Lin, who has 2.45 million followers on Twitter and 1.3 million on Instagram, probably had a feeling backlash might occur — which is why he addressed it head on in a thoughtful blog post shared on The Players' Tribune. The athlete, who's played with the Nets for over a year, explained that he's grown his hair out and worn it in envelope-pushing styles, including cornrows, as a way to express himself. Back in Charlotte, where he played from 2015 to 2016, fellow player Kemba Walker gave him some guidance on how to care for his braids. And once Lin moved over to the Nets, teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson agreed to grow his hair out with him. Though he had plenty of internal support, Lin admits that cultural appropriation in regards to his hair wasn't something that immediately came to mind.
"Growing up, I’d only ever picked from one or two hairstyles," Lin wrote. "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 was another Nets staffer, Savannah Hart, who raised a point that resonated with him: "If it wasn’t my intention to be dismissive of another culture, then maybe it could be an opportunity to learn about that culture," he wrote.
Even if you're on the fence about Lin's new look, the essay is still phenomenal to us for many reasons. It underscores the value of having a strong support system — one that exists outside of the locker room. It's also refreshing to see men finding power within their beauty, too. But most importantly, it shows that Lin has an appreciation for the rich history of his hairstyle.
One Twitter user, who meant to be critical, actually made a fair point: "b4 wearing dreadlocks Jeremy lin asked a black dude 2 make sure it was ok. stupid. no race owns a hairstyle," the user wrote. And it's true. We can't stop the Kardashians from wearing "bobby pin headbands," or designers from sending models down the runway with yarn dreadlocks. However, we can continue to have open and honest dialogue about our perspectives, and Lin made a strong step in doing just that.
He said it best: "This process started out about hair, but it’s turned into something more for me... 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," Lin wrote. "Taking the time and energy to ask about the things we don’t know may be messy — but we don’t really have a choice. We can’t let our divisions get worse. 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."