Opinion | Don’t mess with my dreads

Olivia Harden, features editor

Every couple of days or so, I toy with the idea of dreading my hair. The practice of creating dreadlocks can happen in a number of ways. You can get your roots twisted every few weeks to create neater-looking dreads, or you can choose to just not touch your hair and allow the dreads to form freely.

My partner has dreadlocks and always tells me I could rock the style but the truth is, I’m afraid of commitment. And the biggest commitment with dreads is the stigma that comes with them.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – which oversees the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida – just ruled in favor of an employer in a lawsuit where the employer discriminated against a job applicant because of her dreadlocks, according to NBC News. Although dreadlocks are inherently attached to blackness, the court argued that they’re only a hairstyle and that an individual has the power to change them.

“They tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about,” the human resources manager told the applicant, according to NBC News.

To understand the racism involved in these stereotypes, go back in history. Many people claim that dreadlocks are a black hairstyle, but that isn’t completely true. Dreadlocks have existed worldwide as far back as the B.C. era, although they are predominantly seen in African cultures, according to CNN.

I guess it’s pretty easy to stop washing and combing your hair. There is a reason dreadlocks are stereotyped to be dirty. But the reason we see dreadlocks in modern culture is because of the rise of Rastafarian culture, which is based on a Jamaican monotheistic religion.

Dreads are a practical hairstyle for many members of the black community. You don’t have to worry about their upkeep. Putting hair up in a protective style, like box braids or cornrows, every eight weeks can get expensive, and if you decide to leave your hair out, money will go down the drain while you try to find products that work for you. And for me, there is something spiritual about dreadlocks that remind me of the history of my ancestors.

When we see dreadlocks on people of another ethnicity, they are associated with a “coolness factor.” Celebrities and skater culture pick and choose what elements of black culture are appealing to them and leave the rest behind, while apparently in the workplace, they aren’t acceptable.

A hairstyle is not going to stop me from achieving my professional goals in a professional manner. And while my mother thinks if I dread my hair it will kill my grandmother, I promise, I’m not trying to. Dreads can be functional, practical, professional and stylish. And the U.S. has no right to infringe on my right to wear them.