From Frugivore: “Does anyone else get annoyed when they see white folk sportin’ dreadlocks, tribal tattoos, and stretched out earlobes with plastic circles in them? What the hell is goin’ on? It irks the sh*t out of me. ”
I am overhearing a conversation as I wait for my order at a café in Oakland, CA. The woman next to me is black and about 55 years old, wearing dreadlocks that are about 2 feet long with a plethora of glass beads flossed through them. She is speaking to her friend, a woman probably in her 50s as well with a shaven head and wearing yoga pants and a blue tank top. She has mocha colored skin tone and seems to be of East Asian descent.
I know what this black woman is referring to: a group of three white 30-something-year-olds sitting at a table about 8 feet away from the two women. Two men and one woman. They all have punk style dread lock hairdos. They have shaven the sides of their heads and there are interesting black tattoos on their scalps. They have piercings through numerous parts of their faces: a bull ring, a nose ring, a stud through the bridge of a nose.
I wanted to say something to the two ladies, but wasn’t sure what to say. After all, it wasn’t my conversation and I guess I had no business saying something … but I wanted to say something to this black woman. I had heard the conversation plenty of times, amongst black people, how it irks the shit out of them that white people try to ‘go tribal’ by locking their hair.
“Drives me nuts too,” I hear her yoga-pant wearing friend say. “It reminds me of all the white people who jumped on the ‘I’m a Buddhist’ wagon in the Bay area, but don’t want to be all deep and reflective about their nauseating white elite privilege.”
Ouch. Did she just say that? And really loudly? Nauseating … ?
Are white people not allowed to practice yoga, Buddhism, get tribal bands, or wear locs since it’s not ‘white culture’ (and what is ‘white culture’ anyway)? If that is the case, does that mean I’m not allowed to continue with my beginner Zen Buddhism practice? After all, I’m not of East Asian descent; I’m a Black woman. Should my friend Heather, a Chicana yogi who studied in India, stop teaching yoga at a community center in NYC since she is not from India? Or, does our non-white identity make us exempt from “appropriation?”
Shortly after leaving the café, I passed by a Black heterosexual couple on the street, holding hands. The woman was wearing a punkish Mohawk style and ear plugs through her lobes. Was she appropriating by wearing that hairdo?
I had a friend, “Nicole,” who is Filipina and African-American whose take was, “Well, I think what pisses me off about dreadlock-wearing white people is that they can wear our black hairstyles, listen to our black music, and be all hip but still they will always benefit from being white. They can just shave that shit off and that’s the end of the story. Yea, I used to wear dreadlocks, but I shaved it yet I still have to deal with the bullshit of what my brown skin means in a society obsessed with white European phenotypes.”
But, at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I could completely agree with “Nicole.”
Read the rest of this story on Frugivore Magazine.