Comedian rejected for shows after dreadlocks deemed ‘cultural appropriation’

Comedian Zach Poitras has been excluded from a show at the Coop les Récoltes because of his hairstyle. Zach Poitras/Facebook

An aspiring Montreal comedian has been told he cannot take part in shows at a university bar because his dreadlocks are a form of cultural appropriation.

The Coop les Récoltes, a bar and solidarity co-operative at the Université du Quebec à Montréal, confirmed on Facebook its decision to exclude Zach Poitras because of his hairstyle.

READ MORE: Disney trademarks ‘hakuna matata,’ petition says it’s cultural appropriation

Poitras, who was also denied a spot at the Snowflake Comedy Club and another evening of “engaged humour,” declined comment on the situation.

WATCH BELOW: Student with dreadlocks confronted for ‘cultural appropriation’

Click to play video: 'Caught on camera: White student with dreadlocks confronted for ‘cultural appropriation’' Caught on camera: White student with dreadlocks confronted for ‘cultural appropriation’
Caught on camera: White student with dreadlocks confronted for ‘cultural appropriation’ – Mar 30, 2016

The bar is operated by the UQAM branch of the Public Interest Research Group, which focuses on environmental and social issues.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Quebec playwright Robert Lepage promises ‘to do better’ after SLAV controversy

In its Facebook statement, the co-operative says its mission is to be “a safe space, free of relationships of oppression.” It describes cultural appropriation as a form of violence.

“We will not tolerate any discrimination or harassment within our spaces,” it says.

It defines cultural appropriation as when “someone from a dominant culture appropriates symbols, clothing or hairstyles that come from historically dominated cultures.”

WATCH BELOW: What is cultural appropriation

Click to play video: 'What is cultural appropriation' What is cultural appropriation
What is cultural appropriation – Jul 5, 2018

It adds that wearing dreadlocks is “a privilege” for a white person, whereas a black person with the same hair “is going to find himself refused access to job opportunities or spaces (apartments, schools, parties, sports competitions, etc.)”

Story continues below advertisement

Even if the person wearing dreadlocks is not racist himself, the group adds, the chosen hairstyle “conveys racism.”

READ MORE: ‘Blackfishing’: A problematic trend where people pretend to be black

It calls cultural appropriation “a form of passive oppression, a privilege to be deconstructed and in particular a manifestation of ordinary racism.”

Last summer, actor Zac Efron was accused of cultural appropriation after posting a photo of himself with dreadlocks on social media along with the caption, “just for fun.”

WATCH BELOW: Cultural appropriation on popular Québécois show?

Click to play video: 'Cultural appropriation on popular Québécois show?' Cultural appropriation on popular Québécois show?
Cultural appropriation on popular Québécois show? – Jan 3, 2019

Singer Justin Bieber faced similar criticism in 2016 when he posted photos of himself with dreadlocked blond hair.

Greg Robinson, a UQAM professor specializing in black history, compared the wearing of dreadlocks by whites to the widely denounced practice of actors wearing blackface to portray characters of colour.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ‘Our work is not over’: Montreal group opposing controversial slave show calls for discussion, diversity

“What I mean is that it is whites who dress up as blacks to make fun of them,” he said, adding that even when the intention is not mockery but embracing another culture, one has to be careful.

“It’s like the N-word. Blacks can use it among themselves, but if someone from outside uses it, even if he wants to be like blacks, among blacks, there is still an aspect that remains rooted in history.”

The Coop les Récoltes did not respond to an interview request.

Sponsored content