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More Racism - the subtler, gentler, kind

Jeremy Lin

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#1 TerraPrime

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:57 PM

So I have topped watching NBA for years now. It was a bit of surprise to me then, when my tweet following and blog following all started talking about Jeremy Lin, the rising point guard in NY Knicks.

Apparently, Lin had to fight through some racial barriers to be taken seriously as a professional basketball player, on account of his ethnicity.

*Takes a pause and waits for the horde of defenders about it's true that Asians are not tall enough to be competitive in basketball*

Moving on, then....

It should come as no surprise to anyone that by drawing the spotlight to himself, through his excellent performance, he's also been subjected to several incidents that ranged from simple racial insensitivity to downright racist.

Examples:

1. "Chink in the armor" from ESPN - so the offending party was fired, and he apologized, letting us know that he meant no harm (of course), since his wife is Asian (of course).

Here's a columnist writing for Slate, on this incident:

ESPN’s efforts are commendable, but these incidents suggest that it’s time to retire chink in the armor from the lexicon for good. Yes, I know that phrase has no racial connotations, but it uses the same exact word as the racial slur, for God’s sake. Having been called a chink a few times in my life—an Asian-American rite of passage that usually coincides with puberty—I don’t like hearing it, regardless of context, any more than a homosexual might like hearing the word for a bundle of kindling.



2. Jeremy Lin Fortune cookie!

Some of the fans made a poster celebrating their admiration for Jeremy Lin's contribution to Knicks by associating him with a fortune cookie. It must be reassuring to know that fans think of you as their good fortune, like the slip of paper that tells them that their efforts and hard work will pay off (and their lucky numbers are 3, 7, 28) after they finish a satisfying meal of sweet-and-sour chicken.


3. "What about his eyes?"

A TV anchor at the NY Fox 5 asked, while the sports reporter were listing the physical attributes of Lin that made him a good player, "What about his eyes?"

I think the anchor could have made his point better if he had just use his fingers to pinch the corner of his eyes to make them look like a slit while he said that, don't you?


I'm sure there are other incidents out there. If you come across them, feel free to add to this compilation.


Now, what I think of all this:

I think it's great that Jeremy Lin is performing well and is being treated as a valuable asset to his team. But some of the praise for his skills carries a faint odor. You know, the same odor when someone remarks "wow, he's so good at math, and he's black!"

That tone of surprise, of seeing something unexpected, is unmistakable.

What it also shows is how incapable some people are at not being racist, even when they nominally like the person they're heaping the racist comments on.

Oh, but of course, they're not racists, because they never intended their comments to be racist. That's right.

So let's work with the descriptor "racially insensitive," instead.

Another interesting aspect of this racial insensitivity is the active desire to deny that Lin had faced racism in his career. Many of the user comments in these places will say things like "but he's a big time NBA star now so it shows that his talent is what matters, so there's no racism here." That of course ignores the fact that Lin was overlooked for college basketball on account of his race (allegedly: the story seems likely, but I don't know enough about his qualification at the time to say that he was not considered for the major basketball programs because he's Chinese). You can also see the same attempts elsewhere, in comments where people argue that the fortune-cookie image is not racial. Really? How about if we start putting Lebron James' mug over a bucket of fried chicken and two slices of watermelon, next time?

I also think it'll be interesting if someone who's good at the race issues for Asian Americans and who has a deep knowledge of NBA do a comparison between the treatment of Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin. It almost seems to me that Lin got more racist responses, and he's an American (born in L.A. and grew up in the U.S. but maybe we need to demand to see his birth certificate?)! Odd, isn't it?

#2 CelticKnight

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:02 PM

I think that racial stereotypes are so ingrained and socialized within people that their perception of reality is warped into believing that their prejudices aren't racist at all, because it's become so normalized.

It's a shame really.

#3 Ser Greguh

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:03 PM

1 and 2 are racially insensitive, quite obviously. 3 is debatable in my opinion. "What about his eyes" could have possibly been a subtle reference to his being Asian, but complimenting an athlete - in particular an athlete to whom quick decision-making and vision of the playing field is of great importance, such as a Point Guard (Lin's position), a football midfielder, or an American football Quarterback - for their "eyes" is hardly uncommon, nor is it an inaccurate praise of Lin's play in that context.

Edited by Ser Greguh, 22 February 2012 - 03:04 PM.


#4 Nukelavee

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:08 PM

Honestly - I really don't see the racist quality to the eyes comment. I can see how, if you want to, you could jump to the conclusion he was implying teh whole "slanty" eyed thing...but, it sound more to me like the male anchor was playing on the "great build" and heading in a "sounds like you think he's attractive" kinda thing.

The rest of it is pretty bad, tho.

#5 Tempra

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:13 PM

Number 1 was racially insensitive in that instance, but that phrase, when not referring to an Asian, is perfectly acceptable, IMO.

Number 2 I need to think about more. A fortune cookie does not have the same negative connotations (AFAIK) as say fried chicken and watermelon do when speaking about black individuals.

As for number 3, I haven't watched the video yet, but that phrase is not racist if it was intended to mean he had excellent vision.

#6 Quint

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:15 PM

Stereotypical comments like these never bothered me and I don't understand why their such a big deal sometimes.

#7 TerraPrime

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:16 PM

1 and 2 are racially insensitive, quite obviously. 3 is debatable in my opinion. "What about his eyes" could have possibly been a subtle reference to his being Asian, but complimenting an athlete - in particular an athlete to whom quick decision-making and vision of the playing field is of great importance, such as a Point Guard (Lin's position), a football midfielder, or an American football Quarterback - for their "eyes" is hardly uncommon, nor is it an inaccurate praise of Lin's play in that context.


Did you watch the actual clip?

Did you see the smirk on the face of the male anchor after he made the comment?

Did you see his partner, the sports correspondence, trying so desperately to defuse the situation by saying exactly what you did, that yes, as point guard, having great vision is important!!

Would you like to place a bet on how frequently are the eyes of other notable point guards mentioned when those point guards are not Asian?

So yes, to me, that anchor could possibly be making a legitimate comment on the importance of accurate vision to an NBA point guard. It's about as likely as Mel Gibson's comment about some Jewish person's tendency to save is all about Gibson's concern about the fiscal responsibility level of that Jewish person. YMMV.

#8 Yagathai

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:21 PM

Some of my favorite Jeremy Lin tweets:

Jeremy Lin look like the nigga from "Big Trouble in Little China"


Sucks that Jeremy Lin has to be the subject of Asian jokes. Why can't an Asian nigga just be good at basketball?


JEREMY LIN IS REALLY A #BROOKLYN NIGGA IN A CHINESE NIGGA BODY



#9 Tempra

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:23 PM

You obviously don't watch sports, TP. Commentators frequently compliment players for having great hands or excellent eyes.

Maybe the commentator should have known better, but his comment is not per se racist.

#10 TerraPrime

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:24 PM

Some of my favorite Jeremy Lin tweets:


Chinese nigga eh? So... Chingga? Chigga?

#11 Yagathai

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:26 PM

You obviously don't watch sports, TP. Commentators frequently compliment players for having great hands or excellent eyes.

Maybe the commentator should have known better, but his comment is not per se racist.


Yeah. I don't know about Billy but I watch sports, and I have to say that this one just doesn't pass the smell test. It's subtle, and I don't know if it's malicious, but it's there (though the guy's shit-eating fratboy grin tells me he thinks he was getting away with something).

Edited by Yagathai, 22 February 2012 - 03:27 PM.


#12 TerraPrime

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:31 PM

You obviously don't watch sports, TP. Commentators frequently compliment players for having great hands or excellent eyes.

Maybe the commentator should have known better, but his comment is not per se racist.


So does this mean that you have now watched the clip in question, and this is your final conclusion?

Because, the two statements "commentators frequently compliment players for having great hands or excellent eyes" does not really logically support the conclusion that the comment wasn't also racially charged. But if you have actually watched the clip, and your eyes just don't see it, then we'll just have to disagree.

#13 Galactus

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:38 PM

Ah, I thought it would be about this.

#14 TerraPrime

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:44 PM

Ah, I thought it would be about this.


Well, I wouldn't call it, subtle, or gentle.

Here's more info on her: http://blog.angryasi...ing-racist.html

#15 Yagathai

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:45 PM

I believe she's an unmedicated schizophrenic that has since been institutionalized? Or at least that's what the internet would lead me to believe.

#16 Greywolf2375

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:46 PM

Would you like to place a bet on how frequently are the eyes of other notable point guards mentioned when those point guards are not Asian?

yeah, if the comment was about hand-coordination, sure - that makes complete sense in what a good point guard needs to have. Just making the comment, then him looking off screen, sorry that doesn't fly.

The only times I can really remember someone having comments made specifically about eyes alone were about Wade Boggs being compared to Ted Williams as people that were able to tell what stitch they were hitting on the baseball. Other than that, it is always eyesight, his vision, court sense, etc. Not just the eyes.

And on top of that...with the heightened awareness around what has been said - and people fired for - wouldn't it just be smarter to not even tempt that fire by avoiding the topic all around and commenting on something else? or just not saying anything?

#17 Tempra

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:47 PM

So does this mean that you have now watched the clip in question, and this is your final conclusion?

Because, the two statements "commentators frequently compliment players for having great hands or excellent eyes" does not really logically support the conclusion that the comment wasn't also racially charged. But if you have actually watched the clip, and your eyes just don't see it, then we'll just have to disagree.


I have now, and I think it is inappropriate. Had the commentator made a comment about Lin's eyes after he made a great pass or something, it would be ok IMO. However, the cheesy grin on the guy, the one girl laughing, and the other asking "are you kidding me?" is a bit much for even me to pass off.

#18 TerraPrime

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:49 PM

I have now, and I think it is inappropriate. Had the commentator made a comment about Lin's eyes after he made a great pass or something, it would be ok IMO. However, the cheesy grin on the guy, the one girl laughing, and the other asking "are you kidding me?" is a bit much for even me to pass off.


Thank you.

#19 Howdyphillip

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:56 PM

I don't think there is anything intrinsically wrong with noting Jeremy Lin's race, or even acknowledging that part of the reason for the surprise at his rise in the NBA is because of it. I think that there are ways to address this that are not racist per se.

Having said that, the examples the OP gave are prejudiced and shouldn't have any place in our sports commentary. The possible exception is the eyes comment as has been remarked on earlier in the thread

#20 Nasrudin's True Love

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:03 PM

The Vancouver Whitecaps have a Chinese striker named Long Tan. Our meathead supporters group thought it was pretty clever to chant "oh, me so horny. Me love you Long Tan" when he was on the pitch.

I didn't do anything about it last season, but if it happens this season I will make it my mission to stop it.