Is it racist to ask a black man with dreadlocks for drugs?


The New York Times had a long front page article about a gay black man named Isaiah Lopaz living in Berlin who is so irritated by racism that he wears shirts with the questions he gets asked, one of them being does he know where narcotics can be bought.

Mr. Lopaz used to have long dreadlocks. It wasn't until he cut them off that people, mostly, stopped asking him for narcotics. But he thinks it's racist to ask a black man with dreadlocks for drugs.

Mr. Lopaz, who speaks conversational German, used to have dreadlocks, and nearly every time he went out, he was approached for drugs. He would be at a bar or an art opening, and friends of acquaintances would ask him if he had drugs. In the summer of 2007, soon after he moved to Berlin, two people followed him around a grocery store before approaching him.

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At some point I just cut my hair. I cut it for lots of reasons, but I also knew that if I cut my hair I bet this is going to go away. The truth is that it didn’t go away completely, but the frequency of people coming up to me and asking me for drugs, it lessened.

Yes, I was dealing with people asking me for drugs, but there were lots of other more invasive forms of racism. To cut my hair and have one less thing, it actually was a big blessing for me.

Mr Lopaz also complained of other forms of racism, saying that when people invited him to parties, they would ask him to bring African food.

Even worse, gay Germans did not accept him, because gay Germans are racist against blacks.

I think that what keeps other gay people from recognizing my sexuality is the fact that I am black. I find that very strange; it’s something that only happens in Germany.

It happens when I go to a gay club, and they say, “You know this is for gay people, right?”

But his main complaint is that people think that he, being black with dreadlocks, is automatically a drug dealer.

It seems to me that drug dealers, of all races, have certain characteristics in common. They wear very baggy pants. They have big tattoos. They are often unshaven. They think the front of baseball caps are actually the back and vice versa. And yes, they also have unruly hair, regardless of whether they are black, white, or undocumented drug workers. People stopped asking Mr. Lopaz if he sold drugs when he cut his hair and started looking respectable. So what's racist about that?

Exit Question: If you were looking for narcotics, would you feel guilty for going up to a black man with a giant 'fro wearing baggy pants hanging around on a street corner and asking if he has anything "new from Kandahar?"



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