Can You Be a White Rasta?

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Can You Be a White Rasta?

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You feel concerned by the Rasta culture and you would like to know if everyone can be concerned? Have you heard about discrimination against non-black Rasta people? You would like to know if it is possible to be a white rasta ?

You are perfectly within your rights, there is no stupid question. You are not the only one to have these questions. I am Caroline, editor at Rastafari-market since the beginning and passionate about the Rastafari culture. During my numerous travels and meetings with real practitioners of the Rastafarian belief, I had the opportunity to ask myself these same questions. It is thus by trying to be as objective as possible that I wrote this article in order to bring you some answers.

For some illegitimate and ridiculous, for others absolutely normal and accepted, the white rastaman is not unanimous. Although initially founded to answer a malaise of the black people, the Rastafarianism evolved and reached the world thanks to the reggae artists such as Bob Marley. Following the Rastafari concepts, it is quite possible to be a White Rasta.

Throughout this article, you will discover :

  • The basics of Rastafarianism
  • Where did the first white rastas come from and since when
  • The trials they face
  • What do the Rastafarian principles say about it?

Ready to get started on this much-debated topic? Let's get started !

1- Rastas and their beliefs

Some Rastafarians believe in Jah, the God of Rastafarians. These followers believe that Haile Selassie I is a divine incarnation. His role in the resistance against the Italian occupation of Ethiopia gave him a spiritual power without equivalent. Moreover, Rastafarians consider the African continent as their Zion, the promised land that symbolizes harmony, freedom, uniqueness and noble values. As opposed to Babylon, which reflects the greedy, avaricious and perverse West.

For the believers of this movement, Africa represents their roots and they must return there. Besides, some Rasta groups have settled in the Ethiopian town of Shashemene. This town is a gift from the Ethiopian king Haile Selassie I to the rastas, who attended his coronation in 1930. This event took place in St. George's Cathedral in Addis Ababa. Since then, they have had a special attachment to this land.

2- Does a white rasta exist?

Considering the origins of Rastafarianism, their beliefs and their philosophy, it is obvious to believe that this movement is reserved for blacks whether they are Americans, Caribbean or Africans. But over the years, mentalities have changed, especially with the international spread of the Rasta message, thanks to artists like Bob Marley.  It is thus very naturally that the first white Rastas appeared, deeply sharing the values of freedom and unity that the Rastafari movement advocates.

    a) The appearance of white rastas

Thanks to reggae music, which became popular in the 60s and 70s, the world became familiar with this musical genre, its icons like Bob Marley, but also the Jamaican culture. In this regard, the ideas and beliefs of the country were exported to the youth of the time, especially regarding Rastafarianism. Many young people in the United States, Europe and Asia joined the movement and adopted this way of life. European youth in general and British youth in particular were greatly influenced especially after Bob Marley's concert in England. European countries saw the appearance of white heads with Rasta braids and dreadlocks.


   b) The misunderstood and sometimes despised white Rastafarian

The glorious period of Rastafarianism was in the 70s, with the infatuation of Europeans for this philosophy. Many passionately adopted all the Rastafarian codes and symbols necessary to become Rasta. They are generally from the middle classes and are captivated by reggae and Rasta culture. They are passionate young people who wear a questionable hairstyle, according to society's perception. They are often subject to speculation and even animosity from those around them. They find it difficult to be accepted for the simple reason that their aesthetic code is different and that they believe in Jah. The rejection can start at home, with parents who don't understand this belief or philosophy, and it extends to school and then to work. Being a white Rasta is not as easy as it seems. Poor copy for some, marginal for others or identity complex, there is a lot of criticism of these people who just want to live their life as they want, in peace.

Despite the decline in the number of white Rastas compared to the 1970s, there are still followers who defend their lifestyle and faith, enjoying reggae music and keeping in touch with other Rastas.

   c) A question of Rasta faith, values and lifestyle

White Rastafarians, like Black Rastafarians, believe in Jah and see Haile Selassie as the king of kings. They listen to the most rootsy reggae hits and use the language common to their counterparts around the world. It is not surprising to hear some of them adopt a Jamaican accent when speaking French or English. In addition to this, they apply all the codes and rituals that are dear to them. So many points that define their identity and their belonging to the Rasta movement.



Despite this, many of these Rastamans feel marginalized. They live a paradoxical existence where everyone aspires to be recognized and accepted in their environment and yet, they have to fight to claim their right to exist freely. It must be said that they undergo a strong social pressure, even more so when they are in a group. Their presence can be annoying and they are quickly considered as marginal.

What accentuates their isolation is that Jamaican "new-school" music no longer inspires peace as it once did. Moreover, several songs use violent lyrics illustrating anti-white racism and even homophobia. We are far from the roots reggae which has become an outdated and folkloric legend for some. Fortunately, this concerns a minority. But it is already too much.

Even the dreadlocks are not as present as they used to be. Nowadays, it is possible to buy a hat with fake dreads sewn on, to look like a pseudo-Rasta. Things that tarnish the image of this movement and its philosophy.

3- A cultural or social crisis?

How many times have white Rastas been the object of mockery and gratuitous malice. Criticized for their hairstyle, their look, their rasta clothes and accessories. Some go as far as taking pictures to comment meanly on social networks. The white rasta becomes the target to take down without thinking too much about it. On twitter and other social networks, this behavior has become fashionable, throwing criticism and spitting venom.

No one escapes this treatment including Zach Poitra. This Canadian comedian got kicked out of a venue because of his dreads. This hairstyle, which is a Rasta symbol, was a privilege in the 70s and even 80s. At that time, it was a sign of progressive multiculturalism for white people to wear it. But today, the white Rasta is denied his right to hair and cultural freedom.

It is important to remember that the Rastafari culture, philosophy or belief is based on values such as freedom and uniqueness. Everyone is free to adopt a style or look and be part of a united and supportive community. This is the spirit of the Rastafarians who believe in Zion the promised land, and all the other noble values such as solidarity, sharing and the right to be different. These are denigrated once again by Western society. 

Friends rastas, as said so well reggae legend Bob Marley:

« As long as skin color is more important than eye color, we will not know peace »
Let us love one another.

4- A world for all rastas

As you will have understood, the subject is still a matter of debate according to the different points of view of people. The most important thing is that for you, by respecting the precepts of the Rastafari movement, you accept everyone and consider them as your brothers. Regardless of their skin color or origin.

So you know now that the first white Rastas were born in the 70's thanks to the spread of the roots reggae culture in Europe. You also know that for some of them, it's not always easy either, and that they have their own struggle. And finally, you know that it is of course possible to be a white rasta according to the ideological concepts of the rasta movement.

Continue the fight against social and racial injustices on a daily basis in order to always advocate solidarity and equality. For this, the clothes you wear sometimes have more impact than your actions or words. That's why we recommend you this beautiful T-Shirt with these two famous and internationally respected words. Don't hesitate, be proud of your love for Rastafarianism.

1 comment

  • David R Cavall

    Great article—very helpful.

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