Dreadlocks And Mohawks
There is a tasteful feature on the innertubes now, A Few Good Reasons Why White People Should Not Wear “Mohawks” or Dreadlocks. Yes, this is another polemic about cultural appropriation. If you want to skip the text, and look at the pictures, no one will get mad. Or get even. If you read the text, you might get odd. It is your choice.
The gist of the tract is “When white people wear “Mohawks” or dreadlocks it twists those hairstyles into symbols of privilege rather than symbols of survival and resistance.” Little is known about why the Natives of Upstate New York wore their hair the way they did. Isn’t calling this hair choice “symbols of survival and resistance” playing into the game of misunderstanding non European cultures?
The tract is not well written. Maybe the author feels like using good grammar is appropriating someone else’s culture.
There is one part of the tract that had PG shaking his buzz cut head. This is a free country. Can’t I do whatever I want? This country has never been free for people of color/non-white people. Certainly, you can choose wear your hair however you want. Historically, however, people of color have not been able to make that choice. This is not why the Bronner Brothers are multi millionaires. Black Americans spend more on hair care products than the gross national product of many African countries.
Both mohawks and dreadlocks are high maintenance affairs. After his struggles with shoulder length redneck curls, PG is not about to shave the sides of a beaver tail every day. And dreadlocks have always seemed to be just a bit on the dirty side. The rastas are welcome to wear dreadlocks, as long as they pass the spliff.
One thing PG has wondered was answered as a result of this polemic. Did the Mohawk tribe really wear their hair that way? When you type “Did the Mohawk… ” into google, the rest of the phrase to pop up is “Did the Mohawk Indians have mohawks?” Someone else has wondered the same thing. Wikipedia has more information.
The mohawk (also referred to as a mohican in British English) is a hairstyle in which, in the most common variety, both sides of the head are shaven, leaving a strip of noticeably longer hair in the center. Though mohawk is associated mostly with punk rock subculture, today it has entered mainstream fashion. The mohawk is also sometimes referred to as an iro in reference to the Iroquois, from whom the hairstyle is derived – though historically the hair was plucked out rather than shaved. … The Mohawk and the rest of the Iroquois confederacy (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora and Oneida) in fact wore a square of hair on the back of the crown of the head. The Mohawk did not shave their heads when creating this square of hair, but rather pulled the hair out, small tufts at a time. … Therefore a true hairstyle of the Mohawks was one of plucked-out hair, leaving a three-inch square of hair on the back crown of the head with three short braids of hair decorated.
They didn’t shave the sides of the head, they plucked the hair out. That does eliminate the need to shave the sides of your head every day. This is not the way the fashion conscious hair people do the modern mohawk. The question arises if this non authentic hairstyle is really cultural appropriation.
Wikipedia goes on to add that this do might not be an Iroquois invention. “The hairstyle has been in existence in many parts of the world for millennia. For instance, the Clonycavan Man, a 2000-year-old male bog body discovered near Dublin in 2003, was found to be wearing a mohawk styled with plant oil and pine resin. Artwork discovered at the Pazyryk burials dating back to 600 BCE depicts Scythian warriors sporting similar mohawks. The body of a warrior occupying one of the kurgans had been scalped earlier in life and wore a hair prosthesis in the form of a mohawk. Herodotus claimed that the Macai, a northern Libyan tribe, “shave their hair so as to leave tufts, letting the middle of their hair grow long, but round this on all sides shaving it close to the skin.” Amongst the Pawnee people, who historically lived along in present-day Nebraska and Kansas, a “mohawk” hair style was common.”
Part of the polemic took a question and answer format. “But, I wear my hair this way as a statement against oppressive cultures and governments. How is that racist?” “You can take a stand against oppression and dominant cultures without appropriating the cultures of the people being hurt by them. Appropriation actually enforces oppression, it does not stand against it. Appropriation is part of the problem, not part of the solution”
To paraphrase this, you can be anti racist without proudly avoiding high maintenance hairdoos. Especially one that bears little resemblance to the actual article.
Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library.” This was written like James Fenimore Cooper.