Jeremy Lin: A New Asian American Role Model is Born Yet Stereotyping Remains!
“Lin breaks down, or at least penetrates, the walls that have excluded Asian Americans from popular culture.” from SLAM
image from Privy 5
Jeremy Lin is making headlines and history and the Asian American community could not be happier both for him and for presenting a different side of the stereotypical Asian American. Yet, his success is yet another example of the Asian American work ethic that is drummed into us all from birth. The fact that he’s made People Magazine as one to watch pretty much signifies that he’s reached our nation’s consciousness. Who is Jeremy Lin? Let’s see what the media says:
First Harvard Graduate to Play in the NBA Since Ed Smith in the 1950’s
Lin, whose parents emigrated from Taiwan to the U.S. in the ’70s, is the first American player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent in the NBA. Also notable: He’s the first Harvard alum to play in the league since Ed Smith’s 11-game season for the Knicks in 1953 to 1954, reports Sports Illustrated. from People
Author Wendy Shang of award winning middle grade chapter book The Great Wall of Lucy Wu sent me this article from a friend of hers who writes for SLAM Online, Your Source for the Best in Basketball.
Pride and Prejudice
Jeremy Lin and the persistence of racial stereotypes.
by David J. Leonard
What emerges is another side of Jeremy Lin. Revered and lauded by his Asian American community, he’s a lone example of an Asian American male who commands respect for his athletic prowess but remains humble and hardworking.
“Timothy Dalrymple highlights the appeal of Lin to Asian-American males:
He particularly has a following amongst Asian-Americans. And some Asian-American young men, long stereotyped as timid and unathletic, nerdy or effeminate or socially immature—have fought back tears (which may not help with the stereotype, but is understandable under the circumstances) as they watched Jeremy Lin score 25 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds for the New York Knicks.”
I like this quote a lot:
“He’s a triumph of will over genetic endowment, a fact that makes him inspiring to an entire generation of Californian kids restless with their model minority shackles,” he notes. from Andrew Leonard
And the Asian American “invisibility” both on the small and big screen in terms of actors is only worse on the sports fields.
“Asians are nearly invisible on television/movies/music, so any time I see an Asian on TV or in the movies, I feel like I’ve just spotted a unicorn, even though usually, I see them being portrayed as kung-fu masters/socially awkward mathematical geniuses/broken-English-speaking-fresh-off-the-boat owner of Chinese restaurant/nail salon/dry cleaners,” writes one blogger. “Anyway, this phenomenon is 10 times worse in sports. While there has been some notable progress with Asians in professional baseball, Asians are all but non-existent in the big three sports in the US (football, basketball, baseball).”
Another quote from this article hits home and I had blogged earlier on the seeming impossibility of an Old Spice Man being played by an Asian American model.
“Amid the invisibility is a history of feminization of Asian American males. When present within media and popular culture, Asian-American men have been represented as asexual, weak, physically challenged, and otherwise unmasculine. Sanctioning exclusion and denied citizenship, the White supremacist imagination has consistently depicted Asian male bodies as effeminate. The entry of Lin into the dominant imagination reflects a challenge to this historic practice given the power of sports as a space of masculine prowess.”
In a sport long dominated by African American males, Lin’s game is based on the same swagger and skills rather than on freakish proportions. It’s like he can play that game too!
“While surely offering fans the often-denied sporting masculinity within the Asian body, the power of Jeremy Lin rests with his ability to mimic a basketball style, swagger and skill associated with Black ballers. Pride emanates from the sense of masculinity afforded by Lin, a fact that emanates from stereotypical constructions of Black masculinity.”
And yet, can just one person break down the Asian American stereotyping? Perhaps not according to Leonard.
“Lin is therefore not breaking down stereotypes (maybe denting them), but in many ways reinscribing them. Celebrated as “intelligent” and as “a hustler,” his success has been attributed his intelligence, his basketball IQ, and even his religious faith. His athleticism and the hours spent on the court are erased from the discussion. And, in positioning him as the aberration, as someone worthy of celebration, the dominant media frame reinforces the longstanding stereotypes of Asians as unathletic nerds.”
David J. Leonard is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman. He is the author of Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema and the forthcoming After Artest: Race and the War on Hoop (SUNY Press). Leonard is a regular contributor to NewBlackMan and blogs at No Tsuris. Follow him on Twitter @DR_DJL.
And yet, there s something inspiring about Jeremy Lin, if only to speak to our generation of Asian American children with real confidence and say, “Yes, you can be anything you want to be.” This is the lesson that Forbes seems to get from Jeremy’s upbringing (Tiger Mom style, of course!).
First of all, he IS 6′ 3″ after all. Having a highly-motivated (read: Tiger Dad) parent, I guess, helps. Luckily, they taught him to overcome setbacks through persistence and hard work.
“Have that golden combination of pushy parent and motivated child. Gie-Ming Lin, Jeremy’s father, himself is a basketball junkie. According to the ESPN.com storied I linked above, he was discouraged from playing as a youth in Taiwan, but taught himself the game with obsessive fervor after arriving in the United States to get his PhD at Purdue University. (How appropriate Gie-Ming Lin studied in the land of Hoosier Hysteria.) Gie-Ming Lin was no Marv Marinovich, but he started teaching Jeremy the game and putting him through drills when he (Jeremy, not Gie-Ming) was not long out of diapers. As it turned out, Jeremy was as motivated a student and Gie-Ming was a teacher. Point being, on top of having the physical talent, you need a child motivated to put in the work, and a parent motivated to support him or her putting in the work, in order to be for your child to be good enough that in case of the injustice of being benched, he or she can later show the coaches what idiots they were.
Have a child who doesn’t get too discouraged by setbacks.
After high school, Lin got no scholarship offers, so he went to Harvard, which is Division I, but as an Ivy League school offers no athletic free rides. Lin was projected as a second-round NBA draft pick by many, but ended up undrafted. Lin caught on with Golden State, but the Warriors let him go. The Knicks took him on, but had him player in the D-League and often didn’t seem to give him a passing thought. And yet, Lin played on.
Now, with a brand that is estimated to be worth $150 million, Jeremy Lin is a success story that every Asian American can get excited about.
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