I live in a suburb of D.C., where racism is a predominant problem. However, this may come as a surprise, and it may not. The racism is against white people.
Countless examples come to mind, one concerning a good friend of mine. On a walk home from school with his girlfriend, they were surronded by a group of black students, who decided to physically assualt him because he "looked racist." This makes absolutely no sense to me. This happened to him twice, and on one occasion, his nose was broken. He was passive and did not fight back. His girlfriend tried to intervene and was thrown to the ground. Instead of fighting them back, he filed reports of the incidents to the school, and the students were expelled.
I, myself, have encountered less serious situations. My only link to my heritage exists in adoption papers. I am obviously white. My birthmother was half-Irish and half-American Indian [the papers do not list which tribe]. Her hair is listed as dark brown, eyes aqua, skin medium. My birthfather, unlike my birthmother, has kept in touch. He has no memory of his own father, but lists his heritage as Irish, English, German, and American Indian [Tsalgi and Apache]. He is fair, tall, and I bear a resemblence to him from the nose up. I assume the rest comes from my mother [they did not stay together, and were only 16 and 17 at the time of my birth].
With medical papers as my only link to my heritage, accompanied by the alienation and distance commonly felt among those raised by an adoptived family, it's no small wonder, really, that I've been searching for something I can connect to, relate to, and believe in.
I've always felt a very strong connection to the earth and the natural world around me. In my quest for a faith I can truly follow, I investigated Wicca [which contains numerous earth-related practices], old Egyptian religions, even Islam and Judaism. I was raised to follow the path of Christianity, but personally have found it riddled with hypocrisy. Already a vegetarian due to moral reasons [I am a strong believer in animal rights, since after all, are humans not animals as well?] the Ital diet found in the Rastafarian culture appealed to me, and the dreadlocks adopted by the culture as well.
Natural, though my hair of course has some difficulties with locking up, for all cultures. When neglected and let go its own course long enough, all hair on all heads will lock up. To me, it seems like a common bond that can break down the barriers of colour and culture. Understandably, due to barriers I myself throw up, it will take time to fully accept and embrace Jah Ras Tafari. Until then, there is only time, and I will use this time to embrace what I can: the locks, the diet, the beliefs; while reading and educating myself on the teachings of Ras Tafari, in an attempt to better myself and hopefully those around me.
I have encoutered criticism for my dreadlocks, as well as encouragement, from people of all colours. On one occasion, a girl started into song, though I'm not sure whether it was meant as a compliment or an insult. "Whatever happened to those nappy dreads?" I believe was the verse. Either way, it made me smile. "That's some nappy ass hair for a white girl," "She looks like a rat," "You know if you don't brush your hair, it'll lock up," and "A white girl with dreadlocks?!" are among the less positive comments. But on the flipside, I've gotten encouragement from many sources. Some black students have told me they'd be proud of me for being the "first white person in the school with dreadlocks." Others have given me advice, offered to help me in locking up my hair, or just told me they're glad I can embrace a culture that is traditionally black.
Dreadlocks have evolved to not only represent followers of Ras Tafari, but revolution against "the system," however one percieves that to be. In my own workplace, this is evident. I've been warned by fellow co-workers that I'll never be hired as long as I have locks in my hair. Why? I'm not black, and therefore it is not acceptable. However, I respond light-heartedly with, "Well, wouldn't a bald head be even less appropriate in the workplace?"
I'd like to hear your own thoughts, not just on my own story, but on racism when it comes to dreadlocks and Rastafarian culture. Your views on the matter, and anything you have learned in your own journeys. I'll leave you with a quote I've found helpful and hope you can as well.
Rasta is only concerned with your heart.