In all the hoopla of Knicks guard Jeremy Lin’s career game (25 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) the other day, a lot of references to his race were made. I was bothered by how many people erroneously said that he’s from China, and how many others erroneously corrected him saying he’s from Taiwan. The truth is that Jeremy Lin is American, he was born in Palo Alto to Taiwanese-American immigrants.
Lost in everything regarding Jeremy Lin is all the compliments he’s receiving. But something always bothered me.
Here’s a very good blog post from Timothy Dalrymple, a blogger who has grasped the concept and articulated it more than I ever will:
Here are some key quotes from him (emphasis mine):
I loved watching Jeremy’s aggression on the court and his enjoyment of the game. I loved seeing his teammates’ celebration, since Jeremy has obviously won their hearts with his courage and kindness. I did not love the belittling comments. Now, I’m always reticent to cry “racism,” and I won’t cry “racism” in this case. The commentators are not showing hatred of a race. I won’t even call it bigotry — at least not bigotry outright. If anything, they’re showing what President Bush famously called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Their astonishment at the sight of Jeremy Lin outperforming the other players, their consistent references to how exhausted he must be, and how “magical” a night he’s having (rather than a natural result of talent and hard work) suggests that they’ve bought into the stereotype of the physically inferior Asian-American male.
For Asian-American men, in contrast, the positive stereotypes are few: they’re good at math and good at short-people sports like table tennis and gymnastics. The negative stereotypes are legion: they’re the geeky, socially inept guys with coke-can glasses in the engineering labs; they’re the perpetual adolescents playing video games on their super-computers at thirty or forty years old; and they’re the physically and sexually immature, small and timid young men who can’t talk to girls and get their second jobs before they get their first kiss.
I asked Jeremy whether it felt like a burden to carry the hopes and expectations of so many Asian-American men upon his shoulders, and he answered that he couldn’t play for other people. ”I can’t even play for myself. The right way to play is not for others and not for myself, but for God. I still don’t fully understand what that means. I’m still learning to be selfless and submit myself to God and give the game up to Him. My audience is God.” He does, however, have a responsibility to be a “godly role model,” and when I asked whether it would please him if his success shattered negative stereotypes of Asian males, he broke into a big smile. ”I would be pleased,” he said. ”Absolutely, I would be pleased.”
So would I. You go, Jeremy.