The story of Jeremy Lin’s dreadlocks and why it’s bigger than Kenyon Martin

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Not long ago, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted a video on Snapchat with Caris LeVert, joking and laughing, in his typical RHJ fashion, about dreadlocks. LeVert looked reluctant to join Hollis-Jefferson’s banter. After all, his hair is short.

It was a foreshadowing of where we are today.

Before Jeremy Lin unveiled his new ‘do, he and some of his Nets teammates had talked extensively about something controversial. It wasn’t about kneeling or anything like that. It was Lin seeking help, advice from African-American players on cultural appropriation.

He feared people would think he was appropriating African-American culture if he rocked a dreadlock hairstyle. He feared the majority thinking would be like those of Kenyon Martin, who said in a video, “‘alright bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’”

As usual, Lin handled things with class, with professionalism, and planning. He wrote up an Instagram commentary in response to K-Mart, used kind words, actually tipping his hat to Martin by finishing off his statement with, “Thanks for everything you did for the Nets and hoops… had your poster on my wall growin’ up.”

However, what stood out the most is what happened after the Nets’ 107-88 preseason victory over the Miami Heat, after the controversy overwhelming the game. Just as it appeared Lin’s postgame interview was over, he started discussing the issue. It was heartfelt, bordering on the eloquent.

Like his Instagram post, he didn’t use fighting words. Just the classy ones.

“First, I’d hope that a lot of Asian fans don’t go on his page and say racist things to him. I think that’s not the right way to go about it and I think in a lot of ways to pit us against each other, like, ‘I won versus Kenyon Martin winning.’ I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it. It’s not really about winning or losing. The whole point is that we’re trying to be unified, so I feel like even sometimes when people come to me and say, ‘Oh man you embarrassed him.’ It’s like ‘dude that’s not what this is about.’ Right, that’s not the whole point of this discussion is to pit it into two sides to see who wins. The whole point is that we all have to get on the same page. We need to have people stop going on his page and saying racist things. Like, that’s not OK. That’s what I would say, at the end of the day, kind of like what I said in my article. We just need to spend a little more time thinking about what we say, thinking about what it’s like to be somebody else. At the end of the day he said what he said, but im not really that offended. If that’s how he thinks, that’s how he thinks.

He continued in the same vein. He was talking now not to Martin, but to his fans.

“My job is to be gracious and loving. I think if I can share a little bit of my side, then the next time he might have a different viewpoint. He might have a different viewpoint in a week, but not if my whole fanbase comes behind and calling him – I didn’t see it – but I heard people were saying the ‘n’ word on his page. That’s not what I stand for and that’s not helping us move in the direction we want to move in. And I think both sides need to come together. Then I think like I said in my comment, as minorities if we are able to appreciate it – if Asians are able to be passionate about issues that aren’t just related to Asians. If African Americans are able to be passionate about issues that aren’t just related to African Americans, I think we’ll see something big start to happen. I think we’ll be able to influence mainstream society and that’s the ultimate goal. All this pitting me against him – or whatever that creates division I don’t stand for.”

Now let’s bring it back to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posting that Snapchat video. Before the controversy. Hollis-Jefferson explained the conversation to NetsDaily.

“When Jeremy started talking about ‘I’m about to do XYZ’ with his hair I looked at him like, ‘oh that’s kind of dope.’ And then I was just like, ‘hey bro, if it makes you feel any better I’ll grow my hair out’. At first he thought it was a joke. He said, ‘ha ha yeah whatever. It’ll take a year or two’. I was like ‘alright, we’re gonna see!’ Then slowly but surely, my hair started growing, kept getting longer, so I was like ‘you think I can get it braided?’ and he was like ‘no way!’ A couple weeks later I come in with the braids and he was like, ‘dude that looks sick.’ It kept growing and kept growing and here we are today. He was serious and he set the appointment. I was super scared (laughs). I told him a couple days before, ‘dude I can’t do it’. But then of course I went and got it done.”

Back to Thursday night. The Nets just won their second preseason game, good vibes are flowing and guys are happy in the locker room. But here is Kenyon Martin, retired for over a year, a former New Jersey Net still much beloved for what he did during the Jason Kidd era. His words represent a bigger issues we face as a society.

Forget the hypocrisy of a player with Chinese characters on his arm. It’s about the bigger picture.

Martin was pushing an agenda and even made a second video. No apologies, no regret. Still, it was Lin’s ultimate response that spoke volumes, both on Instagram and in the locker room. He was humble throughout his explanation, and he actually apologized to reporters for going on a rant.

Here’s what RHJ told NetsDaily:

“The way Jeremy handled it was so so amazing, so professional. He did a better job than me, 100 percent. I feel like we get the principle of it and maybe why Kenyon said something, but at the end of the day, with Jeremy being on the platform and him being able to understand being a minority - understanding the culture just being around us so much - I feel like that message goes a long way with him standing up and speaking about acceptance and cultural diversity and all these other different topics.

He summarized his feelings this way:

“If anybody... Jeremy being the person he is – caring about so many people and as humble as he is. If I had to pick anybody to do it, it would be him.”

Lin never does anything without preparation, without a plan. That’s how he got through Harvard, got to the NBA, and stayed. It’s who he is.

He wrote it in his piece on the Players Tribune. He sought advice from DeMarre Carroll, who has dreadlocks. He got Hollis-Jefferson to get dreadlocks with him.

This is bigger than a hairstyle, Kenyon Martin, or anything like that. It’s what Lin described in his piece, “The difference between ‘not caring what other people think’ and actually trying to walk around for a while in another person’s shoes.” It’s about being comfortable in your own skin as a minority. Lin hopes to preach unity in diversity. This entire situation explained what he was trying to explain in his piece.

“Hey, Jeremy got it done and I support him. Anybody that got a problem with it… I’m Team Jeremy,” Hollis-Jefferson said.

I think a lot of people are.


It’s better than the man-bun…

I liked the mohawk tho

It helped him on drives because the hair would jab people in the face. XD

Hope he can try doing an afro

not sure how that would work, but would be funny if he could do a big afro next…

He should give mullet a try

That would be hilarious lol

I am all about diversity

When there are fans who say that Europeans "suck", it bothers me to the core because basketball is an international game.

A hairstyle does not represent a culture. A hairstyle is simply just that a hairstyle.

All of these stereotypical thoughts and ideas that we have as individuals is the reason why race relations are terrible.

Lin should be judged based on his basketball ability not because he is of Asian descent.

Jeremy Lin proved that there are still people who need to mature when it comes to race relations. I hope people can learn from this experience and examine their own lives. Do I have preconceived perceptions about other races? It all starts with you.

Agree with everything except this...

A hairstyle does not represent a culture

Hairstyles definitely represent cultures. Look at Buddhist monks, different traditional hairstyles of different African or Indigenous Native American tribes, Rastas, even hip hop hairstyles and heavy metal headbanger long hair styles.

To many African-American

Hairstyle isn’t just a hairstyle. It’s much more than that. That’s what most people don’t understand.

I get it with dreadlocks and especially the fro.

But if I was an African American I would gladly let another group claim ownership to the jheri curl and cornrows

But if I was an African American I would gladly let another group claim ownership to the jheri curl and cornrows

Oh, I was glad that we had the Cornrows. I hate that it’s making a comeback but I loved it during it’s time. Even had them myself, lol

LOL! The jheri curl needs to just stay in the 80's, that needs no appropriation... <img src="//" alt=":stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:" class="emoji">

Please elaborate.

For centuries we've been told that our natural hair was not a thing of beauty.

Many of us felt that beauty meant straight hair and light skin. Only really in the ’70s and the whole "Black and proud" movement did black people en masse begin to feel pride in our naturals hairstyles.

But just because we felt pride didn’t mean that others were ready to accept our hairstyles. Afros weren’t always accepted back then, many thought we had to keep our hair low as to not make white people uncomfortable, and therefore gain employment etc.

Dreadlocks are a style that til this day still can get someone fired. When a black person (especially a female) decides to embrace their natural hair it comes with a lot of baggage.

So what do tell a mulatto like me?

As a person who has African roots because as we all know Africans were not only brought to the US, but the islands as well to me a hairstyle should not define a culture.

Racism wasn't just in America

The same stuff affected the psyche of black peoples across the diaspora. Black people in Europe, black people in the Caribbean (look at Jamaica with skin bleaching), South America and black people even in Africa.

Hairstyles define cultures, but usually because the culture in power deems it so. If you don’t acclimate yourself to their thing you usually get ostracized.

Not sure if I addressed your question, I didn’t really understand it.

Large gene-pool master race checking in <img src="//" alt=":wink:" class="emoji">

I think our perspective will be hard to relate to many people. "Cultural appropriation" is something I struggle to understand since my experience is made robust by mixing cultures.

If you take out the pigmentation of our skin (as we should)

I’d say most of us a mix of cultures

I’m 100% white, through and through, but I’m made up of Swedish, Russian, Polish, Italian, English. Like many in this country, I have no idea what my ‘culture’ really is

The line of ‘cultural’ appropriation in the year 2017 is very vague for almost anyone. We all struggle with it.

As long as it’s not done as a means of disrespect or financial profit, I can’t see how anyone can be upset about borrowing from other cultures and building up it. Like JLin said, USA likes to pride itself on being a melting pot.

Another example...

When I see a black woman I’m attracted too there’s a slight difference in how I feel about her whether she has a weave or whether she has a natural style.

Women can wear whatever style they want they don’t need to please me, (plus a weaved woman could be more conscious than a natural haired woman) but I’m just illustrating that all kinds of different things happen when black people take on different hairstyles, sometimes subconsciously.

This 100%

If people are unwilling to engage with their own biases, this conversation goes nowhere.

I readily admit that I often find black women with straight hair more attractive than if they kept their natural, tight curls. But that is my problem, not theirs. It is a direct consequence of how I have been raised to perceive standards of beauty, and how that I apply that to people.

So then the question becomes, how do I fix this? Is this even something that I can address? Is it something I should address? Is there another resolution that I can achieve that isn’t just "find black women with their natural hair just as attractive as other women"?

This is where the difficulty – and the uncomfortableness – lies. There is an amount of self-reflection and societal reflection that we need to be engaging in that is being actively avoided entirely in favor of shallow factionalism.

This exactly

There is an amount of self-reflection and societal reflection that we need to be engaging in that is being actively avoided entirely in favor of shallow factionalism.

That’s why I appreciate Lin so much. He really thinks about us as much as he thinks about himself. It’s really refreshing and it’s not being a "SJW" it’s being considerate of your fellow human being.

Black women’s experience is different from black men’s and sometimes I need to recognize when I’m contributing to their misery and respect that.

I'm still learning to

recognize it, even at 31 lol.

But yeah, when Lin wrote that piece, that gave me respect him more, not only as a player but as a man. He could’ve very easily been like "I’m getting dreads because they looked cool on Demarre and I want to look like him" but instead took the time to speak to others about it, while taking their feelings into consideration. Like he did that for his HAIR. That says alot about him as a person.

You are so right. We esp black women are socialized at such young an age that the standard of beauty is long straight hair.

Although I never look down on it it pains me to have black woman think it’s necessary to get weaves or chemically damage their hair to achieve this standard or assimilate. It’s partly our fault as men too. Love seeing women embrace their natural hair.

There has been some what of a revival with women of color

(black to Latina and even others) when it comes to rocking their hair naturally. I personally love a girl with big natural curls, like the girl that works the Nets games at Barclay’s, All Love. She is beautiful

Dude, I was gonna say the same thing. Ally Love’s latest hair style is hot. She is beautiful.

I wish we weren't "socialized" to value physical fitness. Would be so much easier if the beer belly was a symbol of virility and power. Could really let myself go.

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