By Guest Contributor Jen Wang, cross-posted from Disgrasian
I sat down to write about the fallout that’s ensued since ESPN editor Anthony Federico wrote that “Chink In The Armor” headline a little over a week ago, and I ended up with a bunch of stories about myself. In some ways though, I think these notes better articulate my frustration and anger over many of the conversations that have taken place about Jeremy Lin with regard to race than explicit words to that effect would have. Or maybe I just really like talking about myself.
For most of my life, I’ve been a sports fan. I was born and raised in Texas, so it was mandatory. More to the point, I was born and raised Chinese American in Texas. I couldn’t look like my peers, I couldn’t be accepted as an equal by many of my peers, but I could root for the same teams as my peers. And somewhere deep down, I probably figured that if I could demonstrate the same devotion to the idols of my peers, they would eventually come around to the idea that I wasn’t all that different from them, and perhaps even accept me as one of their own.
My father arrived in College Station, Texas from Taiwan in 1965 on a student visa. He was one of several students from Taiwan who went to Texas A&M to pursue graduate degrees in the sciences that year. They all lived together. They all had nothing. Only two years before my dad began his studies at A&M, the school admitted its first African American students. My dad recalls that was right around the time the school shut down its campus chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. He and my mom met a few years later when she came over from Taiwan to attend a nearby women’s college. I have to think the cultural climate of small-town Texas was what put their relationship in fast-forward. They met one Thanksgiving when all of the American students from their schools were home with their families, married a year later, had my brother less than a year after that. My mother has stories from that time of being told to sit at the back of the bus; my father, who only had a bike in those first few years, used to get run off the road by other students in cars who thought it was funny to see a Chinaman in a ditch.
During my “glory days” playing high school football–among other positions I played linebacker–there was a game where, after several tackles (pretty amazing tackles if I remember them correctly), I found myself rolling on the ground in pain. Their running back decided to thrust his helmet into my gut leaving me gasping for air. I would later find out that the opposing coach encouraged his players to “take me out”: a helmet to the gut would do that for at least one play.
The fact that a nobody player in a nothing high-school football game between two tiny private schools in Los Angeles was “taken out” illustrates how encouraged violence is part and parcel to football culture, even if there were no “‘knockouts’…worth $1,500 and ‘cart-offs’ $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs,” rewards uncovered as part of the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty program” last week.
ESPN has certainly hitched its’ promotional wagon to Michael Vick, but first things first: don’t blame Touré for the question, “What If Michael Vick Were White?” – or for that pic above of said hypothetical “White” Vick.
“I had no knowledge of or say in the title of the story and the horrific, misguided picture of Vick in whiteface, which dismayed and disgusted me when I saw it,” he explained in a column for CNN. “I think careful readers will note that the story and the image don’t really interact. They’re like two people who kinda know about each other but don’t really know each other. But this has happened to me before.”
My essay on Vick is nowhere near as inflammatory as the pic of him in whiteface which contradicts me saying you can’t imagine him as white.
I wrote an essay about Vick & race. ESPN the mag titled it & added art without me (normal procedure). Judge me on the story not the art.
In his CNN piece, Touré also mentioned that he wanted to talk about football more in his Vick column, but that ESPN “was less interested in that.” Reading his essay on the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback again, I think his editors let him down in the process. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World