The Article I Didn’t Want To Write: Jeremy Lin & Racism

The story of Jeremy Lin is amazing, but it’s one that I’ve generally admired from afar. What made me stay away? Maybe it was him clowning on my Los Angeles Lakers or the fact that it seemed cliche for an Asian American with a blog to write about an Asian American athlete, but I generally avoided the discussion except for a few tweets here and there.

Recently though, the backlash against the hype came, and to say I didn’t expect it would be lying.

Why wouldn’t I expect it? That’s how it always is, especially for Asians.

As Bomani Jones noted on Twitter:

said it the other day: ppl have zero fear about joking on asians.

It’s plainly true too.

Can we stop pretending this isn’t the case?

People are more comfortable making fun of Asians than any other racial group in America.

People rarely have to think twice about it because nobody makes them. Honestly, there’s nobody around to hold them accountable. I’m sure there are many Asian American writers out there who cover sports, but the only one with a significant platform that pops into my mind is Jay Caspian Kang for Grantland.

Yeah, that’s basically it.

So while my preference was to stay back and just roll my eyes at the whole thing, it would have been hypocritical of me, since that’s the exact thought process that allows this type of thing to continue unchecked.

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The whole mess with Jeremy Lin and racism basically started with Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports.

While stereotypes and zingers are always thrown around on forums, on Facebook, and on Twitter, those remarks are done by regular people who don’t have a platform and can hide behind anonymity.

Jason Whitlock, however, is a public figure, and was the first (but probably won’t be the last) to come out and use his platform to be outright racist:

Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.

If we’re being honest here, I’m not even that offended or shocked by the tweet itself. Any Asian American guy has heard this at least eleventy billion times in their life, and at this point in my life, it’s honestly just laughable to me.

That said, the significance of this lies in its tone – a message of that nature would never fly if it was about a different minority. Switch the races and have Jay Caspian Kang tweet some stereotype about a black athlete and we’d be timing how long he’d still be working for Grantland.

The fact that somebody like Whitlock can feel secure enough in their standing to get away with saying things like that publicly and not expect it to backfire is the real issue for me.

Everybody can see that the tweet just comes off as malicious and bitter, but I don’t think people even understand why Asian Americans would be upset by it. Bomani Jones captured a variation of what a lot of people were saying:

what i learned last night: the MOST offensive stereotypes of asians is they have small penises. THAT is what got ppl mad.

Actually, it’s not that at all.

If Whitlock had tweeted instead, “CHING CHONG LING LONG DING DONG CHINK”, I’m pretty sure the backlash would have been even worse than him making a stupid penis quip.

No, what set people off was that a mainstream sportswriter with an extensive following decided that the pinnacle of a feel good story was an appropriate time to drop some racist bullshit on the masses.

It had less to do with his specific words and more to do with the fact that what he did represented all the insults and jokes made by regular people. Whitlock effectively put a face to what we all knew was happening, and it didn’t matter what he attacked specifically, all that mattered was that he did it.

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Then of course, there’s Floyd Mayweather, whose ignorance is well known by now, as he’s somebody who told Manny Pacquaio to “make some sushi rolls and cook some rice” and that “we’re going to cook him with some cats and dogs”. Intelligence from him, or any athlete for that matter, wouldn’t be as expected as from a sports writer, but I found that his thoughts represented what a lot of people were thinking as well.

Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.

Ah yes, that ever present media bias towards the Asian American athlete, what was I thinking?

Diepenbrock’s perception changed the next year, he said, when 10 Division I coaches scouted a black Palo Alto player whom Diepenbrock described as someone who “could have been a nice junior college player.”

“That’s when I’m going, there might be something to this here,” Diepenbrock said. “If [Lin] was African American or Caucasian, it might have been a different deal.”

Oops.

The irony of course is that black Americans do get this same treatment. Say Tiger Woods or Venus Williams & Serena Williams or Myron Rolle.

White, black, and Latino athletes get puff pieces run about them regularly, practically every day by various media outlets, and people can’t let one Asian American athlete get hyped up and showered with superfluous bullshit without getting indignant about it? If it wasn’t so terribly unfair, it would be unbelievably hilarious.

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Anyway, while that was the tweet that got attention from ESPN, it was Mayweather’s following tweet that was worse to me:

Other countries get to support/cheer their athletes and everything is fine. As soon as I support Black American athletes, I get criticized.

Nobody else seems to care about this, but “other countries”? Really?

Lin is an American, but as many Asian Americans already know, that rarely matters, as we’re looked at as perpetual foreigners in our home country.

Regardless of how fucked up that tweet was, Mayweather is supposed to say dumb shit like this, because he’s an idiot and a shitty human being in general. My real problem lies more with the fact that people actually agree with him and they are willing to defend Whitlock. Their justification is that everybody knows individuals who say shit like this in private, which apparently is a good enough reason to let it slide.

I mean come on, people take signs to the game with “Me Love You Lin Time” and think it’s complementary, so they obviously don’t see anything wrong with much of this.

Look, I’m not going to deny that his ethnicity and background plays a role in his popularity with a segment of the population, but it’s only about 5% of the population. Generally speaking, I think his story plays regardless, and his race just sets him apart even more. That is, however much more different one can be from a non-recruited, non-drafted, released by two teams, becomes a point guard for the New York Knicks, and makes history type of story.

As for what happens from here on out, who knows? Maybe he becomes a starter for a decade, maybe he becomes an All-Star, and maybe he gets cut next year. Regardless, it’s just been nice to see an Asian American athlete dominate the headlines in America and that a discussion about his background and ethnicity followed it.

I just wish so much of it didn’t have to be in the context of a joke.

About Chad Moriyama

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