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Justin Bieber Wears Dreadlocks, Appropriates Black Culture Yet Again

Justin Bieber performs onstage for the 2020 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California in a plaid shirt and orange beanie
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Justin Bieber has never been one to shy away from bold new looks – even when they’re controversial. The “Peaches” singer sent the internet into a frenzy on over the weekend when he posted a photo of himself sporting dreadlocks on Instagram. Many fans reacted swiftly to the images, calling out the singer for cultural appropriation.


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A post shared by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber)

Cultural appropriation is the practice of taking elements or objects of a culture that is not one’s own, and in doing so, erasing the important significance or history behind that culture. Often there is an element of exploitation, as the appropriator is often from a group of power and privilege – which Bieber, a white, cishet celeb, most definitely is.

Related: Style trends you didn’t know originated from Black culture.

Dreadlocks – also known as dreads or locs – date all the way back to ancient Egypt and Hindu tribal culture. Different groups of Indigenous peoples around the world have also worn locks. Today, they are also worn by Maasai warriors in Kenya and Jamaican Rastafarians.

Locs are often seen as a Black hairstyle due to their religious symbolism within Rastafarianism. Despite this, many Black people have faced negative connotations for sporting their locs, while white people sporting locs have been seen as cool or edgy – a contradiction that fans pointed out in Bieber’s comments.

It’s also not the first time that Bieber has appropriated elements of Black culture. He’s worn dreadlocks before and received backlash, but this time it’s particularly surprising given his outspokenness about fighting racial injustice, his commitment to educating himself on anti-Black racism, and his acknowledgement that he benefits from Black culture.

Related: #FridayFollow: Black activists you need on your feed now and forever.


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A post shared by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber)

The timing of the locs was also eyebrow-raising as they arrived on the heels of his most recent album, Justice, on which he was accused of exploiting the Black Lives Matter movement by including recordings of Martin Luther King Jr.


While it may not seem like a big deal for the Biebs to be wearing this hairstyle, when it comes to rocking natural hair, Black people have had theirs politicized and called unprofessional, among other things.

We can only hope he takes his own advice and continues to listen, learn and educate himself.

Related: 10 accidental microaggressions you might be making everyday.

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