Let’s talk about hair, specifically dreadlocks and some of the questions that are asked on a fairly common basis and how they can be construed. For those of you just joining us, I’ve got waist length dreadlocks that I’ve been maintaining since 1997. I’m not a Rastafarian nor is there any cultural significance for my hairstyle. Being in a subset of a minority working in retail in a southern US town has given me an opportunity for a much deeper perspective.
“Your hair is so neat. Do you wash it?” I hear – “I have no context other than people who have appropriated someone else’s culture.”
I personally wash my hair frequently for the sake of my personal well being. During the winter months it could take as long as a day to dry and I have to ensure I keep my scalp moisturised. I also visit a stylist quarterly for maintenance purposes. True Rastafarians are actually fastidious about their cleanliness and some wash their dreads on a daily basis. The not washing dreads is usually synonymous with caucasians trying to affect dreadlocks. Thin, straight hair does not lock easily and usually requires a tincture to begin and maintain the process. Even with the constant application washing is likely to remove the hold.
“Can I touch it?” I hear – “Look at the exotic thing, we are superior and entitled to do what we feel.”
I don’t mind the question so much, but it irks me when the hand is almost or already there. This is a rhetorical question, you don’t really care whether or not I want you to touch my hair. As if by being outside your norm, I have forfeited my personal space. I’ve noticed this behaviour also prevalent with people with tattoos and pregnant women.
“I wish I could do that to my hair.” I hear – “Religious or cultural beliefs will not stand in my way of looking ‘cool.'”
Not content with cultural imperialism has spanned the globe with a powerful, vocal minority telling people exactly how they should look. Encouraging people to conform either through astringent chemical processes, eating disorders or surgical methods, let us claim the identities that remain for our own, no matter the significance.