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“Chink in the armor”


“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.

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Discussion

5 thoughts on ““Chink in the armor”

  1. Jenna, I couldn’t agree more with your post. The fact that individuals have been making such a big deal over Lin’s race as opposed to his athletic ability is extremely unfortunate. While I do believe that he represents a demographic that has yet to be exalted on the cover of sports magazines, I wish some commentators remarked less on his race as opposed to the fantastic athleticism he has exhibited. My best friend at school is an Asian American, and he comments every game that Lin is giving Asian-Americans a huge surge of confidence. I admire this ability of Lin, and actually hope that through his exposure, we can overcome the racial discrepancy that Freeman points at in his article.

    Posted by Derek | February 28, 2012, 8:48 pm
  2. I am completely oblivious to basically anything that has to do with sports, so this is the first time that I had heard of Linsanity. I thought this was a very interesting way to approach the prompt because looking at a famous person you can clearly see the whole of the public’s reaction. I also agree with Freeman in that people are completely oblivious to racism towards asians. I know that I regularly make fun of my asian friends for being nerds. But at the same time, I would not say that it is necessarily bad that his background is being focused on as many famous people’s backgrounds are analyzed by the media. I think the problem is more so the way that the media is going about this task.

    Posted by Catherine Gibbons | February 28, 2012, 8:50 pm
  3. I think the fact that Lin was passed up by a great number of Division I schools speaks volumes about this situation. In an article in the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/yUkIef), it is written: “Some coaches have wondered whether Lin, who is of Taiwanese descent, did not receive a closer look by recruiters because of his ethnicity. Coaches have said recruiters, in the age of who-does-he-remind-you-of evaluations, simply lacked a frame of reference for such an Asian-American talent.” Individual athletes should not have to have a “frame of reference” in order to be recognized as talented. Talent is talent, and it seems absurd that coaches and recruiters overlooked Lin for so long simply because he is Asian and there are not many Asian basketball players. Over time, athletics has established such stringent standards for the framework of what a good athlete in a certain sport should look like and what their body type should be. Just because most professional athletes fit into this framework, does not mean you have to fit in in order to be extremely talented. The arena of sports may be missing out on a whole lot of talent because of this extremely narrow mindset.

    Posted by Beth O'Brien | February 28, 2012, 9:07 pm
  4. Jenna, I agree with you that the media is focusing too much attention on Jeremy Lin’s race and not on his athletic abilities. Since I am not a big basketball fan, I don’t keep up with the big names or teams. I only really know the names Kobe, Lebron James, and Michael Jordan. The other big name that I now know is Jeremy Lin and this is due to the news surrounding the racial slurs and racist remarks in the media and not due to his athletic abilities. I have heard all the issues that you mentioned in your post but I have no idea what he has done for the basketball world. Hopefully America can move on from these differences and focus on the game itself.

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | February 28, 2012, 9:12 pm
  5. Yea, my question is if a black player came out of nowhere – just like Lin – would the media still be as fixated on him as they have been on Lin? The answer is probably not. But there are also some other factors that come in to play with the Lin – sanity phenomenon. The fact that he is Asian, and there is a very small number of Asians playing in the NBA, people are more sensitive to the subject of race. I think because there are so few Asians in the league, and NBA history has been pretty devoid of Asians playing at a high level, people are taking more care to not bring up the subject of race. However, when this happens, it inevitably gets brought up more than it would have had people not thought about race. Jeremy Lin is a great basketball player, and his performances have illustrated that his skill is here to stay. But being Asian, we’ll have to wait for people to stop being too “PC” and acknowledge that race shouldn’t even be thought of in this context. It will just make things worse.

    Posted by Ben K. | February 29, 2012, 3:57 pm

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Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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