What is Cultural Appropriation?

Cultural appropriation is defined as “the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture.

This white student was stopped in a hallway by a black peer and aggressively “schooled” on the so-called history of locs. Is he guilty of cultural appropriation for choosing to wear his hair this way?

 First, let’s start with what dreadlocks are…. Dreadlocks are also commonly referred to as locks, a ras, dreads, or Jata (which is Hindi). These terms are used to describe a hair style consisting of matted coils of hair.

Who wears dreadlocks? Dreadlocks are very often associated with the Rastafarian movement, a spiritual movement that occurred in Jamaica during the 1930s. However, people of many ethnic groups (eg. the Hamatic people of East Africa; the Sadhus of Nepal, India; the Maori people of New Zealand; the medieval Irish warriors and Greek Spartan warriors, etc.) have been known to have worn dreadlocks throughout history. Nowadays, dreadlocks continue to cross racial borders. A quick Google image search will show that Africans/African-Americans, Caucasians, South Asians, Asians, and so on choose to rock this so-called hair style present day. The method used to form dreadlocks will vary depending on the texture of your hair, but the end result is usually the same – twisted/matted ropes of hair.

Many people now wear them as a style that has little to do with their religious or ethnic background.

When tradition gets merged with fashion it’s hard to tell when cultural appropriation is actually occurring. One thing’s for sure, however.  This young lady (regardless of whether she found his hairstyle offensive) is out of order for verbally harassing this young man and putting her hands on him based on his physical appearance alone.




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