There is a controversy behind why some people choose to wear dreadlocks; here’s why these three defensive statements are just wrong.

photo couresty of Vernon Wiley – Getty Images

Remember when Zendaya appeared at last year’s Oscars with faux dreadlocks?

E! Fashion Police co-host Giuliana Rancic stated that she looked “as if she smelled like patchouli oil and weed”? A viral video from San Francisco State University showed two students in a debate regarding the dreadlocks on the Caucasian individual, Cory Goldstein. The other student, Bonita Tindle, stated that she was simply trying to “collegially provoke thought within the man to critically think about his dreads and the racial implications it has as a non-Black person.” These are just two recent examples of how white supremacy has stepped in to regulate the beauty standards in mainstream media and our society.

There are several reasons why dreadlocks are controversial on a non-black individual but there are three points I believe are most important to reverse when defending dreadlocks.

1. “Dreadlocks are cross-cultural.”

Although dreadlocks have appeared in history since B.C. times to other several cultures in A.D. times around the world—Vikings, Irish, Celts, Greek, Romans—there is a difference in its connotations in the U.S. and why it’s seen disrespectful on those who are not Black. The Civil Rights Movement is exclusive to America, therefore African-Americans have used dreadlocks as a way to resist white supremacy, similarly to how white feminists ‘stick it to the patriarchy’ by not shaving or grooming in order to protest mainstream beauty standards.

2. “It’s not cultural appropriation, it’s cultural appreciation.”

Eh, not really. The difference between the two phrases has been explained enough times, but for the sake of the ones who live under a rock: cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture takes a part of the oppressed culture and instead of receiving negative connotations, there are no negative assumptions or consequences because the individual is part of the dominant culture (a.k.a., the oppressor”>. For example, Caucasians with dreadlocks do not experience discrimination because of their appearance, whereas an African-American with dreadlocks runs the risk of being singled out.

On the other end of the spectrum is cultural appreciation, which is simply when you value an aspect of the culture–or its entirety–without altering or taking it away from the originator. For example, when you see a beautiful bed of exotic flowers, you do not uproot them–you simply take pleasure in their beauty by watering and admiring them.

Ultimately, it is about respecting a method that was formed by a group in order to create a movement within that group. There was no need for white people to create a resistance movement against white supremacy, thus making it unnecessary and disrespectful for them to wear dreadlocks.

3. “Black women appropriate white culture when they dye their hair blonde or wear it straight.”

The Eurocentric beauty standard has controlled the media and society for thousands of years; in order to be accepted, your appearance has to align with what is considered mainstream. This means having straight hair, a narrow nose, a light skin tone, etc. African-American women have to assimilate to not be discriminated against, and be competitive job candidates or high-holding individuals of power in their career. It is not appropriation, it is survival.

You are able to liberate yourself from mainstream beauty standards, but not at the cost of oppressing others, therefore it is important to understand the history of the aspects of different cultures, as well as knowing how to empower yourself without taking what belongs to someone else.

What do you think?

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