When looking for loc jewelry or dread beads to accessorize your dreadlocks, it’s important to know the diameter of your locs first so that you can find the right sized dread beads. Knowing ahead of time the thickness of your locs will save you lots […]
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Why Wearing (White) Dreadlocks is NOT Cultural Appropriation And What You Should be Upset About Instead…
The history of dreadlocks will vary depending on which historical reference you site. But the truth is that dreadlocks have been worn by almost every culture at some point in time, regardless of its origin. It is a popular fashion staple for many people today, and in some cases, not at all linked to culture or religion (as in Australia, for example). There has been a lot of debate over the recent ruling that it’s okay to discriminate against an applicant or employee who wears locs. Unfortunately, some of the reasons behind this ruling may be due the misinformation and misconceptions regarding the style of dreadlocks. With all of the incidents happening in which people have cried “cultural appropriation,” it is important that we educate ourselves as to what it actually is.
Cultural appropriation: the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another (often more dominant) culture.
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on behalf of Chasity Jones claiming that dreadlocks are a “racial characteristic” and have been historically used to stereotype African-Americans as unfit for the workplace. They stated that dreadlocks are a hairstyle that is “culturally and physiologically associated” with African-Americans, so claiming that locs don’t fit the grooming policy is discriminatory and based on these stereotypes. The court of appeals disagreed, ruling that dreads are not “immutable physical characteristics” although they are “culturally associated with race,” and therefore the company’s policy is not discriminatory.
This is where things tend to get cloudy. And I’m about to say something that some may find shocking given the fact that I wore locs myself for over 10 years in the professional arena…
An employer should have the right to choose to hire employees that are in alignment with the representation of his/her brand.
The interwebs would have you think (if you don’t refer to the actual verbiage of the ruling) that discrimination against dreadlock styles in the workplace is discrimination against a particular race (i.e. Black people). But that is not the case.
The problem with the recent ruling that allows dreadlock discrimination in the workplace are the facts surrounding the case. According to the case file, a human resource manager commented on Chasity Jones’ dreadlocks saying, “They tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.” The company then revoked her job offer because she refused to remove her locs. The company’s decision seemed to be based on stereotypes rather than the work place itself — the stereotype that locs are “messy” and “unkempt.” Surprisingly to many, the fact is dreadlocks tend to dread faster the cleaner they are. People with dreads are encouraged to wash their hair more often depending on hair texture, to quicken the locking and matting process, so it’s really inaccurate to assume that people with locs do not wash their hair and keep it messy.
In 2015, Guliana Rancic of “E! Fashion Police” caused an outrage on social media when she joked that Zenyada’s Locs smelled of “patchouli oil” and “weed.” This prompted Zenyada to write an open letter where she said, “…There is already harsh criticism of African-American hair in society without the help of ignorant people who choose to judge others based on the curl of their hair. My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough. To me locs are a symbol of strength and beauty…” This incident was able to spark a national discussion about locs. For a hairstyle that has been revered and reviled, it’s important to have these discussions in order to dismantle every stereotype about locs for good.
We can all agree that there are certain looks that are more appropriate and expected in certain environments. For example, you would not expect to find a lawyer or political figure sporting bright red or purple hair. It is very unlikely that you would take them seriously if they did. Also, if your hair looks like you just rolled out of bed, it shouldn’t be surprising to you if your employer deems it unacceptable, unless you are in a work environment where free-form, creative expression is encouraged (these tend to be more entertainment and/or artistic types of work environments).
You have every right to wear your hair as you please. However, if you are determined to sport a look that is deemed “too extreme” for a particular work environment and are unwilling to compromise when employers advise you to change it, it is probably best that you go and build your own empire.
For example, I decided to stop relaxing my hair in 1996 and instead wear it in its naturally curly state. This was obviously way before it was a trend or a movement or common. As a soon to be college graduate, everyone (read: adults and elders) advised me to straighten my hair because it would not be accepted in the work world. I was somehow allowed this “creative liberty” as a free-spirited student, but choosing to go against the norm in corporate America would put my career prospects in serious jeopardy. I had a decision to make.
Want to know what I did?
I decided to stay natural. I decided that I didn’t want to work an any environment where I would be pre-judged and/or discriminated against because of the texture of my hair. It was a personal decision. Where there consequences? Yes. Did I get turned down for some jobs? Yes. But that was a consequence I was willing to accept because I felt my self-esteem was more important that someone else’s prejudice. Instead, I sought out work environments that would judge me based on my ability to perform and produce and not the hairstyle I chose to wear.
The truth is manicured locs can be just as professional looking as any straight textured style. Manicured locs are attractive and neat and can assimilate into any professional environment. What we should actually be focusing on instead is erasing the false social stigma that links dreadlocks with weed subculture and being unkempt.
Recently, a video surfaced which appeared to show a black student in a heated discussion with a white student who wore his hair in dreadlocks at San Francisco State University. In the video, the white students says, “You have no right to tell me what I cannot wear.” The woman started to refer to his hairstyle as an act of cultural appropriation and proceeded to tell him that he couldn’t wear dreads because it was a part of ‘her’ culture.
Although I can understand the young female students’ passion, it is misdirected and unfounded. The fact is that dreads don’t ‘belong to black people’ just because it’s a popular style worn by African-Americans in the United States. Many different races and cultures have been known to wear locs. Egyptian mummies that were recovered with dreadlocks still in tact were the first archaeological evidence that dreadlocks existed, but Vikings, Germans, and Celts were also known to wear their hair in dreadlocks as well. They have also been worn by Nazarites of Judaism, the Sadhus of Hinduism, the Dervishes of Islam, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Australians, Pacific Islanders, the Aborigines, the New Guineans, the Somali, the Galla, the Maasai, the Ashanti, the Fulani tribes of Africa, and many others. Even Sampson, an early Christian of the bible was said to have had seven locks of hair.
Recently, Marc Jacobs sent his (predominantly white) models down the runway wearing pastel-colored dreadlocks. This sparked a social media backlash; many people criticized the designer for styling the white models in dreads. They pointed out his appropriation of the style, and expressed that black culture was not even credited as the style inspiration. Marc Jacobs quickly dismissed these responses which angered people even more. On his social media page, he wrote, “And all who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in a particular style or manner-funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair. I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don’t see color or race- I see people…” His comments sent the internet into a tizzy. By writing that, Marc Jacobs made the mistake of fusing appropriation with assimilation while also claiming that he was colorblind. Jacobs’ comment about black people straightening their hair, proves that his “colorblindness” statement is untrue. In response to Jacobs, someone tweeted pictures of the Marc Jacobs Beauty Collection which contains numerous shades that more closely match European complexions and only three shade options for people of color proving that Jacobs clearly doesn’t “see color,” as he stated but in a negative context. After a few days, Jacobs issued a formal apology for his “lack of sensitivity.”
Celebrities like Amandla Stenberg posted an in-depth explanation of cultural appropriation on the internet on a video entitled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.” In it, she touches on the misappropriation of black culture, from hairstyles to music. Grey’s Anatomy star, Jesse Williams also shined a national spotlight on the issue of cultural appropriation during a speech when he said, “…We’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil- black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit.”
Despite the recent discussions on cultural appropriation, some are still confused as to where appropriating stops and where appreciating begins. The United States is made up of so many different ethnicities that cultural groups rub off of each other, and it can be confusing as to what the practice is. Typically, cultural appropriation involves the exploitation of the culture of less privileged groups by members of a dominant group. Groups often targeted for cultural appropriation tend to be African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.
The reason why white people wearing dreadlocks is not cultural appropriation is due to the fact that dreadlocks have been around for thousands of years in many different societies all over the world including European countries. Dreadlocks also predates Rastafarianism although the term “dreadlocks” comes from the culture. The significance of locs varies from culture to culture. Given the rich history of dreadlocks, it is very difficult for one group to claim them.
Instead of being angry about what is perceived to be the cultural appropriation of dreadlocks, we need to be upset about the debilitating stereotypes that come with it. By openly discussing locs and educating ourselves and others, we can hopefully erase the stigma for those who choose to wear them and help our society to be more open-minded when it comes to differences of all types.
The fellas like to keep a low profile but let’s be honest. We know that guys like to look fresh just as much as the ladies do. The good news is that if you are a guy who rocks locs, you don’t have to feel left […]
Natural hair has its benefits when it comes to working out, but while staying active you can experience a lot of sweating in the scalp. Although sweat is only a mixture of salt and water, it can be harmful to your hair overtime. Sweat can […]
5 Ways to Protect Your Locs From the Elements
Within every season, there are environmental elements that can be harsh on your locs. I know a lot of people tend ot believe that locs are maintenance-free, but that’s not totally true (depending on the style you choose). Your dreads will need protection from excessive heat, cold, harsh winds, heavy rain, and snow. There are many hair practices you can roll into your daily regimen that will strengthen your hair and keep your locs healthy and strong for as long as you choose to wear them. The following are effective ways of protecting your dreadlocks all year round.
1. Use Protective Styles
A protective style is a style that helps you to retain length by protecting your hair and ends from damage. Braiding or twisting your locs, updos, and buns are considered protective styles than can be worn at any time. These styles can keep fragile ends tucked away, preventing them from excess budding, being dried out by the summer heat or exposed to cold temperatures during the winter. Protective styles also prevent excessive manipulation, giving your hair a rest.
2. Wash and Double up on Conditioner
Well-cleaned and moisturized locs are more resistant to breakage and frayage. You can start by deep conditioning your hair. After deep conditioning, shampoo your hair and rinse thoroughly. You can dilute the shampoo a bit and focus on cleansing your scalp. Allow the soap to run down the length of your hair. Your dreads must be clean to be healthy and to lock well. A bi-weekly wash will be able to keep your hair lustrous and strong.
3. Skip the Shower Cap
If you like to take hot showers during the winter, the steam is very beneficial to your hair. You can put your hair up, and allow it to absorb the moisture from the humid environment. This will promote hair elasticity and strength. Steam also adds moisture without hydral fatigue, caused by wear and tears in the hair due to soaking and drying. After your hair is exposed to steam, you can use a cotton t-shirt to dab away any wetness in your locs.
4. Choose Your Hats Wisely
Hats are a great way to keep your head warm during the winter months, but the wrong hat can be harmful to your hair. Wool or cotton hats will dry out the hair, rub against your edges, and cause thinning. Wearing a hat with a silk lining is effective at protecting your hair from the friction and dryness causes by wool and cotton hats. Another option to protect your locs is to wear a silk cap underneath one of your hats.
5. Seal Your Ends After Washing
Your ends are the oldest part of your hair which makes them the most vulnerable to the elements. Coating your ends with oil after washing creates a barrier between your hair and the elements and locks in moisture. Oils such as almond oil, sesame oil, and grape seed oil are natural options that you can use to seal your ends and keep them supple.
Regardless of the seasons, there are many things you can do year round to protect your hair. If you fail to take proper care of your locs, environmental conditions can cause them to be dull, dry, and brittle. If you want to achieve strong, healthy hair, proper loc maintenance is critical. By utilizing these methods, you can continue to keep your locs at optimal health.
Do you have a special technique that you use to protect your locs from the elements? Let us know in the comments below…
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The Differences Between Black and European Hair
There are obviously differences between European and Black hair, and dermatologists and biologists have studied this topic extensively. European hair tends to be denser with a large number of smaller, finer strands, while a full head of Afro-textured hair will have fewer hairs that are coarser. The coarseness of Black hair makes it more likely to form curls and kinks, and also gives the hair a larger surface area for evaporation. As a result, Afro-textured hair tends to be much drier than Caucasian hair.
White Women with Naturally Curly Hair
Despite the differences between European and Black hair, White women with naturally curly hair can face many of the same challenges as Black women. For decades, the going trend has been for sleek, smooth, straight hairstyles, which has led many White women to seek hairstyling extremes and professional straightening treatments and to use flat irons on a daily basis to remove curl. This can leave European hair severely dehydrated, leading to problems with frizz and poor manageability. Many White women with curly hair are now taking cues from the natural hair movement and are deciding to show off their curls and waves instead of straightening.
European Hair and the Perm
The permanent wave has been a hairstyle that has come in and out of fashion for White women. Like relaxers for Black women, permanent waves can dehydrate the tresses and cause severe damage over time, not to mention the adverse health effects of perms as well. White women who like the look of curly hair are now starting to investigate new ways of getting the look the natural way. One method of enhancing curl without heat or chemicals, is wearing twists and knots, typically natural Black hairstyles, set in wet hair and allowing it to air dry. When the twists and knots are removed, European hair is full of body and curl.
While it’s true that Caucasian women’s hair does not have the same cultural significance as Black women’s, if you step back and look at the natural hair movement as a body-image positive movement, there is definitely room for White women in the community. Women who are tired of subjecting their hair to damaging heat to remove curl or undergoing perms to perfect waves can make the choice to go natural and show off their hair the way nature intended.
Like Black women, White women who are shifting to natural hairstyles will need the right hair care products to improve manageability, and some ethnic hair care products like curl enhancing creams and lotions can be beneficial for European hair too.
What are your thoughts on White women and the natural hair movement? Share them in the comments down below, I’d love to hear what you think…
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