Justin Bieber's new 'dreadlocks' hairdo stirs outrage for cultural appropriation

Updated on Apr 29, 2021 04:12 PM IST

This isn't the first time Justin Bieber has faced criticism and backlash for cultural appropriation, in another instant in 2016 the singer was called out for sporting cornrows.

Justin Bieber (Instagram)
Justin Bieber (Instagram)
By, Hindustan Times, Delhi

Peaches singer Justin Bieber's most recent Instagram has become the subject of criticism and scrutiny by some of the singer's followers and critics in general who feel that the hairstyle sported by the Sorry singer in his latest post is an example of cultural appropriation and several are dubbing it as insensitive and out of line. This isn't the first time the Where Are Your Now? singer has faced criticism and backlash for cultural appropriation, in 2016 as well the singer was called out for sporting cornrows.

However his current look as attracted a lot of flak from members of the Black community. In an interview with the Guardian, Stephanie Cohen, co-founder and legal and political organiser at the Halo Collective, a natural hair organisation, opened up about how white people sporting hairstyles that are part of Black culture really grinds her gears. She said, “When I see a white person in mainstream media sporting a black hairstyle, it makes me angry. I’m angry because this standard does not exist when a black person simply wears their hair in this way. You can’t just wear something so historically significant and ignore the struggles behind what the hairstyle purports.”

Justin Bieber(Instagram)
Justin Bieber(Instagram)


She went on to add that if the hairstyle is not specific to his own culture then Bieber has no right to do his hair up with locs. She said, “My reasoning and understanding of someone wearing something not specific to their culture or ethnicity is that if they cannot speak for black or minority rights [and] be a consistent ally – then they have no right to wear something like locs.”

In the same interview with the Guardian, Irene Shelley, editor of Black Beauty and Hair magazine, also weighed in on the matter and said, “I think why people are annoyed with Justin Bieber casually wearing locs is that it’s seen as not respecting the origins of the style. ”

She shared how people still faced a lot of criticism for their choices saying, “People still face hair discrimination and stigma for their hair choice. … You can face discrimination by your employer or school. [Bieber] is seen as a dilettante, a person who’s dipping his toe in the culture, without any real commitment or knowledge of the style’s history.”

In fact, the term 'dreadlocks' itself is rooted in a history of racism, Cohen and Shelley both said that the name for the hairdo that is used so commonly “comes from the negative term ‘dreadful’ – coined by slave owners and colonisers to describe the hairstyle.” And given how normalised the term is, people do not realise the connotations it has.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    'Ask no questions, hear no lies.' Alfea Jamal is a fashion, culture, travel and food writer. She also dabbles in video journalism, multimedia production, the culinary arts, design and is modestly decent with canvas.

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