Appropriative Hair Styles and Marrow's Safe(r) Space Policies

CONTEXT:

We haven’t really addressed this topic publicly before - not intentionally - but because our safe(r) space policies encompass a lot, and we approach breaches to them on an individual basis with the folks involved (you can check that policy and process out here, if you’re curious).

We wanted, though, to take a moment to express that appropriative hairstyles (particularly of Black folks, on white folks) are not welcome at Marrow. Recently, we were called “exclusionary” by a white adult with “dreads”, who we’d asked not to be a part of our community, and who our white, adult allies on staff had already put in a good amount of time and energy to try and educate re: why this is an issue for our community.

This is not an exclusionary policy. It is in defense of our community.

Not allowing white folks with “dreads” or similarly problematic hair styles into our space is a hard boundary that the youth leadership here have decided to draw. As a community space, Marrow is literally nothing more than a physical structure around a fluctuating group of humans. The folks who are a part of our community define what Marrow is, and represent us. Having individuals in our community who are in conflict with our safe(r) space policy would communicate that we are not, in fact, a safe(r) space that prioritizes the narratives and experiences of our most marginalized youth.

We posted about this on instagram today, and there was interest expressed in our offer to share some resources, so we're using this post to expand a little.

RESOURCES (w/ some annotations):

Before diving into these resources we want to express how vitally important it is to pay attention to who is sharing information or expressing an opinion on the internet, and what their biases or motivations may be. In having this discussion with the individual we initially mentioned in this post, she sent us several articles in defense of white folks having "dreads"... written by white men in the UK. The following resources were all written by Black women in the United States (with the article about Zendaya being the only exception - but the most important part of that article is Zendaya's quote).

This is obviously by no means an exhaustive list - just a good jumping off point. If there are things we ought to include, please feel free to drop them in the comments, or email us!

"7 Reasons Why White People Should Not Wear Black Hairstyles", Maisha Z. Johnson

^ This piece is great because Johnson directly and clearly addresses some of the most common defenses of white folks having dreadlocks/box braids/etc - and breaks down how they're harmful, with a focus on power dynamics.

"Why Defending Your Cultural Appropriation is Dangerous", Ana Thomas

^ This piece situates the issue contextually and historically with examples of conversations and situations Thomas has encountered. She addresses the danger of white entitlement, and how what may seem like minor offense to some, is actually a significant part of a larger system of oppression and violence that can break down and damage the identities of Black folks.

"I'm White Passing, Can I Have Dreads?", Kat Blaque

^ This vlog addresses mixed POC (vs. white folks) and dreadlocks, but here is an important and really relevant take-away from it, "Objectively I really don't care if a white girl has dreads - that's not the issue that I have - it's more of, in the current society that we live in, when black people are punished for having these hairstyles and you get away with having it... when I see a white person with dreads I have a very hard time believing that they're on my side. I feel like even if you could have every justification in the world, the fact that a black person can't exist with this hairstyle without facing a bunch of crap for it, I think someone who's an ally would see that, respect it, and be like 'okay guess what, I'm not gonna do that with my hair, I'm gonna walk away from it'".

Disney Star's Response to Criticism of Her Dreadlocks Deserves a Standing Ovation, Julie Zeilinger

^ There are so. many. news stories like this. Many of them are about children in schools. And they're just the instances that are being selected by the media to be shared. This is just one high visibility example of the power dynamics at play - which our youth are hyper aware of, and that don't similarly affect white folks.

--

The cover illustration to this blog post (visible on our main blog page) is by Shannon Wright (@shannondrewthis), from the piece by Ana Thomas mentioned in the resources above.

If you have questions about Marrow's policies, please feel free to reach out to us via email at info@marrowpdx.org

If you're looking for free labor around this or another specific issue, please keep in mind that Marrow is a volunteer-run organization, and that there is a lot of information available on the internet. That said - if you're a youth, we'll always work to point you in the direction of good resources!