Normally, I would see this type of news and wipe it away but I’ve wiped away one too many and have decided to formally address this issue. This post will be rather long because in discussing this topic there are about 30 subsections to it. Obviously you would stop reading after maybe the fifth, so I will keep it short.
Rastafari: What is Rastafari, Who Is Bob Marley, and How Do Dreadlocks Tie In?
As defined by the Christian Courier;
“Rastafarianism is a religious movement (especially popular in Jamaica — 5% to 10% of the population) that is less than a century old. It had its beginnings in a black, political movement that started in the 1920s/30s.”
Contrary to popular belief, Bob Marley did not start this movement. He helped to make it known to a wider audience through his music and his identification with it. One of the early influences who began this was Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). Marcus Garvey believed that the black man would never receive fair treatment in a white man’s world. This, by the way, is something Bob Marley slightly believed in. In Marley’s case, white man’s world is easier swallowed as Babylon. Babylon would be the government, the capitalist system, crooked police, and/or anything that was unfair or did not work righteously for the people. In essence the white man’s world is driven by these terms because the white man’s world needs these terms to maintain and establish continued power and dominance. It’s all capitalism. I reached this conclusion through research and Marley’s music but my perception could be wrong. Just note that I am not affirming this but simply offering it as my opinion regarding Marley’s views.
Nonetheless, dreadlocks were and are a symbol of racial selfhood. Christian Courier says,
“Many Rastafarian men allow their hair to grow out into “dreadlocks” — the term “dread” having become a praise-word in their vocabulary. It is employed to describe the “confrontation” of a people who are struggling to maintain “racial selfhood,” which they contend has been denied them. In part, the purpose behind these long plaits of hair is to demonstrate a contrast to the generally straight hair of Caucasians, and to “mock” those who disdain their bedraggled appearance.”
Easily understood, dreadlocks are a symbol of defiance and emulate power. This is why when a person, not part of this movement, but admires the whole look and/or aura of dreadlocks, decides to wear it, it is an insult. For Zendaya to have worn dreadlocks to such an event as the Oscars is incredibly fitting seeing as majority of the nominees were in fact, white men. Where does Giuliana’s prejudice tie in? First, let’s define prejudice.
No, not the movie. I’m talking about the word, prejudice. Not to be confused with it’s counterpart racism. Racism consists of both prejudice and discrimination based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. It is social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems that consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities. Prejudice is a preconceived, usually unfavourable, judgment(s) toward people or a person because of gender, political opinion, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, language, nationality, or other personal characteristics. It is a positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their perceived group membership. Whenever I describe a white individual as prejudiced they say I am being racist and just to clarify this topic quickly I will give you a definition and reasoning as to why reverse racism is in fact, a myth. As defined by the Calgary Anti Racism Institute;
“There are assumptions and stereotypes about white people. However, such assumptions and stereotypes are examples of Racial Prejudice. Expressions of such assumptions do not constitute racism because they do not have the power/authority behind them (because of where they come from on the hierarchy) to affect widespread beliefs about the group, or to affect the authority, privileges, and access to resources of white people. While expressions of racial prejudice directed at white people may hurt the white person/people individually or personally, and are never be condoned, they do not affect the white person’s social/economic/political location and privileges in hierarchy.”
So, moving on. Giuliana Rancic is not a white individual; in fact she was born in Naples, Italy in 1974. She understands where people of colour are coming from. White people do as well but as a woman of colour she understands first hand even more. Giuliana is a forty-year old woman with a lovely husband and child. She has had her own share of struggles – especially with conceiving her child, as from her television show on E!, tells us. Giuliana is a television personality and journalist. I would also arguably call her a business woman. Anyone on TV in my opinion is in business because TV is politics and we all know business and commerce ties into politics. I’m giving you this quick description because I want it to be clear that I am not hating on this woman but rather offering maybe to her, or those of you reading, a broader perspective on her latest comments.
Giuliana is prejudiced because she has taken this mainstream belief that those who wear dreadlocks sit around and smoke weed all day and do not shower, and has applied it generally to an entire movement of people. First, how does what Giuliana said, have to do with race? Well, obviously, the individuals who wore (and still wear) dreadlocks were black individuals part of the Rastafarianism religious movement. The dreadlocks have now been diverted into a trend that has since trickled down to those who identify as free thinkers and Bob Marley lovers. But, it is only when done on white women that such black traits are appreciated. It’s seen in Kylie Jenner being praised for wearing her dreadlocks, but Ciara being ridiculed, and it’s seen in Kim Kardashian being praised for her surgically enhanced embodiment of a black woman’s body, but Amber Rose being again, ridiculed. In history, whenever a black woman, and man, leave their natural hair out we are disassociated. It still happens in today’s times where a black woman leaving her fro/curls out, and let’s say, goes for a job interview, would not get the interview. It has to do with us versus them. White people, generally, do not know of black culture (capitalized rap music does not count), because they are not the ones exposed to it. It is through social media that more and more people, who are willing to, are learning. White people (when I say this I mean those who are not woke yet), then form this us versus them mentality – both directly and/or indirectly. You see a black woman with a fro and you assume them as the other, but, you see a black woman with a silky straight weave and invisible part, and you assert them as part of your in group. Understand?
This is what happens when there is a lack of representation and diversity among people of colour in the media. The second we exhibit a part of our culture that does not conform to your norm, we are ridiculed. It’s the same idea of people only referring to Bob Marley as a man who loved weed when he was so much more. You belittle people of colour down to one title as though we could not possibly have multiple traits, characteristics, and talents. I do not care for her apology because it does not acknowledge why she was wrong. Instead her apology says it’s not about race move on. A true apology would have said I am sorry because dot dot dot. Just as Benedict’s apology over his reference to black people as coloured. He acknowledged his mistake and assured us of how and why it would not be repeated. Now, you understand why having more people of colour in the media is very, very important. Anything but is detrimental and will continuously result in more and more confrontation. I urge Giuliana Rancic to resubmit a better apology because until then, I’m going to have to ask her to take several seats.