By Joshua Drake
On March 6, an 18- to 25-year-old black male with short dreads and glasses was reported to be allegedly taking photos of other men in the restroom stalls. Brookhaven College notified all students, staff and faculty via email and warnings at all entrances.
My mom texted me saying, “Josh were you that dude who took the photos in the stalls?”
I couldn’t believe she could even think that about me. She said she asked because the full description of the suspect was identical to me. A few classmates said they thought the same when they first read the notice.
But, that’s not the only way people misjudge me.
Just because I rock dreadlocks doesn’t mean I smoke pot. I’ve never smoked it and don’t plan to. But that’s generally the first that comes to people’s mind when they see someone in dreadlocks.
Stereotypes make us believe certain things are true when they are not. They make it seem OK to judge others, such as when people assume that just because I rock dreadlocks, I smoke weed or I’m some kind of pot head.
Well, I don’t. And I’m not.
The roots of dreadlocks trace back to Indian sages and yogis, according to dreadlocks.org. These holy men renounced the world and all possessions, including combs and personal grooming.
“Dreadlocks get their name from Jamaican tradition. Those with ‘natty’ locks in their hair were to be dreaded, or feared,” according to dreadlocks.org.
In other parts of the world, dreads are associated with holy people who guard their physical well-being as carefully as they do their spiritual well-being, according to Parlé Magazine, an urban entertainment publication.
“However, for most people here in the U.S., and perhaps the world, dreads are associated predominately with smoking weed,” according to Parlé Magazine.
My first two years of high school were not easy because it was a new environment I had to find my way around hallways, map out the best routes to my classes and make new friends.
People either wanted to be friends or thought I was a bad influence. Many students at my high school smoked a lot of weed. People would ask, “Hey, do you smoke weed?” or “You want to smoke with me after school sometime?”
And it didn’t help much that I was among the 5 percent of African-Americans at my school, which has an average of just over 2,000 students, according to publicschoolreview.com.
And on top of that, I had dreads.
That is just one of the stereotypes about dread heads.
Another is that we dread heads are dirty and do not clean our hair. That’s not true. I know a lot of people that have dreads keep their hair clean and manageable. But I have met a few who haven’t bothered to keep them neat.
I keep my hair clean with an all-natural, sulfate-free shampoo, deep conditioner and leave-in conditioner. I oil my scalp for dryness and moisture and tighten my individual locks.
Each dread must be twisted every time I wash my hair. This process can take about three to four hours. Every four to six weeks, I have to wash my dreads and use a no-rinse shampoo for cleansing on the scalp.
Unless it’s the early stages of locking hair, anyone with locks can wash their hair just as often as anyone without them washes their hair, according to MadameNoire, a leading lifestyle website for African-American women.
So, the next time you hear a stereotype about someone with dreads, or any stereotype for that matter, don’t believe it. Get to know the person instead.