It’s true what they say, they love black culture, but not black people. This quote doesn’t just apply to white people, but it applies to non-black people of color as well. Like many other black men and women, I’ve been mocked and belittled by Latinos, looked down on by Korean store owners and being talked to a sarcastic undertone by Indians.
Now before anyone gets offended and nose-dives into their feelings, I’m not here to say that all these people are bad or to play the blame game. I look forward to the day where we can unify as one. But before we do that, there are some things we need to discuss and resolve. One thing we need to confront is the constant rejection of blackness while simultaneously riding the coattails of our struggles and movements.
With that being said let’s talk about the Asians and their anti-blackness.
Recently, NBA Player Jeremy Lin stirred the pot when he asked if it was OK to wear dreadlocks. While some approved of it in a Stacey Dash-esque fashion, others were reluctant for him to do so. Soon after, fellow NBA Player Kenyon Martin expressed his dismay by saying “yeah we get it you’re trying to be black”.
Lin responded, and everything was cool until he said this:
“...at the end of the day, I appreciate that I have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos bc I think it’s a sign of respect. And I think as minorities, the more we appreciate each other’s cultures, the more we influence mainstream society.”
Yeah, Jeremy, this is where you had me f*cked up. You can't compare a common tattoo trend to ethnic hairstyles.
Having dreads isn’t going to have an influence on mainstream society; if anything it’s going to cause more debates, more division and prove more of the hypocrisies in the issues of hair and cultural identity. The fact that you had numerous radio host, websites and faux deep hoteps come to your defense shows how much black culture is loved while how much black people are hated (just look at how Zendaya was treated). Jeremy, having dreads isn’t going to end the racial profiling of those who have locs, or the constant insensitively racial remarks, getting turned down for jobs because of their hair, nor will it repeal the recent law that was passed to allow employers to not hire someone because of their hair, while you and other non-black people in the public eye get to wear it as fashion. At that point, Jeremy should have just said “we are one race, the human race”, cause his comment dismissed the struggles and identities Martin talks about in his opinion.
If Jeremy truly wanted to show respect for another race group, he could of researched the history of dreadlocks (yes, this hairstyle originated from black people) and not wear them at all. As I mentioned early, Jeremy asked if it was OK for him to wear dreadlocks. I believe that if you have to question whether or not something is appropriate, you probably shouldn't do it. As Jeremy has admitted, he understands cultural appropriation and knows how it feels to get your culture wrongfully acknowledged, then I wonder if he understands how disheartening and what a slap in the face it is for African Americans to see a non-black person of color being praised and defended for wearing a black hairstyle while not too long ago, the NBA created a dress code because Allen Iverson and other NBA players looked like "thugs".
I'm not going to make this all about Jeremy Lin, because although it should end with him, he didn't start with him. The Asian community has a long history of anti-blackness and connecting to Western civilization. In the 1922 case, Takao Ozawa v. the United States, a Japanese immigrant unsuccessfully argued that he should be classified as white and therefore be eligible for citizenship, as the law at the time prohibited black and any non-white people from applying for citizenship. In many instances, laws that prevented black people from having equal rights were used as precedent for cases involving Asian Americans. In recent times, blackface has been used in many television shows in Asian countries. Asians have a history of racially profiling black customers in beauty supply stores. Latasha Harlin was shot by a Korean store owner because they “thought” she was stealing. Two years ago, former Love & Hip Hop star Lovely Mimi, posted a video asking why won’t people let her “be black,” and continued to name stereotypical racial reasons.
Jeremy Lin wanted to know if his dreads would cause controversy and if it’s cultural appropriation. He got the approval of fellow NBA players and those who give out hood passes and invite non-black people to the cookout for the most basic things. I'm certain that Jeremy is a dope person; he hasn't given me a reason to hate him. I’m not a spiteful person, but as someone who’s witness people with dreadlocks getting stared down and profiled, as someone who’s constantly hearing about African Americans getting turned down for jobs because of our hairstyles, I’m not here for it.
As someone whose culture and history is constantly being whitewashed and twisted, I’m not here for an Asian man comparing a tattoo to an African hairstyle many (African Americans) are judged for wearing; I’m not here for the people capping for an Asian American and giving him cool points; I’m just not here for people saying I should accept an Asian man wearing dreadlocks, when Asians are barely accepting us.