A video of a teacher telling her students a lesson about the history of the word “dreadlocks” has gone viral.
According to the teacher, the term is “racist.” The post has sparked a debate on TikTok.
Valenciá De’La Clay-Bell’s video was first posted in 2018, but it was reposted on TikTok less than a week ago and has racked up more than one million views.
“The history of why people of African decent, like our ancestors, wore their hair in locs, is very very spiritual,” an impassioned Clay-Bell informs her students. “But when they came over here to this country, and other countries in which European standards of beauty were basically stamped on us and engraved in us, they began to call our locs ‘dreads’ meaning dreadful,” she further explained.
According to The Encyclopedia of Hair, A Cultural History, the first historical recording of an African tribe wearing locs can be traced to the priests of the Ethiopian Coptic religion as far back as 500 BCE.
Mummified Egyptians uncovered have been found to still have their locs intact, as many ancient cultures and religions believed that the spirit exited the body through the head.
The idea behind this was that knotting and/or twisting conserved more energy leading to more significant amounts of physical and spiritual strength.
Clay-Bell wants her students to fully understand the gravity of the word they are using when speaking about their classmate’s hair.
“So when you call them dreads and don’t even know why you’re using that word, you’re perpetuating an idea that our beauty is in fact not beauty at all.”
Not everybody agrees with Clay-Bell.