Commentary On Being a Longhair in 21st Century America by Alex Zander
As a society we've made a lot of progress over the past century in achieving equal rights for all members of our society. It's not perfect yet, but women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, members of various religions and most other groups that once had no end of trouble "fitting in" are now allowed to live and work peacefully almost everywhere. Every day we get a little closer to our ideal of true equality for everyone.
But there is still one form of discrimination that has yet to be addressed. In fact, in many circles it is consciously condoned and actively encouraged. Many people who would be appalled at the idea of shouting insults at others regarding race, physical handicaps, perceived sexual orientation or any other difference from the "norm" have no inhibitions whatsoever when it comes to making their feelings known about what society deems as, "...FREAKS!"
Whether it's tattooing or piercing the body, wearing unusual hairstyles, or any other form of physical modification or adornment that tends to raise eyebrows (at best) or incite violent language and attacks against the individual (at worst), "freaks" have lived with this discrimination long enough.
- We are denied jobs for which we are more than qualified.
- We have been subject to harassment in schools. Students have been branded a "distraction" and expelled because they refused to alter their appearance to match that of the rest of the student body. Teens endure unending daily torment from their classmates, while the adults ignore the abuse -- or even participate.
- We are refused service in some establishments, and are unjustly targeted by security officers in others solely on the basis of our appearance -- we look so weird, we must be troublemakers, right?
- We are subjected to general harassment from the public. We can't go anywhere without being confronted by complete strangers, demanding (politely or not) that we provide some justification for ourselves that they can understand. Our neighbors peer suspiciously from their windows at us, and lock their doors when we pass.
- On television and in the movies, we are consistently portrayed as villains, mentally disturbed, or "joke" characters. Is it wrong to subject any other group of people -- other than practicing criminals -- to this treatment? Yes. Is it any less wrong to treat the "Freaks" in this manner? No. Most people would say this is a different kind of discrimination -- since we choose to drastically alter our appearance, knowing the consequences, we should just accept the harassment and live with the stigma of being different. This is untrue, unfair, and a violation of our country's Constitution.
I happen to be a white heterosexual male. But this does not mean that I am not discriminated against the way that minorities and homosexuals are. I do not use what is considered my gender and race to my advantage and do not discriminate against anyone. I have been a victim of what is spelled out as a Potential Target for Discrimination. I have been physically violated, attacked and put in the hospital by people who do not agree with my appearance. Yet there is no classification for an individual who chooses to dress the way I do and wear my hair in a style that longer than the status quo. I have been told by Police it is what happens to people who come around to their parts of the woods looking like I do. I was told by my father, a law officer, politician and former Green Beret that people have no control over what race they are born, but one does have control as to what they look like. I feel this is an unfair as well as ignorant statement.
I do not wear my heart on my sleeve nor do I feel that I am a martyr of sorts. However, I do try my best to do my part as an activist to make society aware of such injustices.
Freedom of Expression is in fact supposedly protected by the Freedom of Speech, which is in turn supposedly protected by the First Amendment.
There is a lot in the news these days about "racial profiling", a practice that is in every sense a violation of our personal freedoms. An example of "racial profiling" is when the police will pull over a "minority" because there is something "suspicious" about a person of another race happening to be inside a predominately "white" neighborhood. The officer will then proceed to search the person, his/her vehicle and run a police check to see if there happens to be any outstanding warrants on the individual as well as their passengers.
Hands down, this is a crime and a direct violation of our personal freedoms. Yet, there is no fuss over what can safely be coined as "image profiling". The "white mainstream" and the authorities, or powers that be are no more kind to those of us who do not subscribe to their idea of what descent white folk think it's acceptable to look like.
Following are two examples:
It's a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon and my friend and I are driving an older model Chevy. My girlfriend is in the backseat. We are each wearing our trademark black attire. We all have long hair because it is our choice to wear our hair longer than the US Army standard. This should not be strange being neither of us are in the service. We are driving into downtown Columbus Ohio, which is where we all lived at that time. There is no cigarette smoking and nobody is drinking even a soda. I make a left turn and the city police signal me to pull over. Like any law-abiding citizen I pull off to the side. He instructs me over the speaker to stay in the car and place my hands on the wheel. He then walks to the cars and instructs me to show my drivers license and registration. I kindly oblige. I ask him if I didn't anything wrong and he instructs me not to talk. He proceeds to run my plates and my license and returns to inquire where I am going. I reply "Home". He asks where home is and I tell him the address and he acknowledges it matches the info on my ID. He then feels the need to ask me where I'm coming from. I answer and for some reason he asks why I was where I was. I answer in fact that I had organized a flood relief benefit concert for a town that was struck by disaster. I asked him again if I did anything wrong and he replied in the negative and told me I could move along. Without any explanation of why we were pulled over he just wasted his time as well as my own. Needless to say I was more than just a little troubled by this incident. So I phoned my father who just so happened to be a Sheriff in another part of the state. I explained the situation, and he informed me that two guys with longer hair riding in a car, is considered by the Police, "suspicious behavior". All I could ponder to myself was, "What year is it? It's not the 60's, longhair is everywhere".
Example two: Two of my friends and I were making a long drive home across 3 states after picking up a friend who was coming for an extended stay. It was about 10 and a very dark summer night. As we crossed the border into Ohio the car broke down. Oddly we were stranded in the exact county where my father was the Sheriff. As we looked under the hood in an attempt to diagnose the problem a patrol car passed by. And again, and yet again there was a third pass in less than and hours time. I finally opted to phone home for help. My father, the Sheriff sent the patrol car that had been passing us while we were stranded roadside. The officer was not only an employee of the county and my father, but a lifelong friend of the family. I literally knew this guy from the time I was 5 yrs old. Obviously he hadn't recognized me. When we inquired why he didn't stop and attempt to assist us, his answer was simply, " I only saw 3 guys w/ long hair, I wasn't helping."
Why isn't there a special interest or a special interest group that defend the rights of a single, white, heterosexual male who chooses to wear his hair longer than most. There are anti-discrimination laws that protect every other "minority group" but those of us who exercise a freedom of expression called freedom of choice. And I feel it's about time there is. I do not wear my heart on my sleeve nor do I feel that I am a martyr of sorts. However, I do try my best to do my part as an activist to make society aware of such injustices.
I am proud to write about why I am a member of the Green Party. This is my political affiliation and I joined them because of their beliefs that reflect many of my own. Their platforms include, equal rights for all persons no matter their sexuality, race, religion or birthplace and justice not vengeance.
The organization endorses Nonviolence and effective alternatives to our current patterns of violence at all levels from the family and the street to nations and the world. They encourage ways to constructively use nonviolent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree and in the process reduce the atmosphere of selfishness that is itself a source of violence. . We encourage people to care about persons outside their own group. We promote the building of respectful, positive and responsible relationships across the lines of gender and other divisions.
The Green Party seems to be the only hope of correcting such hateful and bigoted attitudes toward personal freedoms. And whether or not anything is ever done to correct these heinous crimes against society, I shall forever continue to be a pain in the ass to those who are threatened by my freedom by proudly letting my freak flag fly.Posted by Alex Zander at November 18, 2002 09:13 AM