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Black hairstyles: Being honored or ripped off?


(ThyBlackMan.com) Professional team sports in America are one of the few professional industries where people of various ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and cultures come together to work together on a common goal. At times, that can lead to tense moments and difficult conversations between teammates as locker rooms faced following the election of Donald Trump to U.S. President. Lately, there has been discussions about cultural appropriation within team sports as a couple of professional athletes have been accused of cultural appropriation.

According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, cultural appropriation is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture”. Two professional athletes from two different sports leagues have been been accused cultural appropriation over the past couple of months. Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper is one of the faces of Major League Baseball but caused a few people to scratch their heads after he traded in his signature flowing hair for cornrows last month.

Harper, who is white, is known for occasionally flipping his hair after hitting homeruns. He changed his hairstyle at Headz Up, the only pro barbershop in an MLB stadium, located down the hall from the Miami Marlins’ clubhouse. It is notable that it appeared that a woman of color professionally styled Harper with the hair change and many people on social media did comparisons of Harper with cornrows with other white male pop culture figures. However, Bryce Harper was not alone regarding changing his hair to a style deemed as coming from a different culture.

The NBA is the blackest sports league in America. In many ways, the NBA has played an important part in black style and culture for young black men. Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin, the first U.S.-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, is a racial minority in a profession where black men are the majority in terms of his coworkers. He has been known to change his hair throughout various points in his career.

His latest hairstyle, wearing dreadlocks, drew the attention of former NBA player Kenyon Martin, who accused Lin of “wanting to be black”, and mentioned that it would not be acceptable for Lin to be a teammate on his team because of his hairstyle. Lin replied back to Martin’s social media comments with an interesting, thought-provoking social media reply about Martin’s possible cultural appropriation. Lin replied, “At the end of the day, i appreciate that i have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos bc I think its a sign of respect.” The back and forth between Lin and Martin ended with Martin’s apology to Lin and they seemed to have made amends.

Cultural appropriation remains a very difficult subject to e. Black hairstyles such as cornrows have a long and important history in black culture. There are other parts of cultures, as Jeremy Lin mentioned with the Chinese tattoos, that people “borrow” often and sports teams with Native American nicknames and mascots often lead fans of those teams to attempt to emulate the most stereotypical aspects of Native American culture. America is known as a melting pot of cultures from across the globe and evaluating cultural appropriation might be best done on a case-by-case basis.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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