Racism is a funny thing – by funny I mean haha funny, as in, it’s funny when you’re not on the other end of it. In my experience, folks sometimes try to use their understanding of race to build bonds. Unfortunately, what comes across is race as a representation of difference that creates a chasm to be bridged through the awkward offering of stereotypes. As if snapping their fingers and saying ‘oh no he di-int’ in my face will endear them to me. From that statement alone, I’m sure you can guess my race. Such is life for people of color in America, however we want to deny it behind idealistic dreams of ‘post racial America’, race still matters, even for the model minority.
Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American Harvard alum who is taking the world by storm as the new point guard for the New York Knicks, has not been shielded from everyday experiences that POCs face. In a candid NPR interview he gave back in 2010 whilst playing for Harvard’s basketball team, he shared the racial slurs that fans would toss at him: Go back to China; Chinese import; Can you see the scoreboard?
Among the virtual saturation of Jeremy Lin online has been a poster of him with the words “We are all witnesses.” At Monday’s New York Knicks game, fans donned “black T-shirts that read “The Jeremy Lin Show” on the front” and “We Believe” painted on the back.
Encapsulating the hoopla and hype, while referencing the similar promise that LeBron James brought to Cleveland and the NBA (how’d that work out?), not to mention the spectacle of his meteoric rise, “the witness” iteration illustrates the religious overtones playing through the media coverage.
Since Lin emerged on the national scene while at Harvard, he has made his faith and religious identity quite clear. While refusing to abandon the “underdog” story, Cork Gaines focuses readers attention on his religious beliefs: “But there is more to Jeremy Lin than just being an undrafted Asian-American point guard out of Harvard. He is also a devout Christian that has previously declared that he plays for the glory of God and someday hopes to be a pastor.” Noting how post-game interviews often begin with Lin announcing his faith – “just very thankful to Jesus Christ, [his] Lord and savior” – Gaines uses this opportunity to deploy the often noted comparison that Jeremy Lin is the NBA’s Tim Tebow.
My spark of excitement over Jeremy Lin’s baller performances this week for the New York Knicks has taken me off guard.
My Asian American friends and I are living through this with an excitement I never thought possible. It’s a story many of us in Asian America have been following with a spare ear since Lin’s beginnings from Palo Alto High School through his four years at Harvard and now in the NBA. I only ever made it to one Columbia basketball game during college; it was versus Harvard, to watch Lin play, after he had already been blowing up the Asian American blogosphere.
After stints with the Golden Gate Warriors and the Houston Rockets, Lin’s move to the Knicks this season was met with not-so-subtlecommentary suggesting it was a “marketing move” by the Knicks – a move made to draw in New York City’s large Asian American population. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World