An Asian-American Perspective on Jeremy Lin and Race

Disclaimer: This is a personal piece and by no means reflects the beliefs and opinions of other Asian-Americans. It is merely my own thoughts on the debate between Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless on ESPN First Take.

As an Asian-American it excites me when I watch Jeremy Lin. In fact, I’ve probably watched more NBA basketball in the last two weeks than I have all of the last NBA season. Lin means something. He represents what hard work and determination will do. He’s the ultimate underdog. He is breaking Asian stereotypes that we are un-athletic and just good at math. He is making the “invisible minority” visible.

Yes, his story is inevitably drawing race into the storyline. What does it matter if Lin is Asian, African-American, Hispanic, or any other race? Why should that detract from his remarkable story? Only it has simply because people are not used to seeing what they are seeing from Jeremy Lin. We have had numerous articles about the issue, but we have also heard or read some not so positive remarks about it such as the ESPN headline writer who wrote, “Chink in the Armor,” as a headline to Lin’s first loss against the New Orleans Hornets.

On ESPN First Take, Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless had a debate on these issues of race (you can listen to it yourself in the video). Steven A. Smith basically believes the person fired from ESPN and the anchor suspended from ESPN for thirty days were fired because America is overly sensitive to what is considered racism and what is not. He thinks the punishment was too harsh because it was an overreaction and that the ESPN employees may have made an honest mistake. While I agree with Mr. Smith on principle, as an Asian American, I would have been more upset had no punishment been enacted. In fact, that is the problem I have with Fox Sports who have refused to reprimand Jason Whitlock for his offensive tweet regarding Jeremy Lin (you can look it up on Google as I do not wish to repeat it here). Again, not saying Whitlock should be fired. Suspended, perhaps. But it’s almost as if Fox Sports just let him slide. I do think the anchor should have been given a pass as it was live and on air, but it does not explain the headline writer’s lack of judgment. I am not one to advocate someone losing his or her job, and in that regard, the firing was probably too harsh of a sentence. However, I also understand why ESPN did it. We cannot be overly sensitive to just one race, and not be to the others. The word “chink” is offensive, and it should not be okay to say it. No racially charged word should be. It doesn’t matter whether someone is black, white, Asian, Latino, or any other race. The same goes for offensive tweets and comments. Why should it be okay for someone to make offensive comments about one race and not about another?

Skip Bayless is right. We need to be overly sensitive to these issues. From that perspective, ESPN did the right thing. I can’t tell you how tired I am of people making jabs at Jeremy Lin on twitter. In fact, there’s a tweet going around that says, “The impressive part of Jeremy Lin is he’s doing all of this with his eyes closed.” Really? To me, it’s an offensive tweet. But no. It’s fine to make fun of Asian Americans because we’re the “invisible minority,” right? The ones who stay within the lines, are not usually on an athletic showcase, and who get degrees from places like Harvard and Yale to pursue jobs in engineering, science, law, and medicine. We’re not politically active and we basically stick to what’s safe. But let me be clear: it’s not alright for any race.

In closing, I really hope we can move past these issues of race and racism. What Lin has done is a great story for everyone. It’s a truly American story where the “little guy” gets a chance to make something of his or herself. Isn’t that what America is all about? Isn’t it about “pulling yourself up from your bootstraps,” and using hard work and perseverance to achieve your dreams and goals? This is what Jeremy Lin has done. And I wouldn’t care if Lin was black, white, or orange. It would still be a great story.

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