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Coming Home with White Girl Dreads

The above monument is called the Altare della Patria or Altar of the Fatherland and was built in celebration of the Italian king, Victor Emmanuel. I like this photo because you can actually sense the size of this monstrosity. The horse and his rider are fearfully large in real life.

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Roman Ghetto

This week I’ve been trying to get things in line for my return to the States. I need to find a new apartment for the coming school year and send in paperwork to start working again in the Dillons pharmacy. It’s sobering to see the end of my time abroad approaching. That being said, I still have two months to learn and explore.

I’ve set in my mind that May is a month for studying and June is a month for traveling. I’ll be visiting Puglia and Sicilia before a brief farewell tour of Italy and my flight to Ireland. I’ll be in Ireland for four days before returning to Kansas on the 12th of July.

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An eerily beautiful statue cresting above the tree line.

There is one thing that has been preoccupying my mind about coming home. In Italy, it’s not uncommon for me to receive random, neither complimentary or derogatory, comments about my hair. People in general just seem to find it strange or exotic. With recent conversations about cultural appropriation in the United States, I feel that “white people dreads” have become much more controversial since I came to Italy in January.

I got dreads in 2010 when I was fourteen years old. My hair is curly and frizzy, defies gravity, and was an everyday pain. My goal in getting dreads was to destroy my hair while maintaining it’s length. Dreads were the best solution to maximize the usefulness of curls and frizz while creating something more manageable.

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Baby Lila and Baby Dreads

Recently, there has been an assumption that dreads culturally “belong” to those of African descent. Usually this is proceeded by statements that dreadlocks naturally occur among this racial group and not in others. This ignores the fact that all hair types can form dreadlocks. Once that argument is deflated, it is posed that dreads are historically African. This argument is also based upon false assumptions. Dreads were historically worn by Asians, Africans, and Europeans.

But if we were all honest, this argument (made by a white women) seems to state that cultural appropriation doesn’t exist. I do believe that cultural appropriation occurs. I just don’t know if demonizing your local pothead as a racist is the appropriate application of the phrase.

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Lower Right: Junk Food

Cultural appropriation, as I understand the phrase, signifies when an exploitative culture adopts characteristics of an exploited culture without recognition of origin or traditional usage. I think a good example of cultural appropriation goes to our beloved Katy Perry. Songs can be inspired by Japanese culture and performers are completely free to perform while wearing kimonos. But being an obvious person of affluence, it is in bad taste that the back up dancers were caucasian and performing rather mocking choreography instead of more traditional dances.

In conclusion, not everything is cultural appropriation. But I must also admit that white people are not great at the cultural appreciation. We are much more likely to appropriate through a sense of entitlement fostered by generations of insensitivity.

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