January 11 2017
Jillian Kay Melchior
American social justice warriors have launched a cyberbullying campaign against British small business owners who dreadlock the hair of white people, accusing them of cultural appropriation.
And Gareth Buxton, owner of Stowmarket’s Dawn of the Dread UK, says dozens of social justice warriors have flooded his Facebook page, Google business page and Instagram account, leaving mean comments and negative reviews.
There was “even a threat to shave off my dreads in my sleep,” Buxton said. He added that he’s sported the hairstyle since he was 17, and this he’s meticulously maintained his current set of dreadlocks for nearly a decade.
In the past year, it’s become increasingly controversial for white people to wear dreadlocks.
The boho women’s retailer Free People came under fire for selling clip-in pink dreadlocks, eventually pulling the product and issuing an apology. Designer Marc Jacobs was also accused of cultural appropriation after his runway models wore multicolored dreadlocks, which he said were inspired by transgender filmmaker Lana Wachowski. And last spring, a viral video showed two black students at San Francisco State University confronting a white student over his dreadlocks.
Buxton said accusations of cultural appropriation are ill-founded, adding that the hairstyle has spanned cultures and centuries. “Hair naturally dreads if it isn’t brushed,” he said. “No one owns dreads.”
Buxton compared the online attacks against his business to Gamergate, saying they’ve left him stressed and sleep deprived.
Most of his critics seem to be U.S.-based, he said, and the time difference means they’ve been most active late at night. He’s stayed up monitoring his social-media accounts, and he says his attackers even posted his home address and mobile number online.
“I suffer pretty bad with anxiety, and the attacks put me right on the edge. … The lack of sleep has affected my ability to work, and I’ve had to cancel clients due to panic attacks, stress and lack of sleep. This is my only income, and I am worried that all this negativity will put off new customers from wanting to get dreadlocks, and I’ll be forced to give up the job I love,” Buxton told Heat Street in an email.
Elliot Locke, the Dreads UK owner, did not respond to Heat Street’s queries by deadline. But he told the local press that the cyberbullying was “mentally and financially draining.”
“It’s left me quite anxious a lot of the time,” Locke said, “[and] I have anxiety tablets for panic attacks.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.