A tense confrontation at San Francisco State University between two people — one white man with dreadlocks and one black woman without — has gone viral on YouTube.
The two argued over the man’s dreadlocks after the woman in the video assumedly said that the man’s dreadlocks were ripping off her culture — that it’s cultural appropriation, basically. “You’re saying that I can’t have a hairstyle because it’s your culture? Why?” the guy replied.
“Because it’s my culture!” she said, before the two entered into a heated debate over dreadlocks being a part of the culture in Egypt (“Where’s Egypt?” the woman asked the man repeatedly).
“You have no right to tell me what I can and can’t wear,” he told her before trying to walk away. The two then tussled in an awkward pushing contest before the man stormed off, and the woman realized they were being filmed.
The university has confirmed that the incident occurred and that campus police were called to the scene. While the statement does not say whether or not the two are students at the school, it does note that neither are employees, as was first reported. Further, the statement reads: “San Francisco State University promotes the rights of the campus community to engage in free speech but does not condone behavior that impedes the safety or well-being of others. We are taking the matter seriously and will promptly and thoroughly investigate this incident through applicable university channels, including our campus student conduct procedures.”
There isn’t much else known about the video, which does raise some “was this scripted?” flags — neither participant noticed being filmed (“Just for everyone’s safety,” the cameraman explained to the woman), and the back-and-forth shoving looks a little like an amateur play.
Dreadlocks have a complex history, as Yahoo Beauty discussed last week, after Tyra Banks revealed her own on social media. The long, matted tresses were originally worn by ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Aztecs, and Africans (the earliest Africans to wear dreads were the Masai tribesmen, of Kenya, who exist to this day).Dreads were also worn in India by Hindu yogis and holy men and women, who considered their locks sacred — an extension of their spiritual practice, Yahoo Beauty has previously reported.
Can white people wear dreads without appropriating? Different people have different answers, but here’s hoping future discussions are a little calmer than this one.