Dear white people with dreadlocks: Some things to consider

Story highlights

  • Two students' confrontation over dreadlocks sparked conversation
  • One SF State student says the other was appropriating black culture with his hair
  • The other student contends that dreadlocks don't belong to just one culture

(CNN)Black hair is a touchy subject tied to beauty, identity and politics. Whether it's Afros and black power or cornrows and hip-hop, hairstyles associated with African-American culture can make a statement before their wearers say a word.

So when whites choose a traditionally black hairstyle such as dreadlocks, it adds another layer of complexity to the issue.
    Take the latest case in point: a viral video showing a black woman calling out a white male student at San Francisco State University for his dreadlocks. The video touched off debate over whether dreadlocks on white people constitute cultural appropriation or appreciation, a fashion faux pas or some combination thereof.
      Neither party responded to CNN's requests for comment, so there's no way to tell what happened before or after the 46-second video. Their conversation led to a physical confrontation that is being investigated by the university. The tense encounter focuses on the origin of dreadlocks, which both parties seem to agree is Egypt. The woman contends that dreadlocks belong to "my culture," and the man says "it doesn't matter."