Saturday, 11 April 2015

Writing Hair: THE Problem with 'White' Dreads

 Now, last time I went a little bit mental with my problems with dreadlocks on white people, and while I maintain that they're legitimate, they're not the big problem.

 No, the big problem is that dreadlocks, and other protective styles, have come with racially motivated scorn and social censure.

 I would make the argument that to people who don't know the difference dreadlocks would look unpleasant, but the thing about that is that it takes about a five minute conversation to 'know the difference'.

 It isn't hard to know better. Heck, live around black people for long enough and it's harder not to.

 Some would make the argument that 'well it's just personal preference!'. Which would be fair, if it wasn't such a wide spread attitude.

 That's the real issue here.

 For all I rant about it looking bad on white people, and being bad for natural European hair and being nothing but artifice by pretentious people, the real problem is that these hairstyles are ones that black people have been and are scorned and punished for having.

 To make something that other people are punished for doing, despite it being a sensible thing for them to do, a fashion statement just isn't okay.

 Of course, that's just my opinion, for a more relevant opinion you should see this article on

 Since this is a post nominally related to writing, I'll share my thoughts on writing white characters (or members of other non-black ethnic groups) with protective styles.

 Basically, it's always going to be a big deal. (Well, varying size of deal, depending on ethnic group, but whiteys are our focus in this post.)

 Unless they're a dirty hippie type, meant to attract scorn, and/or are going to learn better as part of a character arc, I'd say don't do it.

 Unlike with black characters, this isn't just an aesthetic choice on your part. It's going to inform the reader about the character in an unflattering fashion. No matter how nice they are, the fact that they're appropriating a hairstyle like this shows them as being unpleasant.

 Self absorbed, racist and/or stupid. Which are just what I'd gather from a character like that.

 If they're meant to be any of those things, that's fine. You want to physically reflect those traits, this isn't a terrible way to do it. But even then, boy you need to be careful. If you don't have the confidence that you'll do it well, don't.

 If they're not meant to be any of those things... just don't do it.

 You're bound to regret it if you do.

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