Chang: Jeremy Lin’s hair a symbol of accepting cultural diversity

From the spikes, to the mohawk, double pony tail, man-bun and even the bowlcut, Jeremy Lin has sailed the ocean blue and crossed the seven seas of hairstyles. But why not just stick to his classic “Linsanity” buzzcut?

In his article in the Player’s Tribune, Lin said that he started rocking different hairstyles to “pull out of [his] comfort zone and make [himself] feel more free.”

Although there’s always the cynical perspective that Lin is changing his hairstyle for attention after “Linsanity” died down, the fact remains that he has the courage to change his appearance in front of his social circle and doubters. Most importantly, his hairstyle choices are against the wishes of his own mom, proving that Lin is making decisions for himself.

Growing up as an Asian-American and being associated with “Bruce Lee…and  shrimp fried rice” taught Lin that stereotyping a culture was disempowering, making one “feel like [one’s] worth less…and [one’s] voice matters less.”

The reason why Jeremy Lin is sporting dreads is because he wants to start a conversation, and it worked. Former teammate Kenyon Martin criticized Lin’s hairstyle in an Instagram video, saying, “You wanna be black…but his last name is Lin,” with the caption including a plethora of emojis: “[I’m] disappointed in his teammates and the Nets organization for allowing this foolishness [too]!!!”

Ironically, Martin has a tattoo of Chinese characters on his arm that say “You worry about losing, you worry about winning,” showing off his indecisiveness rather than his winning mentality. Lin pointed this out in an Instagram comment response to Martin, noting “the more we appreciate each other’s cultures, the more we influence mainstream society.” Lin went on to mention that he had a poster of Martin on his wall while he was growing up.

As an Asian-American that grew up in a privileged bubble having not dealt with racism before, I really applaud Lin’s comments and actions. It’s admirable when athletes utilize their platform and fan base to challenge social stigma against talking about social issues, like police brutality, racial discrimination and being a minority in general.

Lin recognizes that his dreads might be considered as a form of cultural appropriation. He even reached out to a Brooklyn hairstylist and braider to ensure that his hair was not not dismissive or disrespectful to another heritage. By going out of his way to understand the trouble of maintaining, growing and playing in braids, Lin is showing empathy and appreciation for another part of his colleagues’ culture. As the cultural dynamic of our society becomes more diverse, it’s important to understand and respect different parts of others’ heritages.

At Case Western Reserve University, there are plenty of cultural clubs for all students to join. Although most of the cultural clubs may seem exclusive, all of them want new members and are passionate to share their culture. It may be intimidating to join a social circle when you’re the minority, but experiencing the uncomfortableness will make you understand how minorities feel in the bigger picture. And soon it won’t be uncomfortable at all as you’ll have already made some new friends.