SexPosFemme Journal

Saturday, December 03, 2005

On Whites Wearing Dreadlocks

I'm black and I don't see a problem with whites getting dreads. We don't know if the white people in question are actually white. They may even be black, or part black, which in America is black. And obviously if they happen to have dreadlocks they might be assumed black. I don't think it's "appropriation", I think the PC police has stooped to a new low by attacking well meaning, at worst naive, at best they suspect they have souls, the nerve.

The only time I would call something appropriation or co-opting is if it involves marketing, perpetuating lies about that culture, and erasing of that culture for profit: for example, Orisha paths or Afro-Diasporan paths such as Vodun being marketed as Voodoo for films and scam artists, depicted as evil, and causing the erasure of any understanding of authetic Vodun. Not someone who's been on earth for all of two decades, may even be black, who decides to do something inspired and respectful like become a Vodun initiate or completely out of the scope of attack like attend Mardi Gras.

The Vodun Mambos et al could sit around whining about white youth sporting Mardi Gras beads, which has nothing to do with the problem of ignorance surrouding Voodoo vs. Vodun, or they can do what they've been doing which is to educate people. If you're upset that white dreadwearers might not know the meaning of what they do, then do something about it. Get the word out. Tell people what the vow of purity and the 77 commandments are, at least so they can know what the discussion is about. Then, you can even take advantage of white middle American interest, not in a deceitful way that embarasses that culture, but in a way that benefits both of you. Look how Eastern religions spread like wildfire from the time Western Humanists took a liking to Swami Vivekenanda. You can't talk about the gym now without Yoga crossing your mind. Buddhist monks themselves benefit from teaching those classes, even to all white audiences. They are secure in the fact that all can be exposed to their spiritual gifts. Look at Holiness Pentecostalism, which is a black and now white mixed tradition, if you want a black example. African dance is another. Historical durges need not apply.

Granted, I can understand if there's a strong religious significance and people find it sacreligious. But everyone who wears dreadlocks uses the term spiritual for starters. Secondly, dreadlocks have secular political meanings so they're not in a completely ethereal or sacred realm that is striving purely to guard against the profane. Third, dreads aren't always limited to blacks who are Rastafarians.

As for white privelege, these individuals are visibly paying their dues by being seen in public. Unless they have a penchant for feeling maligned or condescended, they've done some homework. One can only say "I just think it's cool" for so long, even in one's own head pun intended). They face alienation from both white middle America and members of the counterculture they hope to embrace. If they're not written off they're second-guessed. They're either being obsequious and fawning towards black people or they're part of an inadvertent racist conspiracy to undermine us. The only people who are being obsequious now are extremists who will split every kinky hair until lay Americans feel foolish for wearing sarongs to the beach and using black ink pens.

One last thing, all the arguments about black people who have straight hair being brainwashed, please save it. Although I'm not one of them, I'm sure not all black people with straightened hair are agency-less saps. They wear the hair in some instances because it looks interesting or suits their identities, for example as middle American conservatives. Inversely some blacks who wear dreads know nothing of the history, and are camping out in a chic, artistic Bohemian zest that they'll abandon as soon as there's an opening on the Hill. Meanwhile some whites will keep their dreads. Others may abandon them and feel like they're selling out on themselves and the cultures they have embraced. Others may accept change but never forget what they learned in the past. The lists go on. Anyone liberal between the ages of 18-35 seems to be going through a pitiful phase, and everyone 35 and over who's conservative seems to be a hypocrite who has already sown wild oats. There's no way of psychically channeling someone's hidden motives for doing whatever they're doing any point in time.

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