Comedian rejected for shows in Montreal after dreadlocks considered “cultural appropriation”

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MONTREAL — An aspiring Montreal comedian has been told he cannot participate in shows in a college bar because his dreadlocks are a form of cultural appropriation.

La Coop les Recoltes, a bar and solidarity cooperative at the University of Quebec in Montreal, confirmed on Facebook its decision to exclude Zach Poitras, who is white, because of his hairstyle. Poitras, who was denied a seat at the Snowflake Comedy Club and another evening of “committed humor”, declined to comment on the situation.

The bar is operated by the UQAM section of the Public Interest Research Group, which focuses on environmental and social issues. In its statement on Facebook, the cooperative says its mission is to be “a safe space, free from oppressive relationships.” He describes cultural appropriation as a form of violence.

“We will not tolerate any discrimination or harassment in our spaces,” he says. He defines cultural appropriation as when “someone from a dominant culture appropriates symbols, clothing or hairstyles from historically dominated cultures”.

She adds that wearing dreadlocks is “a privilege” for a white person, while a black person with the same hair “will be denied access to job offers or spaces (apartments, schools, parties). , sports competitions, etc.) ‘

Even if the person wearing the dreadlocks is not themselves racist, the group adds, the chosen hairstyle “conveys racism”. He calls cultural appropriation “a form of passive oppression, a privilege to be deconstructed and in particular a manifestation of ordinary racism”.

Last summer, American actor Zac Efron was charged with cultural appropriation after posting a photo of himself with dreadlocks on social media with the caption “just for fun.” Canadian singer Justin Bieber faced similar criticism in 2016 when he posted photos of himself with blonde dreadlocked hair.

Greg Robinson, a professor at UQAM specializing in black history, compared the wearing of dreadlocks by whites to the widely denounced practice of actors wearing blackface to represent characters of color.

“What I mean is it’s white people dressing up as black people to make fun of them,” he said, adding that even when the intention is not to make fun of them but to embrace another culture, you have to be careful.

“It’s like the N word,” Robinson said. “Blacks can use it among themselves, but if someone from the outside uses it, even if they want to be like blacks, among blacks, there is still an aspect that remains anchored in it. ‘story.”

La Coop les Recoltes did not respond to an interview request.


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