Took me long enough to finally write this article. But I think it is time we shed light on the stigmatization of locs. People with locs always dread stigmatization and discrimination. You have tons of stereotypes fighting against you by just having your natural hair in a different way.
Two weeks ago, we witnessed four young men losing their lives simply because they had locs. That must have been the chief reason they were suspected to be thugs. Because, as a loc wearer you would just be walking around with Locs; but you would also be walking around with these frames and contexts, and stereotypes that are inside the heads of whoever it is that’s looking at you in any given moment. People always have assumptions.
So dreadlocks, dreads, locks, locs or whatever your term of choice for them may be, is basically hair that hasn’t been combed, brushed, or handled at all.
Slight history of locs
And from my little research, I have gathered that dreadlocks originated from the Mau Mau fighters. So Mau Mau’s dread hairstyle was not worn for fashionable reasons but for survival purposes while engaging in the ferocious guerrilla warfare against British-funded military. You see, the cold forest was no place for bathing, and the Mau Mau were indescribably filthy, their hair being unkempt eventually ‘locked.’
However, locs gained popularity during the rise of Rastafarianism. So their hair was viewed as an extension of their rebellion, and is also thought to be emblematic of Rastafarians’ spiritual journey. I’m sharing this piece of information so that you may under why people with locs are atigmatized.
Stigmatization and discrimination
Seeing that dreadlocks in both instances were associated with rebellion, it has become a norm for society to assume that anyone with Locs is rebellious maybe even potentially dangerous.
Earlier today, the 20th of August one member of the popular band Wanavokali was unlawfully arrested and harassed while in town. And eyewitnesses said that they were so certain he was picked out from the crowd because of the nature of his hair. See video.
Of course, he is not the first person who has been stereotyped because of his hair. You would be surprised if you listened to stories of guys who have been denied job opportunities simply because they showed up in dreadlocks albeit possessing other qualifications.
Other guys have been arrested and accused of having marijuana. Maybe because Rastafarians are associated with marijuana smoking? But you just can’t look at someone and assume they are in possession of drugs because of their appearance.
So many youths are going through hard times, being discriminated against and stigmatized for having locs. There isn’t any hairstyle that undergoes more scrutiny than dreadlocks. If you think I’m lying show me a newscaster who has Locs or any person in any official capacity that has Locs, in this country.
Dreadlocks are not considered appropriate for official occasions, and we know that. And that’s why companies hiring demand you to shave them if you really need that job.
People’s relationships with their dreadlocks differ. You see every loc wearer has a different approach to their hair. And all come from different backgrounds, with different experiences. In some instances, the only thing they might have in common is their locs. Regardless, society will throw them into the same monolithic category.
Other stereotypes that people with dreadlocks face include:
- The assumption that everyone who has dreads likes, or should like, reggae. If you don’t, people actually ask you ‘why do you have Locs!’
- That we have some deadline or goal for our dreads that, when reached, will allow us to cut them off. “When are you going to cut them?”
- That we don’t wash our hair, or can’t. We do wash our hair just like anybody else.
- That people with locs or locs themselves, stink. Locs don’t stink, they are just hair.
- That everyone who has dreads is, or should be, Rastafarian. Certainly that’s one reason people grow dreads. But growing Locs is a personal choice and everyone has their own reasons.
- That it’s okay to tug our hair, or feel it without our permission. Honestly, that habit sucks more than anything.
- Last but not least, and the most annoying one- That we always have weed! And sell it! I have had people stop in cars when I’m walking down the street who ask me where to get weed. Or, people who just assume I smoke all day every day. People also get a weird look on their face when they offer me a hit off a joint and I don’t take it!
I think maybe as a society we should embrace every hairstyle. And avoid judging people based on their appearance and hair.
PS- I did not seek permission to use any of the images.