twitter feed sometime ago and then I noticed a trend. People were uploading selfies with the caption, “what does it look like I do for a living?” and then your followers would reply with comic stereotypical thoughts of what they think you do based on your looks. Most of them were funny and interesting until I saw one which wasn’t getting the expected replies. She was just a random white girl who wanted to join the trend and get into the conversation like everyone else. She got rude and quite frankly disgusting replies. The reason she got these replies – because she had dreadlocks.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to screenshot the replies before she deleted her post (she had to delete her post because she was getting ugly tweets), but I remember how some of them were. People were sending her things like “what is wrong with white people”, “take that picture down”, “dreadlocks aren’t for white people”, “you don’t know the historical, cultural and spiritual significance of dreads”. She was accused of “cultural appropriation”. Some even accused her of being racist. Yes, you heard that right. People who don’t even know her accused her of being racist. It’s stupid, right? Some of them were like, “If you don’t talk about issues affecting black people (police brutality & institutionalized racism), you can’t have black hairstyles”. You see how silly that sounds.
They already concluded she doesn’t talk about issues affecting non-whites before even knowing who she was or her background. She had to get into arguments trying to convince them she wasn’t racist and that she knew the origin and significance of dreadlocks. She didn’t do it for any spiritual or cultural reasons. From what she told me, she did it because she had knotty hair and was tired of having to constantly comb her hair. She just decided to leave her hair without combing it, then it started growing into locks.
I couldn’t understand why they were hating her for her hairstyle, which is her personal choice. When I saw her picture, I didn’t see a racist or someone who was disrespecting anyone’s culture. How can you even tell someone is racist by looking at their hair? As far as I’m concerned, there is no hairstyle exclusive to a specific race. But let’s talk about what most of them accused her of doing – CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. Cultural appropriation is a situation where a cultural majority (usually whites) takes elements & items from the culture of a cultural minority (usually non-whites). Items and elements refer to music, dressing, hairstyle, language, etc.
They argue that cultural appropriation is oppressive and disrespectful to non-whites. How is someone with dreadlocks oppressing you? How? And the funny thing is of the people who were accusing her of cultural appropriation, none of them had dreadlocks. They just felt the need to give their rude and unsolicited opinions to her.
First of all, dreadlocks weren’t created by African Americans. Its earliest existence can be traced back to Ancient Greece and Egypt. But in recent times, it has been popularized by black people, notably, Bob Marley. It is now mainly worn by Rastafarians. And now it seems some have said it is exclusively for black people.
I can understand when getting involved with a different culture is disrespectful, like when it is mocked or made fun of and when it is misrepresented. But this girl isn’t mocking anyone or doing anything wrong. I mean, it’s her hair. It’s not like we would take it nicely if other people told us what hairstyles we can have.
Some things that represent a culture are clothing, language, hairstyle and music. Let’s look at things that have gotten some black folks unnecessarily worked up. Some black “activists” have gotten angry because of white people becoming rappers because black people popularized rap. And that rap is from a culture white people don’t understand. African Americans have gotten upset that white people wear Dashiki, which isn’t even African American clothing. Meanwhile, the real owners – Africans in Africa – aren’t that bothered.
Now, let’s mix it up a little bit and see if it fits the narrative. East Asians are a minority in America compared to African Americans. Imagine East Asians telling African Americans not to eat Chinese food unless they know its origin and significance to Chinese people. Or East Asians asking African Americans not to take part in their martial arts unless they talked about issues affecting East Asians. Or Chinese people telling African Americans to stop tattooing Chinese characters on their skin because they haven’t taken their time to learn Chinese. People wouldn’t take them seriously. All of these seem like things 6-year-olds would argue over.
African Americans have a point when they say that their culture isn’t generally accepted, that they were asked not to have dreadlocks or wear certain clothing. It’s also known that they have been discriminated because of their culture. But now that people are now accepting and embracing African American culture, why not see it as a step forward instead of getting upset. There are more important things to worry about like police brutality, voting rights, equality and so on. A white girl with locks is the least of your problems.
While it is important to make sure one’s culture isn’t disrespected, it is also important to differentiate between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Cultures have mixed and clashed over the years, with people of different cultures and races getting involved with other cultures and races. Most of what used to be traditional and cultural for a certain group of people are now used in different ways by people all over the world. We should promote this and not “it’s mine and mine alone” mentality. We should promote multiculturalism. It helps build tolerance of other cultures, and eliminate discrimination.