Kenyon Martin’s Chinese tattoos (Pinterest screenshot)

Although some have taken a strong stand against Brooklyn Net Jeremy Lin’s “dreadlocks” and others don’t see the big deal, wherever you fall in this brouhaha, it has clearly revived a long and fraught debate over cultural appropriation, especially as it relates to two nonwhite cultures.

Was Beyoncé being disrespectful when she wore a sari? Are African Americans being messy when they wear dashikis? Is it appropriation or appreciation, as Lin has claimed?


This all started after former NBA player Kenyon Martin shared a video deriding Lin’s choice of hairstyle, saying that he wants to be black but his name is “Lin.” To his credit, Martin recently backed off his statements a bit, saying that he apologizes (kinda):


Originally, though, Martin said, “Do I need to remind this damn boy his last name Lin?” he asked. “Like, come on, man. Let’s stop it with these people. There is no way possible he would’ve made it on one of our teams with that bullshit on his head. Come on, man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘All right, bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But your last name is Lin.’

Lin, however, had some clapback of his own for the OG, saying that he “has Chinese tattoos”:


Lin further clarified his point, while also asking Asians not to say racist things to Martin (which they did), saying, “I think both sides need to come together.

Although I am not in the “hair is just hair” camp, I do feel like cultural appropriation between people of color is different than, say, Stella McCartney taking traditional African designs and building her entire new line around it.


White folks got the power and tend to erase all vestiges of the originators when they culturally appropriate (or gentrify, or colonize). Also, they hate being told they can’t do certain things, like saying the word “nigger,” “nigga” or “negra,” for instance.


I guess privilege doesn’t have all the privileges.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Deputy Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.

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