Open Letter to White People with Dreadlocks

Open Letter to White People with Dreadlocks

Wearing dreadlocks isn't supporting black culture-it's theft.

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Stop. Just stop. Dreadlocks aren't "just another hair style." They have significance in the black community.

Dreadlocks have a long history. They didn't start with Kylie Jenner and "boxer braids." Dreadlocks have been connected to religion (notably Rastafarian beliefs) and to anti-colonialism and anti-racist practices. They are a way for black people to reclaim their natural beauty. Beauty our society still deems lesser.

So no, white people wearing dreadlocks isn't cute — it's an act of violence. It's taking something that black people are punished for doing and making it acceptable but only for white people.

Black hair is still political in the United States and abroad. Thousands of kids are being suspended from school for wearing their hair in this style because it's inherently seen as disruptive. Thousands of adults have to choose between their hair and a job because dreads are seen as unprofessional. This is cultural appropriation. It's disrespectful. It's racist. It's a way for white people to continue to oppress black people and it needs to stop. Now.

Until white people love black people as much as they love black culture, we won't be able to have an equal cultural exchange. And I don't mean love as in you have a black friend you occasionally talk to. I mean as in standing in the front line of a black power protest movement with police pointing a gun in your face. I mean until black people are not killed in this country every day simply for existing and when they are their murderers get sent to jail and serve just and equitable sentences.

There are other ways to support black people than by stealing their hairstyles. Theft isn't support in the first place. Instead, read Shaun King's 25 Step Plan to End Police Brutality. Read the Lemonade Syllabus. Read "The New Jim Crow." Read "Between the World and Me." Once you're done reading and have acknowledged and understood what these texts are saying, go and create change. This can be supporting black-owned and run businesses, speaking up when you hear racist things being said, and educating your white friends about such issues. As white people, it's on us to listen to what black people tell us, to believe them, and then work with other white people to end racism.

Do not ask your black friends to explain stuff to you. There are numerous resources available to learn about why natural hair is important along with any other question you might have. Yes, we didn't learn this in school but that's not an excuse to remain ignorant. We are not the ones who have historically had resources kept from us. When you ask black people to stop and explain things to you, you are taking away their time, using them to speak as the sole black voice and further creating hierarchies between whites and blacks by using them to learn from yet offering nothing in exchange.

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