Justin Bieber, a teen idol of the early 2010s, has been accused of cultural appropriation and of being a "dilettante... dipping his toe in the culture," by a UK anti-racism organization dedicated to "building a future without hair discrimination", after altering his hairstyle, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.
“When I see a white person in mainstream media sporting a black hairstyle, it makes me angry," Stephanie Cohen, co-founder and legal and political organizer at the Halo Collective, a natural hair organization, is quoted in the report as saying. "I’m angry because this standard does not exist when a black person simply wears their hair in this way. You can’t just wear something so historically significant and ignore the struggles behind what the hairstyle purports."
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Bieber had "no right" to wear such a hairstyle, according to Cohen.
"My reasoning and understanding of someone wearing something not specific to their culture or ethnicity is that if they cannot speak for black or minority rights [and] be a consistent ally – then they have no right to wear something like locs," she explained.
Most of the users of social networks, however, simply noted that such a hairstyle did not suit their idol, or compared this new look to his famous previous one.
Damn Justin Bieber’s hair looks even worse from a distance 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/Pwu3BClCuY— Joey (@gothamcityrap) April 27, 2021
Another person interviewed by the newspaper on the matter was the editor of the British-published Black Beauty and Hair magazine, Irene Shelley, who thought that people were annoyed by Bieber's hairstyle due to him "casually wearing locs is that it’s seen as not respecting the origins of the style."
"People still face hair discrimination and stigma for their hair choice. … You can face discrimination by your employer or school. [Bieber] is seen as a dilettante, a person who’s dipping his toe in the culture, without any real commitment or knowledge of the style’s history," she said.
The common term for the hairstyle, "dreadlocks," according to Cohen and Shelley, is rooted in a tradition of racism. The name "comes from the negative term ‘dreadful’ – coined by slave owners and colonizers to describe the hairstyle," according to Cohen.
The Halo Collective website states that "race-based hair discrimination has been illegal in the UK since the Equalities Act became law in 2010, and yet it still happens all the time. ... Together, we are fighting for the protection and celebration of Black hair and hairstyles."