When a White Girl Has Dreads: Why Cultural Appropriation Exists & Why It Won’t Go Away

By:  H.T.

There’s a Starbucks near my house that I go to whenever I’m in a good mood or just need to starve off a hangover with a ridiculous amount of calories, and in it works a young white woman with dreadlocks.  Now, I’d like to take this time to point out that a few cultures that aren’t tied to Africa have a history of dreadlocks FAR proceeding the West Indies or really any of that.  But of course, the argument is that because dreads are intrinsically tied to black culture, this is wrong.  So, I tried looking at it from another angle.

My friend in the great north is Indian-Canadian, up there, she often deals with the annoying thing that a lot of white people do, which is basically take a non-white culture’s clothing & traditions, and ultimately water it down for annoying white girl prattle.  As she’s shared, a few of the white girls who mocked my friend’s culture grew up and adopted hers after years of jokes.  So I can get it.

This all comes to the long held discussion of “cultural appropriation”, the idea that people from outside a culture shouldn’t be allowed to appropriate the elements of another culture, be it hairstyles, clothing, rituals, etc. and in a weird way, I get it.  As I stated in another article, I went through a weeaboo phase.  It wasn’t pretty.  But the thing you take away from that is that you can go too far in your love of a culture to where eventually from the outside looking in, you do look like you’re mocking them.

But I say all this to say this:  you can’t have it both ways.  Fact is, you’re never really gonna stop them from doing it short of putting a gun to someone’s head, and even then you’ve become an asshole.  You know what I hate?  Going to music festivals and seeing some pasty white guy covered in patchouli oil wearing a Indian chief’s headdress.  It’s a cliche at this point!

But I also know this:  when we start to police what people can say, do or wear, we take a few steps back in progress in the name of political ideologies created in colleges.  Colleges which for 4+ years gives you the feeling that post these years, you will be a god among men with how progressive you are.  But in fact, you just seem out of touch and in fact, how common is it that many ideas and phrases from academia are in everyday life?  It’s safe to say there’s not much left to protect from the masses.

The problem is that as much as I hate to see all the white girls who actually do “act black” or whatever while still acknowledging that they’re white girls in a room full of black guys, I can’t with a straight face call them an asshole for acting stereotypically black and seriously think that the argument “because black women act the same way and are punished for it” will hold water.  At that point, the argument is literally, “You hurt my feelings, so stop doing what you want!”

On one hand, I see why it’s upsetting to see people who yes, don’t get mocked for celebrating a culture that’s not theirs like it’s a costume.  At the same time, you can’t force people to care, especially when the powers that be don’t care either and, yes, many of the PEOPLE leading the argument against this are very unsympathetic in their approach.  For as much as one can argue and be right, it’s very easy to say the wrong things but say it in a way people will respond to.  Honey and vinegar really.

So what is the solution?  Well, perhaps, maybe we shouldn’t look at this as an issue to be tackled so much as just one of those issues that you just deal with without becoming an asshole.  Maybe the solution is simply that we can acknowledge when there’s an issue and pull cards accordingly, but to confront every hipster who has dreads or every white guy in a sombrero is a recipe for just being unlivable.  In the end, no amount self righteous indignation can or will justify telling other adults what they can or cannot do short of breaking any laws.  This is just the brass tax of things.

People in social justice like to say “fuck you” to people’s feelings, but can’t for the life of them figure out why people tend to turn a deaf ear to their issues.  It’s because you can’t just yell at people about what they said or did wrong and think people are just supposed to roll over.  No, people will call you out and call you an asshole.  No amount of calling people problematic, ashy, or whatever will stop this.

I don’t like seeing these pretentious trust fund kids just try on a new identity every few months, but no amount of yelling or screaming will change this.  Ever.  So perhaps, maybe, the best course of action is to ask ourselves these questions:

  • Are the circumstances by which this person is wearing a hairstyle actually relevant to the argument that this is offensive by way of degrading said culture?
  • Is the reason this is considered offensive cohesive in layman’s terms?

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