By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Jeremy Lin’s dreadlocks cause stir and discussion about appropriation
Since making it to the NBA from Harvard, Jeremy Lin has experimented with several types of hairstyles. Last year, he went with a faux hawk, the man bun, the slick back style, braids, cornrows, and the bowl cut. This season, Jeremy Lin has dreadlocks. The Brooklyn Nets point guard consulted with multiple people, including teammates and staff, about the process and decided to go through with it. While this may be seen as a fashion statement, it drew the ire of former NBA player Kenyon Martin. In a social media post, Martin wanted to remind Lin that he was Asian, with the inference that only Black people can have dreadlocks. He stated that Lin just wanted “to be Black.” Martin has since apologized stating that the comments were a light-hearted joke, although it blew up more than just a “ha ha” joke.
In an essay for The Player’s Tribune entitled “So…About My Hair,” Lin gave a respectful, introspective view of the appropriation of the hairstyle. Lin was respectful in his reply to Martin. Instead of “clapping back” (responding to social media criticism with a usual similar reply), he noted that Martin had Chinese tattoos, which Lin believed is a sign of respect and that “the more we appreciate each other’s (sic) cultures, the more we influence mainstream society.”
In addition to his social media comments, Lin gave a thoughtful look at why he experiments with different hairstyles. “The whole point was for me to enjoy being myself, no matter the reaction.” He addressed the issue of cultural appropriation, which is believed to be damaging to the original culture that developed the custom or belief. Some could perceive Lin as mocking Black culture by wearing dreadlocks. With all he has been through being stereotyped as an oddity as an Asian American playing basketball, he did not want to do that with another culture. Lin explained he was growing his hair out along with a fellow teammate.
The incident reminds us that Jeremy Lin is a Harvard graduate and instead of escalating a social media feud and telling someone to “mind his own business,” he provided an introspective look at why he chose to get dreadlocks and the issue of cultural sensitivity. Lin should be commended for sharing this thought process and sharing, even though he had no obligation to do so. It is another sign that Lin is much more than being a famous Asian American basketball player.
Now for the bad news…
Jeremy Lin’s basketball season is over after just one game — the Nets point guard injured his right knee in the season opener against the Indiana Pacers. Lin ruptured the patellar tendon of his right knee and will miss the entire season.
Lin appeared to know that the injury was serious, as he tumbled to the ground after a layup attempt in which he fell underneath the basketball hoop and rested on the stanchion. He grabbed his knee and appeared to say he was done and then burst into tears. Prior to the injury, Lin was having a good game with 18 points.
Lin’s presence with the Nets will be missed, as he was one of the key players that had hoped to turn the franchise around. Unfortunately, this injury comes a year after a 2016-2017 injury-plagued season, where he played just 36 out of the 82 games.
Lin remains positive and hopes to return next season.
Astro makes “slant-eyes” at Dodgers pitcher
Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel came under fire during a World Series game after cameras captured him in the dugout making slant eyes after hitting a home run off of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who is Japanese.
After the video hit social media, people were infuriated and Major League Baseball (MLB) stepped in…sort of. Gurriel was given a 5-game suspension next season. It’s expected that Gurriel will go through some sort of sensitivity training.
The problem is, the suspension next season did nothing to address the immediacy of the issue. MLB and Gurriel’s team, the Houston Astros, probably did not want to address the situation due to the fact that his absence might have impacted the outcome of the World Series.
For his part, Darvish was very conciliatory about it all. He noted that the gesture was not right, but that “we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse [Gurriel].” Darvish went on to write, “Let’s stay positive instead of focusing on anger.”
This is not the first time that someone has made “slant-eye” gestures in the world of sports. Notably, the 2008 Spanish men’s Olympic national basketball team took pictures with most of the team making a slant-eye gesture. The 2008 Summer Olympics were held in Beijing, China. The Spanish team pleaded ignorance to the gesture when criticized.
Darvish and Lin are perfect examples of athletes taking the high road in volatile situations. A lot of times, especially in this era, we focus on the negative and needing to retaliate, especially when it’s done on social media. But if more people focused on being positive and not resorting to responding negatively to situations, the world would be a better place. Darvish and Lin addressed the issue thoughtfully and respectfully, and took the high road. It also makes people fans of them.
The Houston chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is working with the Astros to come up with Asian heritage events for next season in light of this incident. JACL held a press conference a day after the Astros won the World Series in Game 7.
According to Gary Mayeda, the National President of JACL, the organization would like to invite Gurriel and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to Japantown in Los Angeles and help educate them about Japanese culture. Mayeda stated that he’s seen an uptick of individuals giving Asians the “slant-eye” after Gurriel’s incident. “If nothing is done immediately, it will be seen as acceptable.” Mayeda added, ”The gesture makes one feel bad and pushed down in some ways.”
During his first at-bat in Game 7, Gurriel faced Darvish in a bit of irony. Gurriel took off his helmet toward Darvish as a sign of respect, and in an attempt to apologize for his insensitive gesture. Mayeda applauded Gurriel’s hat tip as a sign that “he got it.”
Still, Mayeda and JACL have a problem with the suspension not happening until next season. “It’s as if a parent were to punish their kids for doing something bad but does not do it until next week.” The delayed justice does not work and sends a message that the action was not severe.
Local women’s tennis team wins National Championship
The women’s United States Tennis Association team from Bellevue, Wash. became national co-champions at a tournament held last month in Mobile, Ala. The team was scheduled to play in the semifinals on the morning of Oct. 22 against a squad from Memphis, Tenn., but the contest was rained out. The other semifinals match featuring teams from Jacksonville, Fla. and Chesterfield, Mo. was also rained out.
As a result, all four teams were crowned co-champions of the event.
The winning team from Bellevue included Arpana Goel, Anna Graves, Anna Reche, Anne Wilson, Claudia Huzar, Ginevra Smith, Heather Lin, and Jillian Lee. Congratulations.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.