I’m sending you a plea on behalf of all Asian Americans. I know you’re caught up in Linsanity just like we are. It’s a beautiful thing to watch you gaze with jaws dropped at the exploits of the first Asian American marquee player in NBA history. But we really need this to continue, so it’s very important that you let us help you learn how not to ruin it.
Please note that this is a new phenomenon for us. We’re not used to getting this much attention. Correct that. We’re used to being the center of attention when politicians need a convenient scapegoat to distract attention from their failed policies and lack of real solutions. But we’re not used to getting this much POSITIVE attention.
For the most part we’ve been good sports. We’ve joined in the fun of calling Jeremy things like “Linderella” and “Super Lintendo.” Bear in mind, Asian Americans were ready to burn down Abercrombie and Fitch stores a decade ago over t-shirts with bad puns like “Wong Brothers Laundry Service: Two Wongs Make It White.” But it’s a lot more cool when it’s Spike Lee tweeting puns on “Lin” to express mad love rather than the fifth-grade bully calling you names while stealing your lunch money.
And we know you’ve learned a lot already. The fact that you are using the term “Asian American” instead of “the Oriental guy” or “that Chinese dude” or “the latest import from Japan” is epic. Heck, the fact that you even acknowledge that there is an Asian American community in the United States is tremendous progress.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions and right now they are combined with bad analogies being put forward by writers who’ve caught wind of Linsanity but don’t realize how dangerous a little bit of partial knowledge can be. So please follow these simple steps to ensure that Linsanity doesn’t jump the shark before its time………..
such a good article.
"But we’ve never had a chance to revel in the glory of an Asian American rising above all the slights and stereotypes he and the rest of us have faced to become a true superstar — one that we can embrace with total sincerity alongside millions of Americans of every race, color, and creed doing likewise."
For Asian Americans, there is often a double-bind to media representation. Increased media attention is often met with a personal, stomach-jerking reaction of giddy eagerness (like seeing two Asian American characters in Glee‘s first season) or sheepish embarrassment (American Idol’s William Hung). But that additional representation is often dismissed as being tokening, stereotypical (Han from 2 Broke Girls), superficial, unquestioning, and ultimately buttressing systemic injustice.
These Asian Americans in the media usually have relatively little agency: mainstream editors took excerpts of Amy “Tiger Mom” Chua’s work out of context, and actors generally have very little say in how they are cast in movies and TV shows (like in this Super Bowl ad). On the basketball court, however, it should just come down to how you play. And the Knicks haven’t had an Asian-American player since Wat Misaka, in 1947. The attention years ago surrounding Yao Ming, a Chinese citizen who also played for the Rockets, celebrated Asian-ness.
But the birth of “Linsanity,” exploding across both mainstream and social media, is excited about his Asian American-ness. And this I find infinitely more energizing. As another Asian American blogger, Popchef, recently wrote: “He doesn’t have a duty to embrace Asian America, speak for Asian America, or represent Asian America because right now he IS Asian America. Go to Church, drink that blue shit, but don’t you ever, ever, ever, stop being the normal-ass Taiwanese-American you are.”