Thursday, March 1, 2012

JLin and the Image of the Asian American Male

ESPN's Howard Bryant with a thought-provoking op-ed piece on the JLin phenomenon and the opportunity it presents to reshape race relations discussions.

Among other things, Wright opines:
There have been bigger Asian stars in sports, such as Ichiro Suzuki and Yao Ming -- and in Hollywood, Jackie Chan and Jet Li -- but they've been cultural imports. America is still waiting for an Asian-American leading man, on the field or on the screen, one to be taken seriously and completely, not as a caricature.

Little of this conversation has anything to do with Jeremy Lin specifically. But his emergence with the Knicks provides the lens for us to look at ourselves again, to look at what we are and who we are. It's unfortunate when we don't like what we see.

Of course, there is good news. We have an opportunity again to be better. Jeremy Lin is a compelling basketball figure doing his job, making the most of his opportunity. The question, as it has always been, is this: What will we do with our opportunity, the one he's giving us?
 What do you think?


  1. It is not all on us Asian American males to change.

    We cannot get into the minds of people and forcibly undo the negative programming taught by schools and big media.

    The simple reason that "imports" like Yao can make it in America is because he wasn't kept out of basketball by racists like D1 basketball coaches. In American entertainment, Asian American stars have historically had to get their start overseas first before they could return to America. Lin nearly had to do that before the NJ game.

    Things won't get substantially better until another Asian American hoops star makes it in the NBA after Jeremy Lin does.

  2. A very perceptive article written by that Bryant guy. I thought first it was Kobe Bryant. :)

  3. I'm still shaking my damn head in disbelief that Lin wasn't even top 5/10 draft pick of 2010... Asian or not, didn't these idiots see any kind of potential??? What about his Bball IQ??? That alone should get you drafted, no???
    That is such a disrespect to Lin and America's view on Asian American Male... I just feel like punching a random stranger right now every time I read about Lin's background, SO ANGRY!!!

  4. lin senior year led his high school to the state title averaging 15.1 points, 7.1 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 5.0 steals.
    result: no div 1 basketball scholarship

    lin senior year in college averaging 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.1 blocks, and was again a unanimous selection for All-Ivy League First Team.
    result: not drafted

    20 games in the d-league with the warriors he averaged 18 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists with Reno.
    result: cut by the warriors

    On January 20, he had a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists in the BayHawks' 122–113 victory over the Maine Red Claws.
    result: almost cut by the knicks

    how can a kid like lin putting up ridiculous stats everywhere he goes, simply is "overlook?" we all know he wasn't given the chance because he was asian.

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    1. Elaine Chao and of course Doctor David Ho.

    2. I hate to make this statement, but as a proud Asian American, I feel like I have to...

      This is exactly why I respect and am so proud of Jeremy Lin, John Cho, Sung Kang, Yul Kwon, Michelle Kwan, Gary Locke, Steven Chu, Michael Chang etc..sooo many more to list, than Asian Americans who've left us and gone to greener pastures. I hate to call them sell outs, but true Americanism is to overcome obstacles and never give up on your dream. These Asian Americans are the true heroes. You stayed, you conquered, you made a name for yourself and did your Asian American community proud. I'm not trying to be divisive, but we have to be proud to be American Asians, and we have to fight for what we believe is true and righteousness shall always prevail. If US AAs always back away or only live to find a larger check, we'll always be outcasted or overlooked. Jeremy Lin's proved everyone wrong, and now let's see if he can get a ring.

  7. There's always two sides of the story. One is that Hollywood / Colleges / etc don't know what to do with Asian American males (females are entirely different story). A couple of examples:

    1. Anyone remember "America's Got Talent" and a group then called "At Last". If not, check this out:

    I'm not saying they were going to a great band but they seemed to have some talent. They didn't win the competition but they did release a few independent albums. They won a few awards while independently touring including "Best Unsigned Band". I recall reading somewhere that producers told these guys that they didn't know how to "market" them. Think "Jeremy Lin" except in music. Producers have never seen a Asian-American succeed in music so they have no reference.

    Unfortunately for these guys, I think they have given up their dream. The group lost one member and changed their band name (Tatum Jones). They pushed on for a while but their website is gone and I think the three remaining guys have moved on as just regular people trying to make a living.

    2. Russell Wong - The older generation will remember Russell Wong has one of the up and coming actors in the 1980's / 1990's. He was half Asian but looked more Asian than white. He also (with his last name) really seemed to identify himself as an Asian person. With his good looks, it appeared he might take off. Instead he gets stuck with a kung fu show in Vanishing Son. He also did a take on the Joy Luck Club movie which he didn't play the best husband. His career never really took off though he appears to have revived himself in Asia recently.

    Russell Wong had one advantage (or disadvantage depending on how you look at it) that Jeremy Lin and At Last / Tatum Jones did not have. Russell Wong had Bruce Lee before him. Therefore, an Asian stars are looked as the "next Bruce Lee" (Jackie Chan, Jet Li). CHow-Yun Fat was cool but Americans don't identify a guy like Chow YUn-Fat as cool. Cool is either like Rambo or Rocky (big muscles) or Brad Pitt (white / suave / good looking).

    These are just some examples of people who went for their dreams and didn't quite accomplish all they wanted. However, the other side is that Asian parents / families tend to go for practical jobs. Thus, some never pursue their dreams to begin with. That is something that should change over time.

  8. Yeah, and even those so called "practical" jobs will kick out Asian American males too.

    I work for myself in my own business in an "impractical" job that my parents hate. I do that not because I want to, but because I HAVE to. I didn't have the natural ability to be a superstar in the field my parents wanted me to be in, plus unending racism took care of the rest.

    After years of trying to do it the parental way (backup plans and all), I realized that my original business dream was the correct one after all. Now I'm thriving and gaining ground much the same way Lin is, albeit not in a mass media sort of way like he does.