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Friday, February 3, 2023

Dreadlocks: Why White People Are Often Criticized


Ronja Maltzahn was not invited to a climatic demonstration because the musician wears dreadlocks. When white people wear this hairstyle, it’s cultural appropriation, Hannover’s “Fridays for Future” activists wrote to the singer. Since then, negative Google ratings have rained down on the local group, many people are outraged, and climate activists are compared to right-wing extremists. The demo was supposed to be about “the people without profits”, about people instead of profits, it was supposed to be against the exploitation and oppression of colonialism and capitalism. And then a singer gets canceled for appearances?

The outrage may be new, but the topic is not. Lady Gaga once wore dreadlocks, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and most of the time there was criticism. When the fashion brand Valentino let its models walk the runway in dreadlocks and braids in 2016, under the slogan “primitive, tribal, spiritual and yet majestic”, there was a shitstorm, Marc Jacobs later felt what same. There were similar discussions about feathered headdresses, kimonos, braids, hoop earrings, and twerking.

Debate on dreadlocks: Criticism also for his hairstyle "Minister of Cultural Appropriation" caller: Sweden's former Green Minister of Culture, Amanda Lind.

Dubbed the “Minister of Cultural Appropriation” by critics because of her hairstyle: Sweden’s former green culture minister, Amanda Lind.

(Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/AFP)

Dreadlocks are particularly widespread among whites in left-wing circles everywhere, exactly where the criticism is coming from. There they defend individuality, nonconformity and leftist rebellion. Seawatch captain and refugee activist Carola Rackete and Sweden’s former green culture minister Amanda Lind also have shaggy hair. Therefore, Lind was called “Minister of Cultural Appropriation”. Because even if today they are often considered purely fashionable: the history of dreadlocks is political.

Dreadlocks were worn thousands of years ago by Hindu, Aztec and Sufi clerics, but the current criticism relates to the recent history of the mainly black African population.

Dreadlocks Debate: A group of Indian men and boys in the 1920s wear dreadlocks.

A group of Indian men and boys in the 1920s wear dreadlocks.

(Photo: imago/Cola Images)

“Dread” as the English word for “dread”

The worldwide spread of dreadlocks began in the first half of the 20th century with the Rastafari movement. In the Christian spiritual and subcultural group that emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s and had a strong connection to modern Ethiopia, felt curls not only had religious significance, but were also seen as a symbol against oppression by the Indians. blacks. At the time Jamaica was a British colony, dreadlocks were a conscious departure from white ideals of beauty. To outsiders, they evoked fear and sometimes disgust, hence the name, which differs from English. dreadlocks, fear, drift. Along with reggae and marijuana, also Rastafarian preferences, Bob Marley and other musicians finally brought dreadlocks to the world in the ’70s.

So if a white person today wears dreadlocks to look better, to look better, to benefit financially, they are adopting a part of black culture without having experienced its suffering and oppression, according to the indictment. Music, fashion, dance, language – all of this was adopted by white people from African-American culture. “Everything but the burden,” wrote American cultural theorist Greg Tate in his 2003 book of the same name. And the burden is: centuries of denied civil rights, racism, poverty.

This criticism of cultural appropriation you will like the concept cultural appreciation, that is, in contrast to cultural acknowledgment rather than appropriation, in which one approaches a culture with respect and becomes informed about it. It’s just that felt hair can’t be seen to see what thoughts are going through the head they are growing on. The argument that cultures are moving closer to each other, and that black people straighten their hair or dye it blonde, is also a popular argument in this debate. Which, however, completely ignores the fact that white people never protested their oppression with straight blonde hair.

Dreadlocks debate: Musician Ronja Maltzahn was not allowed to perform because of her hairstyle.

Musician Ronja Maltzahn was not allowed to perform due to her hairstyle.

(Photo: Zuzanna Badziong/dpa)

In any case, Ronja Maltzahn emphasized her band’s culturally diverse background in a video after the cancellation and that she championed tolerance, gender equality, and peace with her music. She wants to stay in dialogue with climate activists. In fact, you have the same goals.


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