Updated: Apr 19, 2019
If you are a person of the black community who has experimented with different hairstyles, then you’ve probably also heard the term, “dreads” or “dreadlocks” to describe your hair.
Somehow, the term ‘dreads’ was chosen to be the token description for any black hairstyle that involves multiple twists or braids. Some have even made a fashion statement with this look, proudly exploiting the idea of dreadlocks for the sake of ‘fashion’, however, using this term can be very controversial if you knew the history of it.
Unless you know of the history behind this word or you identify as a member of the Rasta community, be careful with using the term ‘dreadlocks.”
Locks derived from Rastafarianism which is a religion of deep political convictions. It began in the slums of Jamaica in the 1920s and was heavily influenced by African culture. The religion got its name from the Ethiopian emperor, Ras Tafari who was forced into exile due to an invasion.
Warriors of Ras Tafari swore never to cut their hair until his return. Rastafarianism would then be practiced more and began raising red flags for followers of Christianity. This was due to Rastafarianism’s similar belief system with ideologies such as Marxism, Nationalism, and Socialism.
This was seen as a threat to Christianity and was attacked by the authorities. The remaining warriors were persecuted for their hair which was considered to be “disgusting” and “disturbing” thus the term “dread” being associated with locks. Let that sink in, when you use the term ‘dreadlocks’ you are essentially referencing to the way in which Europeans looked down on Rastafarian hair. So you can see how this term could potentially be pretty insulting.
Later on, the term was reclaimed and is even used today in our daily lingo. However, unless you know of the history behind this word or you identify as a member of the Rasta community, be careful with using this term. You can easily offend someone without even knowing it just by using a term before taking the time to fully comprehend its history.