You can infer a lot about a person by language and word usage. When I read Jeremy Lin’s article in Player’s Tribune, I knew the eventual backlash about the appropriation of black culture wasn’t far off. The discussion of an Asian American man’s decision to wear dreadlocks, a hairstyle that is traditionally associated with Africans of Caribbean and American nativity, has made several rounds on the recent news cycle, though with less intensity in subsequent stints on social media.
As the story took its obligatory lumps around the digital-sphere via blog posts and social media diatribes, I read the article yet again. Perhaps looking to tap into the simmering disdain for Lin’s hair that has infected otherwise intelligent black folks everywhere, I took special care to look at the words he chose to use.
Indeed, his overture toward black teammates, staff and friends for guidance during his journey was more respectful toward those who inspired his desire to get dreadlocks than appropriators normally are.
Jeremy Lin scores 7 points and had 7 assists along with 3 rebounds in another easy Nets pre-season victory. I also decided to add some highlights of the Nets to showcase how the team is gelling in pre-season. Good to see Crabbe and LeVert back in action.
His teammates, Kemba Walker, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll taught Lin all about his black hair care needs at various stages of his development. Walker introduced him to the venerable doo-rag, while Hollis-Jefferson, anticipating Lin would ask, grew his hair out in support of his teammate’s decision. D’Angelo Russell and Carroll gave him an idea of what to expect.
He even went so far as to seek out guidance from Nets staff member Savannah Hart, a black woman who then directed him to All Hair Matters Salon owner Nancy Moreau. My point in naming each and every black person that Lin confided in is to point out that Lin reached out for counsel from black folks he trusted, and they advised him positively. It was not only an act of camaraderie but also of respect, both from Lin to black folk and vice versa.
“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. 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.” Jeremy Lin to Players Tribune
Who is anyone to question his sincerity or his right to wear his hair as he pleases? I've written several articles lambasting the history of cultural appropriation in America and how it drives the mainstream culture, not unlike how a deep subsurface current circulates cold water throughout the world, so too is black culture dispersed globally. I purposefully did not use the word steal, though much of it was. And in those instances in which the greedy conspired to usurp black property and culture, I’ll bet a minor limb that none of them asked. Lin should get a pass just for that.
But former NBA player Kenyon Martin did come for Lin with a video posted to social media, stating he believed Lin “wants to be black”.
The Brooklyn Nets point guard wasn't interested in staring a beef with the former New Jersey Nets forward over allegations of cultural appropriation.
Lin responded like a camouflaged sniper, pointing out Martin’s tattoo of Chinese letters. Since then, Martin and Lin have peaced things up. But folks really should learn to reserve their consternation for when it’s truly needed. Like, the shell game surrounding the National Anthem, patriotism and the NFL.
Indeed, it’s obvious that Lin is like many Americans, deeply influenced by black culture in his youth, and that influence obviously followed him into adulthood. Not for nothing, but he’s an Asian American dude in the NBA, with a black best friend in Landry Fields, who said the very black city of Charlotte, North Carolina was his favorite place to play thus far in his career, and who listens to Christian rap lyricist extraordinaire LeCrae at 3 o’clock in the morning.
He should get a pass. In fact, a six-pack worth.