“Linsanity” — how many times have we all heard this phrase, either on TV or in the news? Even if you’re not an avid NBA follower, which I certainly am not, I’m sure at least some of you have heard this phrase at least once within the last couple weeks. However, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Jeremy Lin, I’ll give you some background information:
After graduating from Harvard in 2010, Lin went undrafted into the NBA. That summer, Lin played for the Dallas Mavericks on their Summer League squad before signing a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors, his local NBA team growing up. In early December of 2011, Lin was picked up by the Houston Rockets, but was later waived to the New York Knicks, right before the new year. Lin saw some action in the beginning while playing for the Knicks, but by no means was he a standout player. Nevertheless, Lin received a shot to prove himself after the Knicks faced a losing streak, and was promoted to starting point guard. Lin excelled on the court, and went from being a barely known basketball player to one of the most famous athletes in the NBA overnight.
The linsanity phenomenon has created so much media attention, both in the US and abroad. Many sports critics argue that the amount of media attention Lin is receiving is mostly because of his race. On the contrary, some people argue that all this attention Lin is receiving is simply because he is excelling on the court. Regardless of what people believe, the fact is that most of the media attention Lin is receiving is centered on racial stereotyping. ESPN, probably one of the most well respected American sports networks, was forced to apologize for an anti-Asian slur directed at Lin, following one of the Knicks’ losses. Written by Anthony Federico (who has since been fired), the headline “Chink in the armor” appeared TWICE in an online story about the Knicks’ loss.
You’d think that anyone intelligent enough to land a job at ESPN would know that making racist comments is completely unacceptable. An article written by Hadley Freeman at The Guardian points out something interesting about racism: while it certainly isn’t anything new in sport, Freeman argues that racism against Asian Americans is different, compared to racism against African Americans, for example. Her claim is that because racism against Asians is not confronted as much, it is somehow seen as acceptable. People might even be totally clueless to the fact that what they’re saying is hurtful to someone of the race, perhaps because Asian Americans are barely represented culturally.
Jeremy Lin has had to face stereotypes not only from the media, but also other businesses, like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Like ESPN, the ice cream company admitted they made a mistake with its Jeremy Lin-inspired ice cream flavor. Apparently, the company received a great deal of criticism for adding fortune cookies to the flavor — an act that many people viewed as politically incorrect. According to a Yahoo News article, Ben & Jerry’s stated that they weren’t trying to offend anyone with their limited-edition “Taste the Lin-Sanity” flavor. Maybe Hadley Freeman is right — are people just completely oblivious to what is okay and not okay to do or say regarding the Asian race?
Thinking back to the initial prompt for this week — I don’t think everything is OK when it comes to racism. I think the US has made a lot of progress in this category, but on the whole, racism still exists today. I think the Jeremy Lin example is so interesting and relevant to this debate. Can no one be appreciated for just being good at something? Or do people always need to stereotype. It shouldn’t matter where someone is from or what they look like. If they’re good at whatever it is — sport, in this case — nothing else should matter. Someone shouldn’t receive more or less attention because they are male, female, black, white, whatever. I hope people start to appreciate Jeremy Lin more for his talent, instead of focusing on where he is from.