That Lin inspires other Asian American basketball players isn’t a surprise. What’s worth noting is the reason for his appeal. It’s not just the facts of the story so much as it is the context. Lin has become one of the few Asian American athletes to make it big—from a community that’s long been obsessed with basketball.
California, where Lin grew up, is home to a large and storied network of Asian American basketball leagues that have been around for nearly a century. Though it’s unclear whether Lin played in one when he was younger, the fact that his devoted Asian American fan base has been whisked into the spotlight hints at the much larger role that basketball has played in allowing Asian Americans—particularly those of Japanese and Chinese descent—to forge identities and retain their cultural heritage.
Both Lin and Hagiya are unique. Few Asian American basketball players compete on NCAA Division 1 teams. Less than two dozen of the NCAA’s roughly 4,800 men’s Division 1 players are Asian American. Hagiya began playing in Japanese American basketball leagues when she was 4 years old, where she learned fundamentals and forged lasting friendships. When she joined an area club team in the sixth grade and began playing against kids from other ethnicities, she realized just how much the leagues had protected her. After one game, she remembers, a group of parents from an opposing team said, “Oh, that eskimo sure can play!”
- Chen case: Asian-American soldiers endure bias (The Wall Street Journal)
It’s unclear how often military members experience racial bullying. Despite repeated requests, the Army did not provide any data and the Department of Defense said it didn’t have any information since the service branches are each responsible for their own record-keeping. The Army did say that it has regulations against hazing and bullying in place.
Vietnam War veteran David Oshiro isn’t surprised to hear of the accusations of racial prejudice. The 63-year-old Japanese-American said he didn’t have problems with the men in his unit but often heard slurs from other enlisted Americans. When he was injured, military Medevac personnel assumed he was Vietnamese and nearly delayed his evacuation until all the solders they thought were American had been flown out.
“I got really upset, I started yelling back, ‘I’m an American. You get my ass out of here now,'” said the San Rafael, Calif., resident said.
“It still upsets me, because I keep thinking, ‘We’re on the same team!'”
When, during a discussion of immigration policy, Santorum invoked the name of the notoriously anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County, King didn’t blink an eye — in fact, he noted the presence of Arpaio as something of a dignitary in the debate adience. But it was King’s own network, CNN, that reported just hours before that Arpaio had briefed Santorum, who is seeking Arpaio’s endorsement, on an “investigation” the sheriff is conducting into Obama’s birth certificate.
“He had no problems with what I told him that I may be doing,” Arpaio said of Santorum in the CNN report.
The Justice Department recently released details of its investigation of Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), finding “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos at MCSO that reaches the highest levels of the agency.”
In a long discussion of what to do about Iran and its quest for a nuclear weapon, King never asked Santorum to clarify comments he made in New Hampshire suggesting that his tortured reading of Shi’ite theology was reason enough to bomb Iran.
- Queering Black Herstory: Janelle Monae and Gladys Bentley (Ms. Magazine)
I can sympathize with the need for more images of proud and out black lesbians who identify as butch, femme and everything in between. As black feminist essayist Cheryl Clarke argues, lesbianism is “an act of resistance” in our “male–supremacist, capitalist, misogynist, racist, homophobic, imperialist culture.” I understand why assigning figures such as Bentley and Monae a lesbian existence heightens pride and furthers visibility for queer communities, especially queer communities of color.
However, as much as we need black lesbian role models, there has to be space to acknowledge women like Bentley and Monae who decide to change their sexuality or not claim one at all. We have to respect their choices and allow them to shatter labels that are placed on them because of racism, sexism and homophobia.