Durag History And The Criminalization Of Black Culture

black male in a durag
Briona Lamback
January 9, 2022

Durags have been a staple in Black culture since the 1970s, when they were popularized. While we were trying to get waves and/or protect our hair, racists were enraged by this rejection of white beauty standards.

In the 90s and early ’00s, durags were everywhere, and naturally, they became a part of Black culture. Rappers wore them, and Allen Iverson was known for rocking his on the court – until white supremacy stepped in.

The 1994 crime bill and NYC’s stop and frisk policy encouraged the rise of “respectability politics” – the lie that if we just acted “respectable,” we’d be safe from racism. Stop and frisk was another way to profile Black people who fit their anti-Black descriptions of criminality.

Due to the cultural popularity of durags, they got swept into “criminal” stereotypes, and durags quickly became a state-sanctioned symbol of criminality.

By 2005, both the NFL and NBA banned durags, with the NBA citing durags as “safety hazards.” But we all know this move was racist. Allen Iverson even spoke out about how he felt targeted. 

Despite white supremacy’s attempt to vilify Black culture, many of our people continue to rock durags publicly. Today, there’s even Durag History Week and Durag Fest!

Whether we rock a durag or not, we must continue to reject white beauty standards, respectability politics, and the criminalization of our culture.

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