Jeremy Lin Asian American stereotypes

Jeremy Lin: A New Asian American Role Model is Born Yet Stereotyping Remains!

Asian Am Athletes

“Lin breaks down, or at least penetrates, the walls that have excluded Asian Americans from popular culture.” from SLAM

Jeremy Lin Asian American stereotypes

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:

Jeremy Lin Harvard Graduate JadeLuckClubImage from ESPN

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 

Jeremy Lin Kobe Bryant jadeluckclubimage from Just Jared

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 to 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.

Jeremy Lin versus Kobe Bryant JadeLuckClubimage from

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 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.

What is your reaction to Jeremy Lin? Please share!

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13 thoughts on “Jeremy Lin: A New Asian American Role Model is Born Yet Stereotyping Remains!”

  1. I am going to start banning your posts if all you do is post about racism.

    You can do better.

    Lets get off the racism bent. I don’t appreciate it that cheap way of getting attention to issues. When its legitimate lets raise it but lets talk about more productive things we can do as a community to just better ourselves.

    From Josh via message in LinkedIn

  2. Hi Josh,

    You do realize that Jeremy Lin is a big story because he is Asian American. If he were any other race, it would not have made this kind of Big Story. I’m not the only one to realize that this:

    APALC @APALC Reply Retweeted Favorite · Open
    Jeremy Lin’s story highlights the prejudice that Asian Americans still face; in his case as an Asian American…

    APALC is the nation’s largest legal aid and civil rights organization serving the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
    Los Angeles ·

    And I think it hurts Asian Americans to deny that stereotyping or racism exists; turning the other cheek doesn’t make it go away. It needs to be confronted and allowed to come out of the shadows.

    As a community to better ourselves … that’s been our mantra since we’ve arrived here. I think it works on an individual level and is less of an issue as you rise out of poverty, but doesn’t give our community a voice.

  3. I have to its a rather terrible article. The truth of the matter is “stereotypes” in my opinion are just that. They are broad generalizations made to exagerate certain humorous cultural traits that are somewhat true. The worste part about it is main stream media (we all know this already) but its 10x worse when all that is published here in the “jade luck club” is about that! Nobody wants to read a 3k word diatribe about stereotypes. I think these articles about Jeremy Lin, the man, the athlete, yes who is also Asian, Christian, and a Harvard graduate are much…MUCH better.

    Posted by Joshua (Josh) via LinkedIn Group Korean-American professionals

  4. I have to say it’s a rather dissappointing article. “Stereotypes” are just that. They are broad generalizations made to exagerate certain humorous cultural traits that are somewhat true. Look I’m Korean… and every time my wife watches a mini-series or I hear about K-pop its all these “pretty” boy types. It’s cultural and somewhat true.

    Who is perpetuating a negative stereotype? The article seems to be doing it far more than anything I’ve seen or read in recent years. Look at Jackie Chan or Jet Li. Don’t forget Bruce Lee. They aren’t exactly afeminate. How about Russel Wong and the new surge of Jabberwakies and other Asian entertainers? Is there a stereotpye? Of course there is to some degree for everyone. Everyone knows that. Nobody needed to write that stuff and frankly I can’t really see anybody wanting to read it.

    I think the “Jade Luck Club” did a huge disservice with this golden opportunity to uplift a brother Asian for his accomplishments. Instead they only focused on how he’s Asian and all the negative stuff surrounding that. Nobody in main stream media is focusing on that. This article about Jeremy Lin, from Forbes which illustrates him as the man, the athlete, yes who is also Asian, Christian, and a Harvard graduate are much…MUCH better. They talk about principles instead of “look at this Asian”…now lets take this opportunity to talk about our own agenda. Instead, they gave him a fair and level playing field for everyone to enjoy.

    Posted by Joshua (Josh) via LinkedIn Group Korean-American professionals

  5. The point that I’m trying to make (and others make it as well) is that Jeremy Lin succeeds despite being Asian American and that he’s a kind of Jackie Robinson for NBA basketball.

    Yes, we should celebrate his success and hold him up as a role model but does this mean that stereotyping and the subtle prejudice behind this has now been erased?

    Who is perpetuating a negative stereotype? Mainstream media has a role. It’s less about what they show then what they don’t show … strong Asian males as sexy? Yul Kwon had to win Cooks Island Survivor to emerge as a role model in the same way that Jeremy Lin had to play lights out to get noticed. But an Asian “Spice Guy”? That’s not a competition and has to be cast. We’re still not seeing that.

    If you want to view Jeremy Lin without a broader context, that is, of course, your perogative but I don’t think Jeremy Lin would agree with that:

    In his own words: ““It’s a sport for white and black people,” Lin told the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2008. “You don’t get respect for being an Asian-American basketball player in the U.S.”

    Jeremy Lin’s story highlights the prejudice that Asian Americans still face; in his case as an Asian American…

    from APALC is the nation’s largest legal aid and civil rights organization serving the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
    Los Angeles ·

  6. Lin is doing great! He’s also humble and intelligent. Something that you rarely see in the NBA. Sometimes, you just have to give someone a chance. I am sure that his coach is glad that he did.

    1. To Taylor,
      I am not sure if this was someone trying to be clever or someone who is a racist but thank you for the links. I am going to post on this too!

  7. I feel like Jeremy Lin is the Jackie Robinson of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the NBA. I think he feels this same burden but thankfully, he’s up to the challenge!

  8. Although I stand by the principle that “race based” articles are racist whether its to bash or even if its to defend….because essentially the issue is race either way. However, I may have been naive in the degree I defended my ultra liberal, benefit of the doubt approach. I really should have known better. I think you were more right than I was.

    I appologize for the degree I may have emphasized my position. I’m leaning more towards your way of thinking….and its a bit saddening at the moment.

    from Joshua L via LinkedIn Group Korean American Professionals

    1. To Joshua,
      It’s just too bad that it couldn’t just be about Jeremy Lin’s achievements and race had to creep in. I am sad about that too!

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