Let’s talk about Justin Bieber’s hair

Because that shit is more than just ugly. It’s racist — and proves that Bieber’s “allyship” is performative. Gasp!

A photograph of the backside of Justin Bieber showcases his two dreadlocks, tied into two pigtails. He’s wearing a football jersey.
Justin Bieber in his new dreadlocks.

You cannot call yourself an ally to my community if you — a racially and ethnically white individual — wake up one morning in the year of 2021 and think, damn, I’m gonna get my pasty ass some dreads today. Because simply not doing that (and therefore not engaging in anti-Blackness) is, surprise, pretty fucking easy.

So, by this day and age, every single non-Black person who claims to be an “ally” to racially marginalized groups — in this particular instance, the Black community — should have a tremendously sound idea of what properties of another group’s culture are untouchable for as long as racism prevails. For Black people, hair is one of those properties. And, because cultural appropriation is supposedly the first topic covered in Woke Studies 101, there is no way a single “ally” living in Amerikkka is mystically unaware of the exclusivity of Black hairstyles; of the way only Black people are allowed to wear Black hairstyles. And IDGAF what your excuses are. You cannot call yourself an ally to my community if you — a racially and ethnically white individual — wake up one morning in the year of 2021 and think, damn, I’m gonna get my pasty ass some dreads today. Because simply not doing that (and therefore not engaging in anti-Blackness) is, surprise, pretty fucking easy.

…To me, and millions of others who are legitimately trying to dismantle systemic and institutionalized racism and anti-Blackness, the singer’s new dreadlocks are a swift reassurance that as much as Bieber frames himself to be an ally to the Black community, he’s just another white kid infatuated with Black things — but uninterested in Black liberation.

Now, I know what some of you might be thinking — it’s pitiful of me to judge Bieber so harshly on the basis of his hair. But it’s actually not, no, because what’s actually pitiful is the fact that hair discrimination in the United States is such a systemic issue that there has to be laws about it. Even more pitiful is the fact that for as long as Black people have been stuck in America, we’ve been castigated and alienated because of the ways we innately exist. Our skin is too dark. Our language is too improper. Our natural hair is too everything — too nappy, too unmanageable, too attention-seeking, too ghetto, too unprofessional, too trouble-making, too much of a target for harassment or bullying, too Black power, too political. Too much, too much, too much.

I guess I understand why probably no one wants to be the nigga who tells Bieber what’s right from wrong. There’s a sizable chance that truth runs a risk: the jeopardy of losing a client, a collaborator, a gig, a “friend,” and, above all, access to someone with power, money, opportunity. But in this case, the cost of being yes folk is high and humiliating; the Black people that surround Bieber are enablers.

And speaking of engagement: if only it were that easy for Black people, themselves, to disengage from discussion of anti-Blackness. Disappointingly, it seems as if the dozens of Black individuals surrounding Bieber certainly and conveniently have: his hairstylist, a Black woman named Bri who calls herself a “multicultural” cosmetologist; the numerous Black men he seems to work with in the studio; his live band of all Black musicians; his Black friends who likely let him call ’em “my nigga” because, well, what do you say to the all-mighty Justin Bieber?

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Sydney N. Sweeney

Sydney N. Sweeney is a writer, editor, and critic based in Los Angeles. Her work focuses on culture, music, identity, and pop nostalgia.