October 6, 2017
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
If you’re like me you didn’t even know Jeremy Lin had dreadlocks. And if you’re really like me, you barely know who Lin is to begin with.
The 29-year-old Brooklyn Nets player has an affinity for his hair and he’s no stranger to debuting a new look at any given time.
But it was his recent decision to get dreadlocks, a style mostly associated with African-Americans, that has the NBA star speaking out.
In a letter titled, So…About My Hair in The Player’s Tribune, Lin reveals the reason behind getting locs and the incredible amount of speculation and conversation it would drum up.
“I had spent a lot of time in a box, worrying about other people’s opinions on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I wanted to stop basing my decisions so much on what strangers or critics might say about me. It was cool how something as simple as how I wore my hair could pull me out of my comfort zone and make me feel more free.”
The Asian-American athlete initially admitted that he “didn’t see the connection between my own hair and cultural appropriation.” But what he was very familiar with were people getting his culture wrong.
“I know how it feels when people don’t take the time to understand the people and history behind my culture. I’ve felt how hurtful it is when people reduce us to stereotypes of Bruce Lee or ‘shrimp fried rice.’ It’s easy to brush some of these things off as ‘jokes,’ but eventually they add up. And the full effect of them can make you feel like you’re worth less than others, and that your voice matters less than others.”
Over the years Lin had several conversations with his Black teammates and although they all supported whatever style he wanted to wear (some even grew their hair out and helped pick his braid designs), he didn’t want his decision to get dreadlocks to offend people. He then spoke to an African-American woman on the Nets staff to get her perspective.
“I told her about my thought process — how I was really unsure about getting dreads because I was worried I’d be appropriating black culture. She said that if it wasn’t my intention to be dismissive of another culture, then maybe it could be an opportunity to learn about that culture.”
Let’s be real. It’s just hair. And while some will say Lin shouldn’t have to “get permission” from Black people or even go so far as to explain himself in an open letter, it was highly commendable of him to do so. It shows respect for the African-American culture when so often we are forgotten in the very narrative we created.
And THAT is the difference between cultural appropriation and genuinely appreciating another culture.
TELL US: Does Jeremy Lin’s hair offend you or do you appreciate his openness about his decision?