Article Critique: "White People and Dreadlocks: A Problematic Union"
History and Religious Significance
Wow! All this discussion is awesome and has really got me thinking. I knew that if there was anyone to put to words my reluctance to believe that I was solely appropriating another culture by dreading my hair it would be all of you. (Thanks is what I'm trying to say)
One other point that also stuck with me is that dreading your hair is a cultural symbol. The meaning of that symbol is dependent on the history of your culture. For this situation, being white American and dreading your hair is perceived by other Americans as negative because you are taking in that particular culture's symbol and loosing the meaning by being white.
"You cant just take a cultural sign and act as if it has no history, as if a headdress or dreadlocks just exist in itself.Becauseif you do, youre doing a very real kind of violence, youre trying to break a sign, youre trying to break meaning. And these meanings can be anything from religious devotion, to family links, tolineage, to honour, mourning, and so on. Culture lives in the signs, so when someone tries to deny the meaning of signs, theyre trying to kill that sign and so try to kill a little bit of culture." -source
Again, I think these statements come from the assumption that dreadlocks originated from black Rastafarians and that dreadlocks as a whole only symbolize the revolt against white oppression and what the dominant culture views as "beautiful".The fact is that the people that say we should cut our dreads and that we "have no right"are those that are in pain and attack us because they see dreadlocks solely as a symbol of revolting against the oppression and when we adopt this symbol we are destroying what it means to thieir culture.I think truth lies inacknowledgingthat dreadlocks have the most recent (and maybe the most painful) history in the racism of the American culture and not in simply devaluing what dreadlocks mean to them. However when we are told that we "have no right" and that we should cut them we should stand our ground and dreaducate. The fact is dreadlocks are not just a black cultural symbol but cross-culture.
I feel better now that I got that last paragraph out. I know I couldn't accept this sole cultural appropriation explanation for my dreads.