A white Hastings business owner with dreadlocks says attacks by online trolls calling him racist are affecting his mental health and business.
Elliot Locke is one of many people subjected to online abuse and damning reviews of his company, Dreads UK, by these so-called ‘social justice warriors’.
The 33-year-old entrepreneur said he and others in the dreadlock community are suffering with panic attacks and newcomers are being put off.
“It’s left me quite anxious a lot of the time, I have anxiety tablets for panic attacks,” he said.
“It’s quite overwhelming particularly online when there’s 2,000 people on this hate group. It gets quite overwhelming when you try to give a reasoned response.”
“It’s mentally and financially draining, and affecting the business, its the reputation side of it that’s the worst thing. And people wanting to get dreadlocks for the first time come and see these negative things and get scared.”
The trolls, of various races, argue dreadlocks are part of black culture and should not be worn by non-black people, which they call ‘cultural appropriation’.
Mr Locke and many others disagree as they say dreadlocks are referenced in Shakespeare, described as ‘Elflocks’ in Romeo and Juliet, and are a part of English folklore.
Dreads UK’s Facebook page was bombarded with negative reviews from foreign accounts with no links to the company, which Mr Locke believes are fake in an attempt to discredit the business.
The owner, who was homeless for many years before starting the business with the help of youth charity The Prince’s Trust, said his mental health has deteriorated as a result of the trolls.
Other dreadlock-related companies have been victims of similar slander including Dawn Of The Dread which received 68 one-star reviews in 24 hours filled with hate-filled messages accusing it of racism.
Both accounts have turned off their review sections and Mr Locke even called one of the reviewer’s listed place of work, according to their Facebook page, but was told they no longer worked there.
“We are hard working people paying taxes and trying to get by but these people who are hateful are trying to bring us down,” he said.
“Anyone should be able to wear dreadlocks regardless of race.”
Mr Locke wrote an article on his website explaining more about the attacks and the issues surrounding cultural appropriation, which can be read here.
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