Archive for January, 2014


Posted in race with tags on January 30, 2014 by darryl zero

I have dreadlocks down to my butt. Black people occasionally acknowledge this, but not often. Very few other minorities say much about this.

White people, on the other hand, can’t shut up about it. I’m constantly bothered about it when I’m out in public (I live in Iowa now and Portland Oregon before), whether it be someone in my face at the store or, often, someone just walking up and grabbing my hair. If I am in public and it’s daylight, it happens at least once. It’s frustrating, but I deal with it.

There are a lot of stereotypes that come with being dread. I have long since given up trying to explain who the Mau Mau were and who the Baye Fall are, that I don’t smoke weed, and that, like most self-aware Blacks, my hair is a part of my body and that Black hair–natural Black hair–is a serious cultural thing that isn’t to be trivialized. And, if I’m going to the grocery store or trying to take a shower after a workout or just get a pizza after work, I simply don’t have the time or energy to be a cultural informant for white people, so usually now I either ignore people’s questions or respond in monosyllables.

Today, I was approached by someone and brushed them off. Another person later accused me of being “antisocial” because I wasn’t in a mood to talk.

I describe it thus: if I walked up to a woman I didn’t know and said “Oh my god–I LOVE your breasts. They are so amazing. I’m in love with them. Wow. How big are they? How long have you had them? I used to work in a strip club, and there was this women that had tits JUST LIKE those. Can I touch them?” And then I tried to touch them, BEST case scenario, she brushes me off. With good reason; even if my intentions were just to compliment her, it’s still both reductive and rude, and impolite, because I’m not treating her as anything other than someone that exists solely within the context of my amusement, pestering her with questions about something she considers a daily reality while she tries to simply do something normal without being bothered.

I don’t bother trying to explain this to white people, because, trite as it sounds, they do not understand. They don’t have a historical context of being treated as second-class for daring to look as they naturally are. Most whites (and, sadly, a fair number of Blacks) don’t see hair as anything other than a malleable accessory, like a coat or handbag. And that’s fine.

But I don’t.

My hair is a part of my body. My hair is defiant statement, my acknowledgment that, while I may have a white parent and “speak so well” and can function comfortably around whites, I am not white. I am not trying to be white, and even if I tried, I know whites would never see me as white.

My hair is an in-your-face to everyone who would judge me based on how I look, who would try to call me “half-white” when I was acceptable to them but describe me as all-Black if I stole their car.

I’m a debater by nature and a teacher by training. My hair is a reminder that that same so-called n***** you think is a potential thief or rapist or thug is actually the Black man teaching your children to think, or showing you he knows more than you, and that this is what every Black person has to do: work twice as hard to prove they are worthy of half of what a white person can get just by being white and dressing passably.

But it would take too much time and energy to explain this. And most white people don’t care. ¬†And sometimes, I just kinda want to go to the grocery store without having to be a cultural informant.

So I’m not being antisocial. I just don’t talk to white people about my hair.