NBA Superstar Jeremy Lin has been known to switching up his hairstyle quite often and during the Brooklyn Nets’ pre-season game against the New York Knicks, Lin debuted his new ‘do: dreadlocks.
Yet, despite the popularity of the style among professional athletes, Lin found himself obliged to dedicate an entire Players’ Tribune essay to explain his new hairstyle of choice.
In his post, Lin first revealed how changing his hairstyle in the past has been a liberating experience.
“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.”
Lin pointed out that although initially, he “didn’t see the connection between my own hair and cultural appropriation,” he knew, as an Asian American, how it felt when someone gets 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.”
Not wanting to commit the same mistakes to another culture, Lin said he began initiating conversations about it. He recalled that he had been especially curious about it all the way back since his days in Charlotte Hornets.
“I didn’t know much about braids, but Kemba helped me out. He even lent me one of his do-rags because I had no idea how to care for my braids or where to get a do-rag.”
His move to the Nets would further continue the conversation, where he learned more about it.
“When I first signed in Brooklyn, I remember talking to Rondae about hair. He told me he would grow his hair out with me — and that he’d get dreads with me. One time, Caris chose my braid design when I wasn’t sure what to get. Before this season, D-Lo, DeMarre and I discussed what the process of getting dreads is like — how painful the beginning process is, whether you could still rock a hat, how to maintain them, things like that.
Lin then continued: “A recent conversation I had with Savannah Hart, a Nets staff member who’s African-American, really resonated with me.”
“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.”
The talented point guard encouraged his readers further to offer what they thought about his decision, noting that he could be wrong in doing so.
“Maybe one day I’ll look back and laugh at myself, or even cringe. I don’t have the answers. But I hope the thing you take away from what I’m writing is not that everyone should feel free to get braids or dreads — or that one gesture can smooth over the real misunderstandings that exist in our society around race and cultural identity. Not at all.”
Still, Lin highlighted an opportunity on how his new hairstyle, more than the other ones he did before, could ignite conversations on more important topics, such as the differences between groups within a multicultural society.
“This process started out about hair, but it’s turned into something more for me … It’s easy to take things that we enjoy from other cultures — that’s one of the coolest things about a melting-pot society like ours. But I think we have to be careful that taking doesn’t become all we do. With all the division, political turmoil and senseless violence in our society right now, we need to talk to each other more than ever … Again, I may not have gotten it right with my idea to get dreads. But I hope that this is a start, not an end, to more dialogue about our differences. We need more empathy, more compassion, and less judgment. That takes actual work and communication. So let’s start now — please join me.”