Several weeks ago, while doing some promo for a new film, Anthony Mackie shared some views on locs that had the internet in uproar for a few days. Here’s a recap of the drama, with the quote that caused a ruckus below:
“I think the problem with racial profiling is the actions that come along with it. Like my nephew wanted to grow dreadlocks. I’m like fine, I’ll sit you down and I’ll watch “The First 48 with you and everybody you see on that show, that’s doing something wrong, they’re black dudes with dreadlocks.”
Anthony Mackie later backtracked and said his words were taken out of context, claiming that his point was not that dreadlocks as a style were bad or criminal, but that the perceptions police hold of dreadlocks lead to incidents of profiling.
Confused? As am I.
Here’s why Mackie’s assumption that locs are a source of racial profiling shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Americans in general are so individualistic that we are quick to blame incidents of racial profiling on people’s behaviors and choices, rather than on the system. Part of this is the media’s fault, as they go above and beyond to justify profiling, stop and frisk laws or police brutality with “evidence” of the individual’s criminal past, their overbearing demeanor, or their match to the suspect’s description.
However, the community is also at fault. Too many of us believe that how we look justifies people’s perceptions of us, so we discourage one another for wearing locs or even our natural hair. While we’re ok with athletes and musicians growing locs, within the black community, locs are still not accepted as a professional hairstyle. Black organizations continue to tell young men, with masters degrees, that the hairstyle is unprofessional and unsightly. At some HBCUS, dreadlocks are not even permitted in masters of business administration programs. Men and women are discharged from the military for wearing locs, even if they have served for over a decade. Little black boys are sent home from school for their locs, even when they are a significant part of their religion. These are just the instances that make the news.
Mackie, like many of us, failed to redirect the blame of racial profiling and discrimination to the system, rather than on the individual. But until the black community can be accepting of natural hairstyles in all contexts, especially locs, we can’t expect those outside of the black community to be respecting of the same hairstyles that we shun.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Anthony Mackie’s approach?