Long time readers here will know that I’ve had dreadlocks before. I even made myself wool dreads some 9 years ago.
It’s a style commonly worn on the alternative and counter culture scenes, an act of resistance. And whilst there are arguments about where dreads started and how far back in history they go, dreadlocks are a spiritual or political symbol for many people of colour and white folks wearing them - even if they feel it’s support or unity against the system - isn’t appropriate. Impact over intent.
I realised some while back that dreads were cultural appropriation. It’s not a style I’ve worn in years. But I haven’t removed all of my old blog posts as I don’t want to erase that history or pretend it didn’t happen. All white people will have appropriated at some point - and until we wake up and acknowledge the systems of oppression we will keep on doing that. We’ve grown up in this system, most of the time oblivious to the harm it does to people who don’t look like us. We can’t undo our previous actions but we can learn and move forward. We can listen and act now.
This is especially true on the alternative scenes. We’ve often adopted actions and hairstyles and possibly even dress styles to show our solidarity. But what we’re doing, as white people (who are the oppressors, the colonisers), is taking a marginalised statement of resistance and turning it into a white one. Which in turn erases the very origins of the statement. We might feel that acting is amplifying but there’s a fine line between support and appropriation.
Not having had dreads for years now, I’ve not realised that there’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about why they are cultural appropriation. I’m late catching up and acknowledging this, and I am sorry for that. If you want to read further can I suggest these links: