Jeremy Lin, ‘Linsanity’ and Race

The buzz around New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin, the first Asian American to start in an NBA game, has grown into its own pop cultural meme: “Linsanity.” And, as The Huffington Post’s business editor Peter S. Goodman writes, it’s generated a backlash as well.

Boxer Floyd Mayweather recently wrote on Twitter that Lin is a good player “but all the hype is because he’s Asian” and “black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”

Lin has had to confront race long before recently stepping into the spotlight. During his college basketball days, fans would heckle him and poke fun at his race. It happened to him in D.C., too; a Georgetown University basketball fan yelled a racial slur at him during a 2009 game.

Silliness aside, Mayweather’s words amount to a teachable moment for a nation in which race is an omnipresent part of almost any conversation and too often employed as a means of undermining individual accomplishments. Successful people of color are frequently stripped of their achievements and stuck with an asterisk, as if their status were achieved by anything less than the merit that supposedly governs everything for white people. Even in moments of triumph, painful stereotypes are reinforced, with the settled-upon popular narrative yielding to shared (and typically simplistic) assumptions about characteristics supposedly tethered to racial identity.

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  • Your Conscience

    What a sad and ignorant comment. Why do you highlight this? I am sure the vast majority of African Americans strongly disagree with this pathetic envy. 

    He played 4 years of college ball with no scholarshi­p, earned an econ degree from Harvard with a 3.1 gpa, wasn’t drafted by any NBA teams, is almost a foot taller than his parents, and in his first four starts scored more points than Jordan, Kobe, Lebron or any other player ever did in their first four starts since the ABA and NBA merged 35 years ago. No one is doing that, “every day”.

  • Elahe Izadi

    Thanks for your comment. A bit of clarification as to why I included Mayweather’s comment: For one, it came from a famous athlete (who, albeit, is known for making controversial remarks). But more than that, the comment has sparked a rigorous debate of its own. I excerpted an Huffington Post article that refers to Mayweather’s tweet, so I felt it necessary to include the content of the tweet in order to have proper context.

  • Your Conscience

    The fact is that your blog, regardless of your intentions, often actually stirs up racial and class anger by highlighting conflict. You may in fact be making the situation worse. If 95% of interracial occurrences go well, but you highlight the ones that don’t it skews readers to believe the situation is much worse than it is. 

    Also, an article like this creates a gut reaction among white and Asian readers like me that black people are jealous, reinforcing hatred and stereotypes. I was on the other hand very encouraged to read all the African Americans on the HuffPo site responding how much they disagree with this athlete guy (who is he exactly?). 

  • Dreamy

    Not just one known for making controversial remarks– one who is trying to get a fight with an Asian boxer– against whom he has been trying to stir up sentiment FOR a long time, with the same sort of tired argument. Lest we forget– this man came to his fight with Oscar De La Hoya in full “Mexican” drag. Mayweather is the shock jock of the boxing world. I’m sure there are black folks who feel the way he does, somewhere, but he has zero cred as a thoughtful commentator on race and sports. Less than zero– he is purposefully making these kinds of comments for his own personal gain.

  • Dreamy

    As for Lin getting more attention for his uniqueness… Sure, of course that’s a part of it– not just being Asian American, but by filling a role that runs counter to Asian stereotypes. Kind of like, oh, Barack Obama, and… Great? No need to stir up intra-POC conflict over the same old too-small piece of pie once again.

  • Elijah405

    I would have to totally disagree with your viewpoint that this blog ‘stirs up racial conflict’. Highlighting issues of race and class in DC which is a melting pot of cultures and the convergence of different classes of people provides an opportunity for thoughtful discourse on current issues. Hearing the perspectives of different people gives an opportunity for critical thinking and perhaps the ability to see things from another’s mindset. I also think that it’s very naive to think that a whooping 95% of interracial occurrences ‘go well’. I’m not really sure what that even  means. Call me a pessimist or some may say a realist.

    Lastly-the fact that a statement from one person would illicit such a guttural reaction amongst readers that ‘black people are jealous’ is laughable. I would wonder why you would take the comment of one person of a race and make it seem as if a ‘black’ people share the same opinion. News flash-we are not a monolithic people, just as Asians aren’t. That viewpoint framed as ‘reinforcing’ bigotry makes me believe that you believed in certain ‘stereotypes’ before you read posts on HuffPo. Perhaps now after reading this blog you can be introspective enough to change your own mindset.