German singer Ronja Maltzan wears dreadlocks. This is evidence of cultural arrogance, says the youthful climate – and of withdrawing the invitation to a concert.
In fact, Ronja Maltzan was supposed to perform at the youth climate event in Hanover on Friday. She was very happy about the invitation, the 28-year-old German singer wrote on the Internet. But unfortunately, Friday for Future (FFF) activists sent her a cancellation shortly before the concert – with a hint of what she had to do in order to be allowed to sing.
The reason for cancellation was: the white Maltzahn, who grew up in Münster, wears braids, that is, long, matte hair. Climate youth accused her of “cultural appropriation”: the inappropriate use of a symbol representing resistance to the black civil rights movement in the United States. If she decides to cut her braids before the concert, then she is invited to sing.
For the German climate movement, the Maltzahn episode turned into an image disaster. Even the language activists have used to justify their rejection seems to want to ironically emphasize the usual accusations of their critics: they are intolerant, ideological, stupid.
Importantly to them, the Climate Youth justified their decision to “give BiPoCs a space within the climate justice movement.” The acronym BiPoCs stands for: Black, Aboriginal and People of Color. If a white person appears with braids, this may give members of these groups the impression that “this movement is not a safe space for them”.
It is easy to point out the inconsistency in this reasoning, and many have done so. Is it not stereotyped and therefore racist to assign curly, straight, long or short hair and the resulting hairstyles to a particular ethnic group? Especially since the dreadlocks, as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote, were worn by Muslim Dervishes, Jamaicans, Rastafarians, and possibly Vikings.
She doesn’t want a dirty storm
“First cut your hair properly!” This was previously the case for critical young leftists from deeply stifling conservatism and fiercely conservative conservatism. And it violates—which FFF proponents who insist on sensitivity and respect should note—against the right to define one’s own body.
Was the braids of white German refugee savior Carola Rackete also a cultural appropriation? Should the African refugees have refused to board the racquet? Or ask them to at least match their hairstyle first with their racial/ethnic heritage?
Meanwhile, Maltzan himself was forgiving. The musician, who sings in five languages on two studio and two-concert albums and his multicultural band, said she wears her braids because she thinks they’re beautiful. Hairstyle fit her attitude to life.
She doesn’t want a dirty storm or an argument with Fridays for the future, especially since she supports the organization’s interests. Until now, Maltzahn continues, people have always responded positively to her hairstyle. And for the request to cut it, a climate activist apologized to her.
Sandro Benigni Editor in the Department of Culture and Society. He studied Italian and German literature and worked as a correspondent for Latin America in Mexico for eleven years.