Why Asian American Obsession with Jeremy Lin is well, Weak
by Russell Jeung on Sunday, February 12, 2012
I ain’t gonna’ lie. I’ve followed Jeremy Lin’s basketball career since he was at Palo Alto High. I was proud that the GS Warriors signed him. And when I youtubed the clip of his wicked crossover and dunk against Washington recently, I was gratified that an Asian brother could ball.
And yet, I’ve also been feeling vaguely uncomfortable with my man-crush on Jeremy. I think Asian Americans, especially males, are a little too linsane about him, and that should give us pause. Why are we so proud to see him succeed in the NBA? Are we so hero-starved, as emasculated Asian American males (EAAMs), that we’ll fawn over any slight success against whites and blacks?
Now I am a charter member of EAAMs. As a scrawny Chinese American teenager, I loved playing hoops but was limited. I wish I had a standing jump over two feet so I could touch the rim. I yearned for a left hand that was good for something other than holding a rice bowl. But quite frankly, I was just average, and my confidence waned when I had to play pick-up with strangers.
EAAMs not only face our inadequacy on the athletic courts, but also in the media. I admit I got all choked up when I first heard the EAAMs’ musical anthem, “Be a Man!” during a training scene in a Disney movie. Of course, our role model to be a man was our Asian sister, Mulan, who isn’t even real.
Chow Yun Fat was the male protagonist in the most watched Asian film in the US, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” He was so skilled in martial arts that, even with a funny haircut, he could fly on trees! But our Asian male hero never did get together with the love of his life in the film, Michelle Yeoh. In fact, his character ended up dying at the hands of Zhang Ziyi’s master. What kind of hero is that, who gets killed by an old nanny?
Long oppressed and stereotyped, we EAAMs now can take ethnic pride in Jeremy Lin and say, “At least one of us with a bad haircut can dunk!” He’s our role model, having been overlooked, unrecruited, and undrafted, and now showing them what we can do.
And still, something doesn’t sit right. Why am I infatuated with a guy half my age? Doesn’t our fetish over Jeremy Lin simply prove our emasculation and desperate need for a hero?
I believe the problem for us EAAMs is that we’re buying into the system that oppressed us in the first place. We should have ethnic pride and be represented in society, but pride in what and represented for what? For being able to throw a 9” ball into an 18” hoop and get on an ESPN highlight? We seemed to have become so Americanized that we value only play and fun, all the while 20% of the world lives on $1.25/day.
If our pride in Jeremy Lin is simply based on the fact that he looks like us (only 10 inches taller), than we’ve got a pretty superficial sense of ethnic pride. Martin Luther King Jr. longed for the day when we are judged not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character.
Indeed, our real Asian American heroes should be those with character and integrity, who daily live out noble Asian values. Like the Chinese grandmother who collects aluminum cans just so that she wouldn’t be a burden to her family. Like the Filipino nurse who as a single mom raises her kids to do well in school. Like the Vietnamese immigrant kid, while not yet a citizen, serves in Afghanistan for the US Army because he cherishes freedom.
EAAMs, take pride in these community members and let them be your heroes. Better yet, be your own hero and develop the content of your own character. Take your recycled goods, share them with the grandma, and help the environment. Mentor a low-income kid, and give the mom a break. Vote intelligently in the next election, and honor that soldier.
Then you can sit back, and enjoy the Knicks on ESPN.
[reposted with permission]