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The Fridays for future dreadlock gate

Yes, I am late to the outrage, even though I had an opinion already about whether white people should wear dreadlocks or not.

Here’s the quickest summary: Ronja Maltzahn and her band the Blue Bird Orchestra were to play at the FFF peace march in Hannover, and then they were “uninvited” because of her dreadlocks. Well, they wrote she could play if she cuts them off.

That’s the story in short.

Now, there are – as usual – many layers to the story. And one crucial part is that it’s a shitty move to invite and uninvite someone.
Now to the hair, on which I want to concentrate.

My answer to whether or not white people should wear dreadlocks is, “I won’t, and you should go and get informed about the bigger picture – informed by black voices. [6] From what I read, black people want to be heard and respected rather than having white people playing hair police for them”. [1] Please listen to Black and IPOC’s voices around the issue of colonialized beauty standards. Context matters and the answer you get this year will probably be different depending on whom you ask, they will be different from the ones you would have gotten 20 years ago or will get 20 years from now. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter that much what I, as a white person, think, it matters how much I listened. [2] 

As so often, I don’t think a ban would be the answer but education. (And a lack of education shouldn’t entitle you to an easy excuse). If something is looked down on by white people when done or worn by the people it originates from, and suddenly it’s cool when done or worn by white people, we need to investigate. Here, I wouldn’t want to define a law but suggest that whatever was imitated without further knowledge and understanding can serve as the entry point of connection of appreciation of respect and then support for those people. Let’s question our knowledge and assumptions and keep learning. After all, if you are reading this you can get a lot of info with a few clicks as you are on the internet – use it. And from that informed place, our choices of what we imitate and how are most likely different. Please note here that the way we can be allies to marginalized groups changes, and we should always listen to their voices.

Also, as white people, we have the luxury to dig into it gently, which spares us pain and hurt. So make good use of this privilege to uplift those who don’t have it until the advantage of whiteness is abolished.

Here’s an interesting overlap: as the “Fridays for future dreadlock gate” happened in Germany, I have a pretty good understanding of different subcultures. If I had to give a piece of advice to a black person visiting Germany, I could say, “If there’s a white person with dreadlocks around, it’s likely that they are less racist than the rest in the room.” I wouldn’t claim that they have fully embraced the path of anti-racism and are actively doing the work, but they are pretty likely to be safer. And they are pretty likely to be somewhere on the left. [3]
In a country with a problem with full-on fascist neonazis, I’d rather spend my time fighting those while kindly telling the people with dreadlocks to go deeper in their anti-racism work. I’d rather march next to white people with dreadlocks against fascism than fight and embarrass people who are on the left with me. While people with dreadlocks are quite likely to fight white supremacist patriarchy and capitalism with me.

And for the anti-racist part, check out Layla F. Saad, who wrote the important book “Me and white supremacy,” which should probably be part of the school curriculum for white children rather than a dreadlocks ban. She also started growing her locs at the beginning of 2021, and I am sure she shared valuable insights.
In the long run, I’d love to live in a world of love, respect, solidarity, and appreciation where this won’t be an issue. Until then, hair is political, and this sad fact should unite people rather than people drive them apart.

And above all, follow this verse from earthseed by Octavia Butler which Layla also shares on her homepage.

"To shape [Change] [4]
With wisdom and foresight,
To benefit your world,
Your people, [5]
Your life,
Consider consequences,
Minimize harm
Ask questions,
Seek answers,

Another super critical aspect this scandal highlights is the idea of “not being political,” as Ronja Maltzahn claims, as part of a multinational band playing world pop – as a potential act on a fff peace march. How can that even happen?
But this idea of people claiming not to be political is a post for another day. However, I think this might be the title:
I am not political.
I choose to stay aloof thanks to my privilege.

[1] “hair police” if that doesn’t trigger bad associations in you, I don’t know. I have a whole list from punishment and shame, body policing, Kim Yong Un’s acceptable hairstyles list and so on.
[2] Something acceptable 10 years ago can very well be not OK today. We can’t realistically live a life where we’ll never make a mistake — but we can strive to learn from our mistakes quickly and be genuine, wholehearted, and trustworthy in our apologies.
[3] Though there are some alarming and hurtful esoteric, fascist trends appearing in spaces which used to be rather on the left.
[4] The original verse says “god” And before someone inserts their God into the verse, it becomes distorted and changes it to what Octavia Butler in Earthseed clearly defined as god: God is change I used the word “change”
[5] Earthseed is also pretty clear about “your people”. It’s your friends and your chosen family. People whom you trust and with whom you share the same values and are explicitly a diverse group – diverse in race, age, education, language, abilities, …
[6] Ronja wrote on an Instagram post that she learned a lot about cultural appropriation in the wake of the event. Let’s see what her conclusions will be in the long run.

Btw. respectful exchange, mutual inspiration and learning are key to a world united in our shared humanity and fuelled by our diversity. However, this united humanity won’t happen, let alone last with power differences, the focus on profits and ruthless exploitation at its centre.

02.04.2022 First published
31,12.2023 some typos and minor changes to the text