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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

White People With Dreadlocks (With Special Attention to Ru-Paul Drag Race Contestant Thorgy Thor)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part series on dreadlocks (hairstyles).

Part II provides excerpts of selected online articles and comments about White people who wear their hair in dreadlocks with special attention to comments about Thorgy Thor, a White contestant on Ru Paul's Drag Race, Season 8.

A video of Thorgy Thor with Bob the Drag Queen (a Black Season 8 contestant) is also included in this post.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/03/definitions-selected-online-article.html Part I of this pancocojams series. Part I provides two definitions and excerpts from selected online articles about the hairstyles that are now widely known as "dreadlocks" ("dreads", "locs").

Also, click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/03/traditional-black-african-hairstyles.html for comments related to the subject of this post.

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of the video that is embedded in this post and thanks to Thorgy Thor and Bob the Drag Queen who are featured in that video.

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SELECTED EXCERPTS
These article excerpts are presented in no particular order. I've numbered them for referencing purposes only.
EXCERPT #1:
From http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/06/dreadlocks_should_white_people_have_them.html [page 1 of a 3 page article]
Blacks Get Weave; Can Whites Get Locks?

Race Manners: You can, but it's not the same. Don't expect to enjoy the style without the scrutiny.
BY: JEN√ČE DESMOND-HARRIS, Posted: June 19 2013
[Question]
"I'm an African-American woman. My good friend, who is a white male, very progressive and pretty much a hippie, is thinking about getting dreadlocks. He's been asking me for my opinion about it and whether it would be offensive to black people, and I'm not sure. I don't know if it's fair to say, 'Don't try to make your hair look like the hair of someone of another race,' when we all know that a lot of black women who have failed to embrace their natural hair texture have weaves that imitate European hair. In that sense, I somewhat think we as Americans are a hair and style melting pot now. So I don't want to apply a double standard. Still, I'm aware that a lot of black people really hate when white people have locks, and I'd hate to set him up for criticism or for people to judge or dislike him for this choice. I know this is complicated and wonder how it would be best to advise my friend." --"Dreading" Your Response

[Response]
...When it comes to white people wearing dreadlocks, which are associated in the public mind with Rastafarians specifically, and black people more generally (although they've apparently been embraced by a variety of cultures just about forever), the public is going to read the choice in ways that go way beyond personal aesthetics...

It goes without saying that in the best-possible world, everyone would get to know your friend as an individual rather than making assumptions about him based on his appearance.

But, as these reactions demonstrate -- and as I'm sure you already know -- we don't live in that world.

As [Gene] Demby [of NPR's Code Switch blog on race, ethnicity and culture] put it, your buddy is going to have to accept that if he goes forward with the locks, he'll be "actively 'raceing' himself."

Here's what I take that to mean. His hair is going to scream "black," which is going to serve to emphasize his whiteness -- the whiteness that, perhaps, people previously just saw as neutral, or didn't consciously register. Once race is in the front of everyone's consciousness, all sorts of assumptions about his motivations and inclinations -- fair and unfair, reality-based and not, about his hair and his overall worldview -- will follow. Quickly.

Which is, well, a lot like what it's like to be a person of color.

So I think the most supportive thing you can do is to warn him about this burden. As a black woman, you know a little something about it (except that, of course, being seen through the lens of race first isn't a choice for you).

Talk to him about what it's like to be the involuntary recipient of everyone's racial baggage as you're just trying to move through the world.

By all means, tell him you'll personally support whatever choice he makes about his hair. Hell, get him some coconut oil for his scalp and a cowrie shell or two to stick on the ends. But you'll do him a disservice if you let him believe that he can borrow a traditionally black look, keep the style and be excused from the scrutiny."

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EXCERPT #2
From http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/white-feminist-with-dreadlocks/
"This White Feminist Loved Her Dreadlocks – Here’s Why She Cut Them Off"
August 2, 2015 by Annah Anti-Palindrome
"What It Was Like Being A White Girl with Dreadlocks

In my late teens…I let my leg and armpit hair grow long, and I let the hair on my head spiral into a nest of cords, matts, and tangles (a hairdo I would later ignorantly and appropriatively refer to as dreadlocks).

...We idolized musicians like The Slits, Babes in Toyland, 7 Year Bitch, Ani Difranco, L7, and Switchblade Symphony – all feminists who wrote songs about smashing mainstream beauty standards – all bands featuring white women who wore their hair in dreadlocks at some point or another during their musical careers.

In navigating through a predominantly white, feminist punk subculture, I never gave a second thought to whether wearing my hair in dreadlocks was offensive — at least to any one other than to The Patriarchy.

Having dreadlocks was part of what allowed me to stop obsessing over my appearance.*

...Despite my rebellious appearance, I enjoyed a level of tolerance from authority figures and society at large that can only be attributed to my whiteness.

Everything changed when I stopped traveling, started investing in local activist projects, and began building a broader, more multiracial community.

For the first time, my peers had lots of questions and critiques about my choice to wear dreadlocks.

The responses other activists had to my hair ranged from mild irritation to downright anger.

People were constantly making comments under their breath when they passed me about “cultural appropriation” – I had no idea what that meant.

Some friends eventually suggested some readings and resources that would help me understand.

I read them and learned more about the history and symbolism of dreadlocks in the US in context to black folk’s resistance movements against white supremacy. I learned that black folks in the US with dreadlocks are not seen as “quirky” or “alternative,” but as “dangerous” and “militant”...

The Harmful Messages I Was Sending to the World as a White Woman with Dreadlocks

It finally became clear to me that by wearing my hair in dreadlocks as a white person, the nonverbal statements I was making to folks of color were:

“Look! I can reject all of mainstream society’s expectations of me and still be treated with more respect than you!”
“Your legacies of cultural resistance are so irrelevant that they’ve become nothing more than a fashion accessory to help me evade the expectations of white womanhood!”

“I don’t care that my presence illicitness discomfort and sometimes communicates what is seen as blatant disrespect!”

“I don’t care that my hairstyle symbolizes the kind of white entitlement that has resulted in centuries worth of global, colonial violence.”

Etcetera.

I’m pretty embarrassed to say so… but even after this new stage of awareness I stiiiiillllll had a super hard time letting them go...

[The section of this post "Some examples of my last stitch arguments" [with her friends responses] isn't included in this excerpt for fair use concerns [although I've already used more of that post than fair use allows. My bad.]

The Haircut

I finally cut them off – and when I did, I felt (literally and figuratively) a dozen pounds lighter.
Although I am still pretty “alternative” looking, I’ve learned to stand up against systems of oppression by doing the actual footwork in my daily life. I no longer naively expect my physical appearance (on its own) to do that work for me.

Cutting off my dreadlocks was a form of accountability – an acknowledgment of the ways in which I’ve benefited (and continue to benefit) from legacies of extreme, racialized violence.

Cutting off my dreadlocks didn’t make me an instantly “good white person” or even a trustworthy ally, but it sure as hell dismantled some of the barriers that stood in the way of cultivating deep, meaningful relationships based on mutual respect, trust and solidarity.

As feminists, we do need to continue working hard to dismantle society’s oppressive messages about femininity, but we also need to be thinking about the intersections of race, class, and gender, the ways some of us benefit from the system in which we live, and how we can empower and liberate ourselves without contributing to the oppression of someone else."
-snip-
*The bold fonts and italics were used in the original article.

I strongly recommend reading that entire post.

That post recommended reading this article about cultural appropriation of Native American culture: http://nativeappropriations.com/2014/03/dear-christina-fallin.html

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EXCERPT #3: Bus Buddies: Bob The Drag Queen & Thorgy Thor | RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8 | Logo



Logo TV, Published on Mar 7, 2016

Bob The Drag Queen & Thorgy Thor truth talk about being drag queens and the impact RuPaul's Drag Race has had in their lives. Catch all new episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race Mondays at 9/8c on Logo.

SUBSCRIBE: http://logo.to/ZirLXq
-snip-
Thorgy Thor is a White contestant on that show who wears his hair in dreadlocks.

Selected comments from this video's discussion thread:
These comments are given in chronological order, except for responses. However, they may not be in consecutive order (since some comments may not be included in this excerpt). I've added numbers for referencing purposes only.

All these comments are from March 2016

1. Saturn Inn
"white boy's dreadlocks ewwwww"

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2. Brayden Dawe
"Spotted the Vegan."

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3. Saturn Inn
"lmaaaaaaaaao"

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4. Sarah M
"lmao thats whats keepin me from liking thorgy tbh"

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5. calbum08
"+Sarah M how very sad"

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6. edwinelmejor08
"+Sarah M how stupid, I'm black and I don't mind."

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7. KENNECTED
"+Saturn Inn That was shade for no reason! What does his ethnicity have to do with his hair style? Gays want acceptance and this is a prime example of the rampant racism and elitism in OUR community!"

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8. Will Soule
"+KENNECTED Yup. Amazing how those people who have felt judgement and condemnation suddenly get addicted to inflicting that on other people. Also Thorgy's dreads are beautiful. I've seen shi&&y* dreads in my life and those are dreads that have been maintained for YEARS."
-snip-
That word is fully spelled out in this comment.

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9. clo09d
"+KENNECTED racism is not "white boys in dreads ew" it's "I prefer white guys; no blacks, Latinos, Asians" ... Don't compare this silly comment with actual racism and lack of acceptance in the gay community."

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10. clo09d
"+KENNECTED Also white people cannot experience racism, so try again."

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11. KENNECTED
"+clo09d NOOOO. You're wrong. White people can experience racism. Not sure what world you're living in. The above is a racist comment. And lets be clear, I'm a PROUD MAN OF COLOR."

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12. Brayden Dawe
"+clo09d White people CAN in fact experience racism. BUT CANNOT have their rights taken away form them. Obviously they're higher on the scale of other colours. But racism is specifically hating another race for whatever reason it may be. I have a white and black family, so dont try to tell me other wise. If a white person and a black person walk into a store and a asian man was running it. And he denied both of them service due to their colour, then it's racist. White, Black, Asian, Muslim, Indian ETC. it's racist. You may hate white people but that doesn't mean you're not racist."

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13. carpethatdiem
"+Brayden Dawe Racism refers to a system of power that specifically disenfranchises a certain ethnicity or "race" of people. Someone who is racist is a beneficiary of that system and perpetuates it. What you're describing is prejudice or discrimination, which white people can experience. But they can never experience racism, at least in modern America."

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14. chicken nugget
"wow you are all so judgemental smh"

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15. Quin On A Cone
"+KENNECTED agreed."

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16. Brayden Dawe
"+carpethatdiem Anyone can experience racism. If you HATE A RACE for whatever reason, YOU. ARE.RACIST. Can't oppress white peopke but you can be racist towards them. Sorry that you dont like white people and you're being told the truth."

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17. KENNECTED
"Too much time has been spent on the dreads and taken away discussion about Thorgy and BOB interaction."

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18. IAgreeToTheseTerms
"+Saturn Inn FUN FACT! Thorgy is Norweigan, and the Norweigan culture has embraced dreads for a long period of time. It's a cultural thing, but he's not being offensive."

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19. chicken nugget
"even if he wasn't from there he can wear what he wants lol people are just too sensitive"

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20. Meadow Kitten
"Thorgys dreads are the cutest thing. He looks like that art teacher or the librarian that's crazy and fun and I lovvvve him"

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21. Quin On A Cone
"+Meadow Kitten I agree!"

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22. Sarah Merino
"R U KIDDING thorgy to me is the most interesting guy out of drag to look at. i love it wow"

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23. no name
"black girls with straight hair .... ewwww"

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24. clo09d
"+no namer there are black people naturally born with straight hair, straight hair is not a white feature. Try again Becky!"
-snip-
"Becky" is a so-called "White name" that is used to put down White females (in a similar way to "Miss Ann".)

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25. KENNECTED
"Why don't we just move on??"

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26. no name
"You are complety right...although majority of black people do not have straight hair and they wear wigs and excentsions. I do not care about it. I was just trying to make a point that judging someone else because of hair is stupid. As long as someone is a good person people should not care about the way they look etc."

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27. Sarah Merino
"+no name THORGY IS BEAUTIFUL"

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28. no name
"+Sarah Merino I know. I find him really attractive too."

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29. Sarah Merino
"+no name yeahh"

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30. chicken nugget
"+clo09d um that's not true"

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31. clo09d
"+no name right, and my issue is less with Thorgy, and more with society . Why is it when Zendaya, a black woman, wore dreads people said she looked ugly and said she looked like she smelled like weed and oil. Yet people praise white people who wear dread as looking cool, hip, trendy, and unique. This isn't Thorgy's fault of course, but many black people are trying to shine light on the issue because there is a deeper background of racism going on there."

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32. clo09d
"+no name also ask your self why do so many black women wear wigs and extensions??? Because society has deemed their natural hair not beautiful. So of course black people are going to want straight hair, to fit some part of the status quo. I think dreads, curly/poofy hair, is beautiful and no one should change who they are. However that's idealistic thinking and having open discourse on WHY things are the way they are is always better than saying "Everyone love each other, we're all humans"."

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33. no name
"+clo09d You just answered yourself. Not everyone likes white guys wearing dreads... not everyone likes black girls wearing dreads...not everyone likes white woman wearing straight hair etc etc. Everyone likes different things. I do not get why people can just accept that everyone is different and move on."

..... [other comments in this discussion not included]

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34. clo09d
"+no name WOW it literally all went over your head....The reasons people don't like white guys in dreads, ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than why people don't like black women in them. Those reasons are important because the reasons people don't like black women's hair are usually ingrained in racism. I'm so tired of having this same conversation over and over, and if I'm tired I can't imagine how black people must feel."

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35. sarah merino
"+clo09d BOY WHAT ARE U SAYING I don't recall anyone hating on Zendaya having dreads!!! She was praised like a queen what do you mean! If a white person or a black person wants to get dreads or any type of hair style then f&&&ing* allow them to!! WHY SO MUCH ARGUEING DAMN"
-snip-
*This word is fully spelled out in this comment.

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36. Seventh Poet
"+sarah merino it was specific people and those that supported them. The outpouring of support for Zendaya happened after the inappropriate comments
http://www.refinery29.com/2015/02/82786/zendaya-giuliana-rancic-dreadlock-comment
Giuliana did appologize. The video apology was better received"

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37. sarah merino
"+Seventh Poet honestly I believe that we should all just love and accept each other already damnnnn, its 2016 what is up with this world smh!!"

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38. Seventh Poet
"+sarah merino I feel similarly. Do more good than harm is a rule that I wish we all could live by :)"

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39. Sarah Merino
"+Seventh Poet exactly!!!!"

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40. no name
"+clo09d Man you are just angry person. Move on. damnnn"

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41. no name
"+clo09d I AM BLACK...so please stop now."

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42. clo09d
"+no name Explaining the discourse racism = Angry Person?? GOODBYE."
[end of that exchange as of March 29, 2016]

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43. Zania “MakeupByZania” Sydnor
"I love Thorgy's dreads!!"

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44. Yuki Rabbit
"+Zania “MakeupByZania” Sydnor Me too! There's something very 80's-90's nostalgic about Thorgy's boy look."
[end of that exchange as of March 29, 2016]

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45. Jon Doemans
"Is thorgy part black?"

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46. Victor Mendoza
"Does he look black?"

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47. Jon Doemans
"Did you miss where I wrote 'PART BLACK,' by which I mean NOT ENTIRELY BLACK? You can't go on phenotype alone, so I'm just wondering how she identifies. Cu&t"*
[end of that exchange to date]
*That pejorative referent was completely spelled out in that comment.

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48. jandre
"I love the 90's style & Thorgy pleases me, since he reminds me of a long lost Milli Vanilli group member."
-snip-
Milli Vanilli were a Black German R&B duo (late 1980s, early 1990s). Both of these men wore their hair in dreadlocks.

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49.strawberryvines
"those dreadsss!!! lol like this one."
-snip-
The screen photo of this commenter is a black women with dreads.

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EXCERPT #4:
From https://www.reddit.com/r/rupaulsdragrace/comments/4cekpq/an_open_letter_to_kat_blaque_regarding_rupauls/

[Note: This discussion thread was posted in response to a Huffington Post article by Kat Blaque that indicated that Ru-Paul's Drag Race was anti-black". All of these comments are from March 29, 2016.]

qbertp
"As someone not from the US and very little related to racial problems of this kind, it's just so absurd to me.

I feel the same way .-. it's all so confusing, i'm not counting how many "latino" or "asian" or "black" queens are on the show... lots of queens had "bad edits" but i refuse to believe it's a racial thing, even because in season 7 ... I loved Kennedy °:°, she's funny, beautiful and talented, each time I re-watch the season I think she's one of my favourites (I was just a bit annoyed and surprised in the end when Ginger and Kennedy read the younger queens... but again °.° that's their personality, I guess)

you know what... I'm scared. You're all complaining about thorgy's dreads, "cultural appropriation" and stuff like that, are british people offended by Dela's Maggie Smith or Ginger's Adele? I mean i bet no russian is complaining about Katya pretending to be russian, and no asian is complaining about Trixie wearing a chinese Qipao awkwardly mixed with Japanese features, nor I'm complaining about Miss Fame's weird italian accent (I had a good laugh instead) or egyptians making pizza (I swear they're the best pizza makers in Rome °:°) - AW WAIT i read somewhere KimChi was offensive to Japanese people because she said she was like a walking ANIME and she's Corean o.o, guys that's crazy. Am I offended because every single character in an anime is actually japanese but it's portrayed as white with exaggerated white features? (If ever I'm concerned because Japanese people seem to underestimate their own beauty and culture O.o - and of course, it's weird they rarely diversify ethnicities)

I dunno, i wish there were more italian references in the show °:° mock an Opera! Sing some italian songs, make a fellini spoof i dunno X.X i'm confused, someone help me understand all this hatred ."
-snip-
This commenter refers to White contestants Dela, Ginger, Katya, Trixie, and Miss Fame, and Asian contestant KimChi- all of whom were on other Seasons of Ru Paul's Drag Race.

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Vervaine,
"Thory's hair is a little different than putting on an accent because Black hair (in America at least) has been a huge problem for black people. Basically, black hair was/is deemed unattractive which is why relaxing (which is terrible for your hair), weaves, wigs, etc. are popular among black women. So when a white person takes a hairstyle traditionally associated with black hair, it is having your cake and eating it too. IE white hair is the apex, the ideal but if a white person wants to wear dreads then they're cool because it's so unique. Whereas afros and dreads are usually considered unprofessional hair styles even though black hair can be easily managed that way/does that naturally unlike white hair.

TL;DR: When black hair is deemed ugly/unprofessional and black people feel obligated to conform to white beauty standards both socially and professionally, it's not cute when a white person has "black" hair to be... edgy? Unique?"

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qbertp
"thanks Vervaine, I have some more clues now, I didn't know "traditional black hair" was deemed unprofessional I guess the piece I was missing is that discrimination is still a topical issue in the U.S., in that case I understand you could feel in some way duped by a white guy wearing a tipically black hairdo.
however for the sake of conversation, following that logic LOADS of things we take as granted should be re-considered .-. I mean Drag itself consists of men dressing up as women, which applies perfectly to your example: women were mistreated, under payed, and often accused of dressing up too sexually, so men shouldn't dress up as women because it's dis-respectful? I mean it could be in a sense... but I believe we're over that..., at least on this sub... sigh. (Guys these issues are really tangled, I need some further study, in fact if you want to counter argument, please do, i'm sorry it looks like i'm pontificating but I just want to have a better picture, really).

I mean the languages we speak today are the unprofessional versions of the ancient ones, eventually borrowed by the same elite who initially despised them, because some clever guy once said "Latin is beautiful but what people speak is equally valuable" °.° And that was a relief not an offense.

It sounds a bit paradoxical to me because it looks like the solution to the problem would be... sharing your culture and allow it to become normal and beautiful at the eyes of the world. (Of course if you have dreads and you're a racist, you're an ass**le; just as much as if you're homophobic and you hate gay people, but you know...)

Between you and me, aesthetically I don't like Thorgy's dreads as much as i don't like Coco wearing blue contacts while not in drag, or a man wearing a skirt in everyday life (aesthetically, because i have a different taste) but I know i could change my mind and become accustomed to a new taste sooner or later, and even ... i dunno ... wear a skirt?

Still on the other hand black people with blue eyes are born every day and (I'm from southern Italy) I know Italians with hair thicker and curlier than most black people, who would likely develop dread naturally if they didn't comb, so what really defines tradition? What really define race, they're really vague and fleeting concepts, I mean history demonstrate they're bound to mix and change, so why should i stop progress °.°
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/black-white-twins-meet-sisters-5256945 Those two lovely girls are twin sisters, who's black and who's white? Does the ginger one feels white or the brunette one feels black, what does that even mean! °.° Shouldn't they feel...Irish? (I now I feel Italian, I would never think to label myself as white). Is the ginger one allowed to braid her hair? O.O So if "hair" is a symbol for discrimination, I just hope in the future the progress will continue to wipe every boundary out :p as it has always done, and that's why nowadays we can enjoy a show about men in drag and homosexuality as a normal thing

I grew up in a country which constantly laughs at its own stereotypes, and is ... PROUD of them. Stereotypes are a form of folk culture, and represent the easiest way to spot your flaws and your strenghts... i can't really explain myself It's a tricky and philosophical matter .-. I shan't really talk without further reasoning I'm sorry, however kudos to Naomi Daniels (Btw we have a great Donatella Versace impersonator here, she's crazy funny, i wish there was a subbed version of her sketch on youtube, it's like Donatella meets Deathbecomesher)"
-snip-
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/03/selected-comments-from-rebuttal-of-kat.html for more excerpts of this discussion, including responses to the comments about living in a country that is proud of its stereotypes.

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1 comment:

  1. Regarding comment #45 "Jon Doemans
    "Is thorgy part black?", true confession, I also mistakenly thought that Thorgy was Black/non-Latino or Black/Latino (as many Latinos have some Black ancestry somewhere down the line.)

    As to my opinion about people with no Black ancestry wearing their hair in dreadlocks, intellectually I realize that non-Black cultures throughout the world wore that hairstyle (though it might have originated in the AFRICAN culture of ancient Egypt (yes Egypt [Kemit] is an African culture while its also a Middle Eastern culture.)

    However, I also confess my aesthetic taste is for well maintained locs and not natural dreads (on other people not me*). And I still prefer that Black people only-and not White hippies, Pagans, Goths, Rainbow People etc wouldn't wear their hair this way for the reasons outlined in the section of http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/white-feminist-with-dreadlocks/ that I didn't quote in this pancocojams post. That said, to each his or her own. Even though that locked hair style became popular as a result of Bob Marley and Reggae, given its existence in non-Black cultures, I don't think that non-Black people wearing their hair in dreadlocks is always cultural appropriation- or if it is, I don't think that is as offensive as blackface or as offensive as non-Indians wearing Indian warbonnets.

    Also, I certainly wouldn't directly confront someone about his or her hairstyle choices, dreads or otherwise.

    *I'm an African American female who consistently wore my hair in an afro (natural) since I was nineteen years old until two years ago when I began to wear short wigs because my hair was thinning a lot. If I had my choice I wouldn't wear any wigs since I prefer natural hair styles. And while I admire some women who sport the bald "hair style", I haven't gotten the courage yet to do that.

    ReplyDelete