Dreadlocks and Pre-health Advising

Update: I’ve decided to talk down my original posting at this time. I appreciate the comments that I’ve received thus far on the post and via email. I’ve learned a lot from this experience.

  • I was looking through this book on serial killers the other day and noticed that the majority of them were white dudes with facial hair. Oh wait! That would be you too, wouldn’t it? Sorry, Eric, but I’m gonna have to pass on those beers we were to have some day. I’ve read about your types.

    But seriously, that’s at least part of the way these ideas are hatched. 90% of the time, if you see someone in a movie, for instance, with dreadlocks, that person IS some stoner, criminal, neer-do-well type. I’ve encountered these attitudes a zillion times after telling someone that I used to have dreds. The response is often along the lines of “I can’t see you having such a dirty hairstyle” or some such bullshit. And I always respond, “WTF? I never had a dirty hairstyle. I kept my shit clean just like everybody else.”

  • What I meant to add to the above comment is that the difference is that since it’s considered normal to be a white dude with facial hair, it doesn’t matter how many people of an unpleasant nature you come upon in real life or the media that happen to be white and have facial hair. Folks consider that merely a coincidence; but if you have a hairstyle that is mostly associated with black folks, and you’ve seen a few black folks with dreds in the media who are stoners, or criminals, or whatever, well then everyone with dreds must be like that because, y’know, black folks just aren’t normal, and neither is the way their hair behaves.

  • Laurie

    I grew up in Nebraska and can remember watching “real world san francisco” and being truly inspired by the female doctor who was doing her residency – she had a streak of color in her hair *gasp*! Trust me, even in Nebraska there are open-minded people who would see a doctor with dreds (insert eye-roll here).

  • One interesting thing about the discussions you share is that they immediately sidestepped the rationale given by the organization (sanitarian reasons!) and offered different and further rationale. What this shows is that people are more interested in their own (racist) assumptions than in the logic given by the organization. Even though the organization’s rationale is wrong (dreadlocks are not dirty), many were okay with the policy because their own assumptions supported it.

    I’m glad highly educated people are more interested in their biases than in treating people fairly. Ugh.

  • Very interesting conversation.

    Anyone who has taken a microbiology course ought to recognize that dread locks can harbor plenty of microbes. If pre-health advisers don’t know that, should they really offer pre-health advice?

    Having said that, there are several physicians that I know that wear headgear when appropriate, such as during procedures or surgeries. Otherwise, it’s not a problem.

    As a physician and pre-med advocate, I think it’s a matter of responsibility and maturity to accept the fact that other cultures don’t want dread locks. There are many things about health care that can only be changed from the inside.

    Humility is having knowledge of, or showing, a consciousness of one’s own defects. If I don’t know something, I say “I think…” or “I don’t know.”

    I hear lots of stories from my podcast listeners about the poor and misleading pre-med advice out there, not I can appreciate it more.

    Too bad. That’s why I prefer advice only from people who have actually accomplished what I’m attempting.


    Doctor Dan

  • Ken

    For Doctor Dan,
    As you already know….OUR BODIES harbor microbes…just b/c somone has dreads, does not mean that they are NOW harboing microbes. I am a white doctor with dreadlocks…uh oh…have I put a wrinkle in the conservative physician circles…damn straight. How about we practice PROPER medicine without worrying about which cultures don’t
    want dreadlocks…where did you come up with that? Do you know the history of locks? Do you think they started with the Black man/woman? They did not. Google it. Locks are for all cultures…nobody has copyrighted it yet. Please don’t brainwash our future docs with this poor attitude…you may just be giving the bad advice you are refering to. Thanks, RootsDR

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  • Jenifer

    Please email the text of your post to me? I have dreadlocks and I’m in the nursing program already.