I was trying to find a picture of some dreadlocks for another article when I ran across this story from the website About.com.
The sheriff in the predominantly white St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana had a problem with low income, mostly black people who fled from New Orleans because of Katrina permanently settling in his area. Said the sheriff, “The federal government is going to find somewhere for them to live. I don’t want to see temporary housing because of Katrina turn into long-term housing for a bunch of thugs and trash that don’t need to be in St. Tammany Parish. That’s something that we need to be aware of today and all leaders need to be vigilant and observant to see what’s going on. We don’t want to wake up one day and find out that New Orleans has been damn successful at running all of the trash out of the city and it end up roosting in St. Tammany.”
Not racist enough? The sheriff also had this to say, “Now, I don’t get into calling people names, but if you’re gonna walk the streets of St. Tammany Parish with dreadlocks and chee-wee hairstyles, then you can expect to get a visit from a sheriff’s deputy. We’re going to deal with you one way or the other.” Good thing he’s not into name calling.
What makes this story amazing is that the sheriff has no problem letting people know his racist points of views. He wants to harass people based on little more than their ethnic hairstyles and perceived economic status. And what the hell is a chee-wee anyway? Mr. Strain is painting people who are bold enough to be black and even bolder to be poor as deserving of being the focus of public scrutiny or more precisely the scrutiny of law enforcement. In other words, don’t worry good white folks because we are going to do whatever it takes to keep these darkies in line. And American history is full of examples of negative consequences for people who are so negatively perceived.
And what makes this story even more amazing is the fact that the people of St. Tammany Parish have elected this racist as their sheriff. These people are essentially saying that they don’t have a problem putting their trust in this uber racist. I’m no lawyer but I believe it would not take a Johnnie Cochran or a Thurgood Marshall to show the sheriff’s proclivity for racial harassment. I think the parishioners should think about their potential exposure for a coffer emptying harassment lawsuit.
It should suffice to say that Mr. Strain is not a person people that the black community can view favorably. But what about black people who openly take the same racist and judgmental point of view? There are black people who actually promote the idea that dreadlocks and outward appearances of blatant ethnic identification are inappropriate for the working environment. I am talking about black people who choose to focus on all the reasons to keep other black people in their place instead of being focused on all the positives for employing and promoting their brothers and sisters.
I’m sure people will read this and automatically see all the problems with this line of thinking. “You want black people to hire black people because their black”. I’m not talking about just hiring black people for the sake of hiring black people. That would be stupid and counterproductive. But there is an abundance of qualified black people with the talent, skills, abilities, and experiences that will make fine candidates for employment if people would only make the choice to learn the person and their abilities. It is this line of thinking that automatically assumes black people who make the choice to look and think like black people are inferior that makes affirmative action a necessary evil.
I know one black woman who really hates dreadlocks. An elder in the community, she once made her son an offer of a thousand dollars if he’d cut his locks off and kept them off (he passed on the offer but made the decision to cut them off a few years later, unfortunately the offer had expired). But I also know that this woman would never judge a person by something as trivial as their hairstyle or the clothes they wear. As long as the person is clean and neat she’s okay with the person. The woman has the wisdom to realize that the hairstyle and clothing is a personal preference that she wouldn’t make for herself or her children. She doesn’t judge a person’s character based on such trivialities. My friend would not hesitate to defend someone’s right to wear his or her hair however they please regardless of how she felt about it.
Black people who toe the line on behalf of the white dominating culture it spells trouble for the black community. A black person who is willing to devalue another black person based on how well they fit into white people’s conservative perception of what is acceptable from and/or for black people can hardly claim to have the black neighborhood’s interest at heart. Honestly, it sounds like their heart is beating for white people’s values. We get enough of this make the black community conform type of thinking from white people, we don’t need our brothers and sisters contributing to the subjugation effort. It’s as if these black people are actually saying, “Stop it! You are reminding me where I came from! You are reminding me that my very existence, my history, runs contrary to how I want to identify myself!”
There are black people who wear dreadlocks that don’t belong in certain working environments. There are black people who have less than exemplary character. But whether or not someone belongs in a particular working environment or the excellence of someone’s characters is not based on their hairstyle or their appearance or their economic status or their skin tone. Character is based on who people are and nothing more. Judge my character negatively or favorably because how you feel about my hairstyle is nothing short of foolish.