The Problem With Tattoos

I like Allen Iverson, but he’s the perfect example of why non-Chinese people should not get tattoos of Chinese characters.

Here’s a close up of the characters:

Websites obsessed with Iverson and his tattoos will tell you that this tattoo means “loyalty”. One variation says it means “single minded”. It can mean “heart” in some contexts, but most often, in the US, at least, I’ve seen it used to mean “center”, as in “community center”, like the logo below, for the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (see the characters on the far right?).

I’m sure he had a good reason behind wanting “loyalty” inscribed on his skin, but that’s not what he got. The way I see it, if you don’t have any connection to a language, you shouldn’t pretend like you do. Taking parts of a culture that you don’t understand and using it without its original meaning? That’s called appropriation.

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