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Why Jeremy Lin’s Dreadlocks Are More Than Justified

Kenneth Dao ‘20, Contributor

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Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American NBA player, has turned fans’ heads over the past few seasons with his unorthodox hairstyles. His hairstyles have ranged from a mohawk to a man bun to double ponytails to braids. It can be stated with certainty that Lin uses the top of his head as a canvas, on which he has demonstrated his mastery in the art of self expression. However, one particular controversy has risen with his current piece of art on display: dreadlocks. A former Nets player, Kenyon Martin, coarsely criticized Lin and accused him of cultural appropriation on an Instagram video, saying, “Do I need to remind this damn boy his last name Lin?” Martin went on to say, “Come on man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘Alright bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But your last name is Lin.” Lin responded to these comments with gratitude, saying, “It’s all good, you don’t have to like my hair and are entitled to your opinion. Actually I’m legit grateful for you sharing it tbh (to be honest).” Lin then expressed a call for unity and tolerance as he said, “And I think as minorities, the more we appreciate each other’s cultures, the more we influence mainstream society.” This exchange has raised thoughtful conversations regarding if Lin is in the right or wrong for sporting the controversial hairstyle. Many support Lin in his decision to wear dreadlocks, but many others agree that Lin is culturally appropriating and needs to receive some type of hostility for his decision. Although dreadlocks are indubitably a symbol of African American culture, there are three main reasons for why it is not only justifiable for Lin to wear them, but honorable.

The first reason is that his commitment to change his hairstyle was a premeditated action; it was not a spontaneous feeling that he acted on. According to The Players’ Tribune, Lin contemplated the benefits and consequences for months before entering the barbershop and requesting a change to dreadlocks. If Lin had acted on his impulse, the situation would be significantly different, as a lack of concern would have been clearly represented. Lin believed that the sincere discussions that people would be having regarding his hairstyle outweighed the potential resentment he would receive.

Secondly, the way one styles his or her hair is undeniably a symbol of self-expression which can allow others to arrive at conclusions and make judgments of that person. Therefore, if Lin knew that people would make assumptions about him based on his hair, then he would not have done anything to jeopardize his reputation, unless he knew the reward trumped the risk. Lin wearing dreadlocks is representative of the high regard he has for the hairstyle, because he knows he will be negatively judged, but is willing to endanger his status to make a statement.

Naturally, humans seek acceptance and attempt to avoid embarrassment. However, there is a small minority that does not care about others’ opinions. In reality, this group uses their created illusion of indifference to mask the concern for their reputation. It can be stated with conviction that this small group of people are the most troubled with their place in society. Lin is not in that minority, but rather he has accepted the judgments of others and used them to further develop people’s liking of him, invalidating the argument that he is impudent towards African American culture.

Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian civil rights leader, once said, “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” This brings up the third and final point. How can American culture hope to thrive without any kind of syncretism? Well, it can’t. Lin’s bold decision to combine a cultural African African aspect with his Asian traditions and fan base is the epitome of a leader within a minority group. Both races struggle with their respective problems in America, but Lin offers a topic—his hairstyle—through which minority groups can hopefully find unity and common ground. In order to truly comprehend other cultures, one must experience them in proximity and incorporate their appropriate parts into their own lives.

Lin has sparked much-needed discussion among minorities in America, which hopefully will leave all to ponder deeper questions regarding race and culture in America, and encourage minority groups to take small steps of progression towards a more culturally diverse America.


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Why Jeremy Lin’s Dreadlocks Are More Than Justified