Friday, February 17, 2012

The Problem with Jeremy Lin

We haven’t been watching as much basketball as we typically do. Or at least I haven’t been watching as much. It’s mostly a lack of interest on my part now that Brandon Roy is no longer playing for the Blazers coupled with the fact that we’re trying to keep our son from watching too much television although I do have to say, he appears to enjoy basketball as much as Ben. He even says, “Go Blazers!” but I’m sure you can figure out where he got that from.

So, I don’t really know, from watching, what all the fuss is over Jeremy Lin’s playing. Oh, I hear he’s scored more points in his first something than anyone since 1976 (including Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, haha suckers) but that doesn’t really mean a lot to me. What interests me the most is the fact that he’s Asian American. Now, I know Americans have short memories about stuff but it’s not like he’s the first Asian to ever play the sport. There was this really tall guy named Yao Ming, who has since retired but come on people. Maybe it’s the fact that Lin is actually American that thrills people? Nevertheless, I do recognize and appreciate the fact that it means a great deal for Asian basketball fans to see themselves reflected on the court. It’s not something that typically happens in the NBA.

The other interesting thing is the fact that Lin went to Harvard. According to my husband, Harvard isn’t necessarily a school known for producing hot basketball stars. Nerds? Yes. Basketball stars? Not so much. So that means that not only is Lin a great basketball player but he’s also a super smart one. He got a degree in Economics. I can’t imagine that’s an easy feat at Harvard. But maybe it is. Maybe Economics is like getting your degree in Professional Golf Management at NMSU.

Anyway…one thing that has come from all of this are the problematic *Linsanity memes. You can read about it here from Racialicious. One of the things that is most concerning is that apparently the only Asian countries that exist are Japan and China. Nevermind the fact that Lin is of Taiwanese decent, and there is a whole conversation about Taiwanese verses Chinese and ethnicity versus nationality, etc. But are Americans really that ignorant that they don’t understand there are a whole host of other countries on the other side of the world besides China and Japan? STOP CONFLATING THE TWO. Americans already have an image of being xenophobic and misinformed, do you really need to reinforce it? LOOK AT A MAP. See all those other countries that are to the right of India? Those are other Asian countries.

The other thing that bugs me (yes, I know there really aren’t just two) is the use of the “yellow” mamba. I know you think you’re being all cute and tongue-in-cheek because Kobe is the Black Mamba (which is the actual name for a very deadly snake) and some pasty dude who plays for the Bulls is the White Mamba but trust me, no matter how complimentary you think you’re being, Asians don’t like being called yellow. Blazers’ fans called Joel Przybilla the “Vanilla Gorilla” which use to bug the ever living shit out of me. If he was black you wouldn’t be calling him “Gorilla” would you? Oh, I’m sure some dumb racist would but come on. We don’t really need an entire history lesson about using “ape” and “monkey” to denigrate people of African descent do we?

Okay…the very last thing (told you there weren’t just two) that really struck me is this post by Deanna Fei. It was actually a very lovely (despite the take on violence) commentary on what the popularity of Lin does for young Asian children. She discussed the fact that Asian men are generally emasculated in the US. They are seen as effeminate and weak. Jeremy Lin flips that stereotype (I would also assert that Manny Pacquiao does this even more). He is a strong, both physically and mentally, role model for young Asian men. I love that. I love that he exists for those young, Asian men. I also would contend that if martial arts were more popular in this country there would be a whole host of other strong, Asian role models available but that's a whole other complex issue of why certain sports rise to the top in the US but, others (futbol? hello?) that are ridiculously popular in other countries, don't.

What her piece got me thinking about is how the inverse is true for my son. In the United States young, black males are hyper-masculinized. They are seen as stronger, more athletic, virile, etc. Thus, they are seen as threats. So, while Fei was concerned about the emasculation of her son, and happy that Lin flips that script, her op-ed got me thinking about the opposite of that and how I can combat that. What role models exist that refute those stereotypes? I’m not talking about Urkel either, please with that. I’m talking about strong but smart and caring Black role models? I know of several just off the top of my head but what say you? Dear readers, any suggestions? Do any others of you who are raising Black boys also think about strategies to combat this?

*I cannot tell you how much I despise that phrase. No, seriously.


David Leventhal said... can get a Professional Golf Management degree at NMSU?!? I wish I'd known that 20 years ago!

Some good thoughts a father of two Chinese born kiddos I've found myself cringing at some of the responses to Lin. And to be honest - this is the first time since we adopted A back in 2007 & J back in 2010 that I've found myself feeling / experiencing the "I can't believe you just said that about Asians" stuff. I'm certain that this goes on ALL.THE.TIME. for parents of kiddos with brown/black skin...but this is sort of my first time.

He is absolutely crazy gifted - physically & mentally. And appears (from my perspective) to have a great perspective spiritually (

It will be interesting to watch this story continue to unfold.

Melanie said...

Yes. It goes on all the time.I'm sure you recognize the white privilege tied in with not having to recognize Asian slurs. I've noticed it since, well forever, being Pacific Islander.

I love the conversations happening around this phenomenon. It's great to bring it into light.

And yes, PGM is a very real degree at NMSU. And it has a certain reputation of douche baggery.