White Rastafarians? By Nick Poole

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White Rastafarians?
By Nick Poole

When you think about the word “Rastafarian”, you probably imagine a Jamaican man with dark skin and dreadlocks… as a matter of fact, you probably think about Bob Marley. This wouldn’t be an inappropriate association, after-all, Bob Marley is probably the most internationally recognized practitioner of Rastafari. However, not all rastas these days are from Jamaica, and there is even a small but growing population of Caucasian practitioners. No, I’m not talking about teenaged skateboarders who smoke marijuana and listen to reggae music, I’m talking about real, deeply religious, white rastas. Now, depending on how much you know about Rastafari, you’re either wondering, “How does a White person join the Rasta faith?” or you’re wondering, “What’s the big deal?”. I think it may be wise to first address the latter.

Let’s start with a little history of the religion. Rastafari is a relatively new religion, which finds it’s beginnings in the early 1930s, surrounding the coronation of Haile Selassie I as the Emperor of Ethiopia. The word “Rastafari” actually comes from his pre-coronation name: Tafari Makonnen (“Ras” is an Ethiopian title, literally translated to “head”, but more precisely equated to “Duke”). Rastafari began when it was suggested that the coronation of Haile Selassie I as the Emperor of the only fully independent African State fulfilled Biblical prophecy. People of the Rastafari Faith believe that Haile Selassie I is God incarnate, and refer to him as HIM or His Imperial Majesty. The faith is deeply Afro centric, and maintains that Ethiopia is “Zion”. For a short period of time near it’s origin, the faith was not only afro centric, but Black supremacist. This notion of racism towards whites didn’t last very long, as Haile Selassie himself publicly condemned racism. Rastafari is also well known for the practice of smoking Ganja as the sacrament. Which drives many people to wonder, are white rastas real people of faith, or are they just in it for the marijuana?

Well, there’s no question that many people are attracted to the prospect of a religion where marijuana use is not only accepted but widely encouraged. However, A person can’t just dreadlock their hair, smoke ganja, and call themselves a Rasta. Rastafari is a real faith which is earning respect in the theological world as a religion that pulls a lot of weight. It was a beacon of Hope to the poor population of Jamaica in the 1930s and has continued to minister to the under-privileged today. It teaches solid values such as Positivity, Faith, Meditation, and “overstanding”, the Rasta word for understanding which was changed to have a more positive connotation. It warns against the potential danger of corrupt “Babylon” society, and has been instrumental in driving political change. It’s been just as influential in Jamaica as Christianity, and thanks to the Rasta influenced Reggae music of Bob Marley and other popular artists, it’s increasing in global influence.

Rastafari sounds like a fine faith, why is it so strange that a white person would want to be part of it? Bottom line is that it’s not. It may seem strange from the outside, seeing as the majority of Rastas are black. Many people would also argue that because it is an afro centric religion, white people have no place in it. Well, according to that logic, all Christians should be middle-eastern. The truth of the matter is that, in theory, even a White man could preach Afro centrism. While most white men weren’t physically “taken” from Africa, and forced into slavery, modern science fairly universally supports that all life started in Africa. Given the power of that statement, it isn’t hard to see how Africa found it’s place as the center of Rasta faith.

The question is though, In a faith which preaches the rejection of corrupt white culture, how are white patrons received? There seems to be conflict in the Rasta community. Many rastas are skeptical when they meet or hear of a white person who claims to be Rasta. They assume, naturally, that they came to Rasta through listening to reggae music, or worse, as a way of justifying their misuse of the sacrament. There also seems to be a fundamental distrust of white people, and historically for good reason. A true Rasta would say that all man is equal, and every body, white and black, came from Africa, so it is only natural that All people, regardless of race or color, turn to Rastafari for the “highest truth and overstanding”. However, the common sentiment among rastas is that whites cannot understand the “black struggle”, As they were never taken from their homeland and enslaved. But surely, anyone who really cares about the human race on the whole can appreciate the need to stop violent acts like this. After all, Rastafari itself teaches that all people are one with God, Or “Jah” as they say (Derived from jahweh of the old testament).

In modern Rastafari, especially more contemporary sects such as the Twelve Tribes, White rastas are welcomed. Anyone who believes that there needs to be a fundamental change in the way society treats the “down-pressed” and in the way man views and interacts with one another is encouraged to join the faith. Real rastas are peaceful people who overstand the need for equality in the world, and so they extend that principle even to the faith itself, All men are equal in Rastafari. Some Jamaican rastas are even excited to meet white rastas, as they bring a new point of view to the reasoning sessions, and also because they stand as a symbol of whites acknowledging the wrongs of their ancestors and rejecting “Babylon”.

All in all, white Rastafarians are out there, and they’re no less devoted to Rasta than the first Rastas of Jamaica. So next time you ask a white man his religion, and he tells you he is Rasta, don’t laugh, It may not be a joke.


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103 thoughts on “White Rastafarians? By Nick Poole”

  1. My previous statment had nothing to do with the validity of black suffering. Many people have been oppressed and are being oppresed. My people were almost completly wiped out! I have no grudge in my heart because it is to heavey. Love and compassion are eternal and real. I will hedge my bet there. You cannot break it. For all you warriors out their I suggest dropping the hate and get in line with true glory that is forever and ever.

  2. I’m sorry but I totally disagree with this.

    1st Rastafari is a lifestyle NOT a religion

    2nd This mentions nothing of The honorable Marcus Messiah Garvey who we view as a prophet who foretold of the coming of Haile Selassie.

    3rd The goal of all Rastas is reparation back to Afraka, white people weren’t stolen from Afraka so……where are going back to???

    4th White “Rastas” are already perverting the basic principles of Rastafari and bending them so that they can fit in. Haile Selassie as a Afrakan king is the physical incarnation of God, just as many Kemetic pharaohs were, but don’t use his quotes to eliminate the afro-centric and pan afrakan base of Rastafari.

    There are certain organizations and groups that are culture specific and Rastafari is one of them. Any white person who TRULY respects the movement will respect that they can’t be part of it. As a Afrakan I know I could never join an Irish, Italian or Asian organization. So could our white brothers and sisters please respect us enough to allow us to finally have a culture and organization that is for us, by us and for the benefit of us?H.I.M believes in equality and in 2015 the Afrakan is still not equal due to white supremacy and well meaning white people who infiltrate our movements under the guise of support. Again, if you respect us you’ll totally understand why white people have no place in Rastafari culture.

    Peace and Blessings

    1. Have you never heard of the black Irish? My goodness. Why would you want to perpetuate being racist? If a white person is drawn to being Rasta, embrace them for gosh sake.

      1. could not agree more. Maybe some white rastas are bending or whatever, maybe. But I was taught as a child never to tar everyone with the same brush.

        Rasta is for everyone, anyone who chooses to embrace the beautiful way of life must be embraced because to do it any differently would be ungodly.

        The world must unite in peace, love and harmony, no half measures will bring peace to the earth, we must all unite and if white people embrace the ting and want to help bring unity to this earth, how dare anyone come with any kind of negative talk.

        I know white rastas who are living right and I know black rastas who are only rastas in name and appearance, race is not important at all. A loving heart and knowledgeable mind are what counts.


        1. I was converting to a Rasta. Because of the love and acceptation. I hope I don’t run across a racist one like that. I’m bringing it to the south, in my town. I was becoming it for the peace, love, the way they never call things mine or say we instead of I. To get the “highest truth and over-standing”. For the healthy way of life with a pure mind, body, and spirit. A lot of the things I already believed in and is my way of life.

        2. I am so happy someone finally had it in their heart to speak some truth. Jah is the one who would want all our brothers and sisters to come together and live together in peace and harmony no matter the color of their skin. I believe that yes the white man has done and is continuing to discrimination and not fully understand the way things should really be . We all need to get together and live in harmony praising Jah and thanking him for all he has done. No matter the color on your skin if you truly believe in the Rastafarian way and live your life the right way and for Jah then everyone can live the life meant for us all. <3

          PS. I do also agree that people should not be so ignorant and saying they are Rasta when clearly they're just in it for the Ganja and the style. Get it right or leave. Ganja isn't just used to "get stoned" it's used for peace among us all and countless other things for the rasta people. And our colors we wear proud to show our loyalty and passion we have for what we are.

          May peace and Jah be with you all!!!

    2. You have a very strange view of equality to say that a man cannot join a movement due to the colour of his skin. We all came from Africa in the beginning be it if we were taken as slaves or left 60,000 years ago to populate the rest of the world. Your race seperates you from someone else as much as the colour of your hair does. White Rastas aren’t stopping black people from being Rastas and we’ll probably always be a minority in the religion but we have cause to be here as well.

  3. I’m confused by the statements made here. Let’s forget skin color for a moment, and talk about the concept of Babylon. Babylon is the curse of being removed from a land and forced into accepting the ways of another culture. The aim is to reject Babylon, reject that culture. How, if not affected by a diaspora, can you reject the culture? To what culture can you return? I grew up seeing West African cultures seep through and into my Caribbean cultures. I am learning of African cultures in Black American cultures now, as an adult. When I reject Babylon, I think of adhering to these old, ancient customs that persist, customs that rebuild an ancient identity.
    The goal for a Rasta is to heal from historic, ancestral pain, and nurture a soul to purity. The path for someone who is not a child of diaspora is different, and won’t fit in the Rasta path through and through. The love that comes from non-diasporic people who wish to embrace Rastafari mentality is BEAUTIFUL, no one is refuting that. However, love also means seeing and speaking with honesty of the heart. To want to be a Rasta for some personal benefit, and to do so by ignoring a very central point of contemplation and healing, is a dishonesty that should be discussed. Instead, the attempt to discuss it is called racist, because one’s personal feelings are being put before the movement and healing of a people.
    I do not understand how some here can say, “oh it’s racist to consider someone’s ancestral background that’s central to this religion,” and in the same beat say, “don’t be a Rasta for the Ganja alone.” The argument is the same! Don’t be a Rasta for the Ganja alone, and don’t be a Rasta and expect to ignore the role of racial history. Both are demanding respect–one for a people, one for a plant. I see that one argument is grasped easily, and the other spurs fierce argument. Armor yourself with love and you’ll find the discussion of race is not 1) an attack on you personally, 2) central to healing from diasporic pain. (Diasporic pain, btw, also affects the displacers, just differently than it does the displaced.)

    One love.

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