Jeremy Lin’s Dreadlocks Are Not Problematic, They’re A Celebration Of Cultural Vibrancy

Jeremy Lin’s Dreadlocks Are Not Problematic, They’re A Celebration Of Cultural Vibrancy

The Taiwanese-American basketball star has been accused of cultural appropriation for getting dreadlocks. Here's what he said in response.
Helen Raleigh
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The last time Jeremy Lin was in the news, it was 2012. During his debut with the New York Knicks, he led the team on a seven-game winning streak, despite the fact that the teams’ star players were all injured at the time. As the first American of Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, he became an overnight sensation, known as “Lin-sanity.”

Lin left New York for Houston, and later joined the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte. In 2016, he came back to play for the Brooklyn Nets. But Lin is in the news again lately—not because of his shooting scores nor timely assists, but because of his new dreadlocks hairdo.

Former NBA player Kenyon Martin took issue with Lin’s new hairdo in an Instagram video (apparently Martin already deleted it at time of this essay). According to a Washington Post report, in the video, Martin accused Lin of “wanting to be black.” Martin went on to say,

“Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name Lin?… Let’s stop this, man, with these people, man. There is no way possible that he would have made it on one of our teams with that bulls–t goin’ on on his head.”

The social media community quickly posted a picture of Martin’s tattoo of a Chinese character on his arm.

In fact, before Lin got his new hairdo, he was so worried about being accused of “cultural appropriation,” he asked his teammates and African-American staff whether getting dreads would be an “insult,” or “cultural appropriation” to them. In the end, everyone supported Lin’s decision. So Lin and teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson went to the hair salon together and spent eight hours getting their hair done.

PC Culture Has Twisted Our Lives

Shortly after, Lin wrote a 1500-word essay for the PlayersTribune.com to explain his hairstyle choice. In his essay, Lin said, “Honestly, at first I was surprised anyone would care what I did with my hair.” He admitted that “At first I didn’t see the connection between my own hair and cultural appropriation.” As an Asian-American, Lin explained that he knew how cultural appropriation felt: “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.'”

He also said, “This process started out about hair, but it’s turned into something more for me… 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.”

Lin’s thoughtful essay didn’t stop Kenyon Martin from publicly accusing Lin of wanting to be black a few days later. But Lin responded with grace and kindness. He wrote to Martin,

“Hey man, it’s all good. You don’t have to like my hair and definitely entitled to your opinion. Actually i legit grateful you sharin it tbh [to be honest]. At the end of the day i appreciate that i have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos bc i think its a sign of respect. And i think as minorities, the more we appreciate each other cultures, the more we influence mainstream society.”

The fact that Lin had to write an essay explaining the thought-process behind his new hairdo, the back-and-forth with another NBA star about whether his hairdo constitutes “cultural appropriation,” and the fact that the major media outlets covered this whole saga as a news story show how far the PC culture has twisted our lives and the culture we live in.

No One Is Safe From The PC Police

The idea of “cultural appropriation” was once a sleepy academic idea. But it has recently gained mainstream awareness via social justice warriors. Cultural appropriation refers to “the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture” that “can be harmful or be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture.” While misrepresentation of other cultures does happen from time to time and can be harmful, it has been taken too far—like so many other things, i.e. micro-aggressions, trigger warnings, and safe spaces.

No one is safe from accusations of “cultural appropriation” nowadays. Whether you are a celebrity or an average Joe going about your merry life, overly sensitive culture police are everywhere, ensuring sure no one steps out of their culture lane to adopt something that is not “theirs.” Some on the left even refer to “culture appropriation” as “racial identity theft.”

Here’s a video of an African American woman explaining to a white student why he shouldn’t have an Afro-hairdo. Justin Beiber was told he shouldn’t have dreads either. Author Catherynne Valente was accused of “cultural appropriation” by adopting a Japanese-style LiveJournal username and for “writing about Slavic cultures” but not being a Russian. Fashion designer Stella McCartney was recently accused of exploiting African culture with her use of an Ankara print in her new collection at Paris Fashion week and for including only one African model on the runway.

Cultural Appropriation Gives Life Spice

If simply adopting something from another culture is a crime, we are all sinners: you may have had a Greek yogurt for breakfast this morning; picked up a latte (Italian) on your way to work when you’re in your Toyota RV4 (Japanese); from your LG smart phone (South Korean), you learned that a Japanese immigrant to Britain won the Nobel Prize for Literature from Sweden; you and your coworkers had burritos (Hispanic) for lunch; you stopped by your gym for a yoga (Indian) or Zumba (Hispanic) class after work; you picked up Chinese take-out for dinner; you made arrangement with friends to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (Irish); before you went to bed, you slipped into your favorite silk kimono.

You see, adopting something from another culture, and incorporating other cultural elements into your life, is unavoidable and natural. It’s what enriches our lives. No culture can survive in a vacuum. All the cultures we appreciate today are the result of cross pollination with other cultures over a long period of time. The true “originality” of a culture doesn’t exist. If we are forced to live within only the culture defined by our ethnicity or skin color, life will be very boring.

As Jeremy Lin said to Kenyon Martin, “i appreciate that i have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos bc i think its a sign of respect.” So can all the culture cops chill out? It’s all good, man.

I had my own run-in with culture appropriation recently. At a party, I introduced myself to another guest, saying that my name is Helen Raleigh. Without hesitation, he asked immediately, “What’s your native name?” Apparently, my Asian face doesn’t match a regular English name. I replied, “Madam Crazy Horse.” My apology to all the culture police out there for cultural appropriation, twice.

Helen Raleigh is a senior contributor to The Federalist. An immigrant from China, she is the owner of Red Meadow Advisors, LLC, and an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute in Colorado. She is the author of several books, including "Confucius Never Said" and "The Broken Welcome Mat." Follow Helen on Twitter @HRaleighspeaks, or check out her website: helenraleighspeaks.com.

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