‘As an Asian-American I know about cultural appropriation’ – NBA star Jeremy Lin writes 1,500-word essay about his new haircut

The Brooklyn Nets player thought long and hard about whether it would be appropriate to get dreadlocks, he writes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 October, 2017, 11:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 October, 2017, 11:08am

Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American basketball player, has a new haircut – and he’s written a 1,500-word essay to discuss it.

In an article on the Players’ Tribune website titled ‘So ... About My Hair’, Lin talks about how he wrestled over whether he should get dreadlocks, or if that would be “cultural appropriation” and insulting to other players in the NBA, most of whom are African-American.

Some might see the piece as an example of America’s uber-PC environment, where anything and everyone is seemingly open to attack on social media for not ‘behaving’ the ‘right’ way.

Others might see it as simple narcissism – why on earth would we care so much about your haircut?

But the article is an interesting and insightful read, as Lin touches on issues of race and culture that are obviously to the fore in the US, and invites fans to discuss the issues with him.

“I’ll be honest: At first I didn’t see the connection between my own hair and cultural appropriation,” writes Lin.

“Growing up, I’d only ever picked from one or two hairstyles that were popular among my friends and family at the time.

We start talking because of dreads, and now he is finally getting it.

A post shared by Gn Chan (@ggnchan) on Oct 3, 2017 at 7:30pm PDT

“But as an Asian-American, I do know something about cultural appropriation. I know what it feels like when people get my culture wrong.

“I know how much it bothers me when Hollywood relegates Asian people to token sidekicks, or worse, when it takes Asian stories and tells them without Asian people. 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.”

Lin says he discussed with fellow players and African-American staff about the process of getting dreads and whether it would be “cultural appropriation”.

Eventually he and teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson went together and spent eight hours getting their hair done.

“This process started out about hair, but it’s turned into something more for me,” adds Lin.

“I’m really grateful to my teammates and friends for being willing to help me talk through such a difficult subject, one that I’m still learning about and working my way through.

“Over the course of the last few years and all these hairstyles, I’ve learned that there’s a difference between ‘not caring what other people think’ and actually trying to walk around for a while in another person’s shoes.

“The conversations I had weren’t always very comfortable, and at times I know I didn’t say the right things.

“But I’m glad I had them – because I know as an Asian-American how rare it is for people to ask me about my heritage beyond a surface level.”