Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jeremy Lin, Reinvents the Asian-American Male Image

[Update] Changed the title. I liked the phrase "soft bigotry of low expectations" but Timothy Dalrymple already claimed it in his blog. Sorry Tim!

Oh God not another post on Jeremy Lin?  Yes, and definitely not the last.

The guy was slept on for the longest time albeit several of us out there believed in him from his glory days at Harvard. You think he was slept on because race was a factor? That there were low expectations preconceived by soft bigotry in his physical appearance? No question.

Look, I've always been on the lookout for quality Asian-American role models who radically defy the stereotypes Asian-Americans, men especially, have had to endure since day one. Whether they're going around being reckless playboys, chief executives or transcendent athletes, I really don't care nor will I judge their moral code of conduct. As long as they don't wear the Asian-American stereotypical dress-code being a nerd, martial arts junkie, dorky fob or having zero Game then it's fine with me. In fact, there's actually nothing wrong with being any of those aforementioned types, but when it's the same old story that you see and hear everyday, everywhere in American mainstream media and entertainment, having to be constantly placed into one of those buckets starts to appear as if it's racially motivated.

I don't know about you, but I can guarantee there were at least several thousands of AA men who started to tear up or literally cry out of pride and joy. I'm not embarrassed to admit I was one of them. While watching him play the Lakers I could feel this sensation around the perimeter of my eyes as they were filling up with tears, ready to gush out at any moment's notice. As much as I tried to swallow them whole it was no use. I had already begun to ball. No pun intended. 

Indeed...I was crying. Hard.

It was an emotional moment for me, because up until Linsanity there was always that unfilled void in the AA male image. The void of athleticism and leadership in an all American physical contact, team sport representing alpha characteristics coming from an all American kid whose parents are of Asian (Taiwanese) descent. It shook my soul more than seeing any other AA male on television or on the Hollywood big screen, because here was a California born and raised AA kid who had to fight his way through the racial taunts and epithets to prove everyone wrong and come out on top. This wasn't a movie either. This was for real and Jeremy Lin was the protagonist. A story that countless ASIAN-AMERICAN MEN have had to endure throughout their lifetime. 

He is Linspirational.

Mark Anthony Neal of NewBlackMan has a very powerful piece on his blog which I want to share with all of my readers. Here's the excerpt that perfectly summarizes the struggle,
Amid the invisibility is a history of feminization of Asian American males.  When present within media and popular culture, Asian American men have been represented as asexual, weak, physically challenged, and otherwise unmasculine. Sanctioning exclusion and denied citizenship, the white supremacist imagination has consistently depicted Asian male bodies as effeminate.  The entry of Lin into the dominant imagination reflects a challenge to this historic practice given the power of sports as a space of masculine prowess.
He also quotes Timothy Dalrymple in his piece earlier that my emotional moment wasn't unique at all
And some Asian-American young men, long stereotyped as timid and unathletic, nerdy or effeminate or socially immature — have fought back tears (which may not help with the stereotype, but is understandable under the circumstances)
Timothy further qualifies why Jeremy is so important shattering AA male stereotypes based on his own personal experience which parallels what Asian-American men have been arguing about for the longest time. Take BigWoWo's blog for instance which I no longer participate in but understand his argument and the AA male plight.
I grew up in the Bay Area with a Korean adopted sister and best friends who were Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino.  I married an extraordinary Chinese-American woman, and thus joined her family and community (amongst whom I now live).  Even though I’m Caucasian, I’ve been around Asian-American communities long enough to see that Asian-American men and women face different stereotypes and different challenges.  Asian-American women by and large have a positive, helpful image in American society.  Although some Asian-American women will complain about stereotypes of submissiveness or nerdiness or asexuality, so many Asian-American women have become doctors, lawyers, reporters and businesswomen that they’re generally seen as intelligent, professional, attractive, friendly, and relatively innocent or untainted by bad attitudes and bad influences.  Even positive stereotypes can be confining, of course, but they’re better than negative ones.
For Asian-American men, in contrast, the positive stereotypes are few: they’re good at math and good at short-people sports like table tennis and gymnastics.  The negative stereotypes are legion: they’re the geeky, socially inept guys with coke-can glasses in the engineering labs; they’re the perpetual adolescents playing video games on their super-computers at thirty or forty years old; and they’re the physically and sexually immature, small and timid young men who can’t talk to girls and get their second jobs before they get their first kiss.
Yes Tim, you're right. Young Asian-American men have fought back tears, but some like me are man enough to cry about it and with good reason. The feeling is akin to how black people probably felt when they saw Barak Obama being inaugurated into the White House. Something that was probably unimaginable for them and their ancestors has now become a reality in their lifetime.


  1. Thanks for posting, though the piece was actually written by David J. Leonard, who is aregular contributor to my site NewBlackMan

    1. It was a great post. I thought to myself, "Finally, somebody else besides another Asian-American male who gets it." You'll be surprised how many Asian-American females turn a blind eye to this emasculation of AA men. It's really sad.

      Fortunately, I see changes in this dynamic every year that goes by. Thank you.

  2. It's important to realize that, while there are Asian men who fit the "nerd" or "villain" archetype, it is the media, not the lack of regular Asian men, that creates the stereotype. And with Lin in the media stoplight, they ain't stopping anytime soon:

    In other words, Time keeps showering America, and the world, with anti-Asian images. It's OK to have an Asian on the cover of Time or Newsweek--as long as he's a dictator like Kim or Mao or otherwise a villain.
    A lot of these blog posts imply, perhaps unconsciously, that there aren't enough strong Asian men to be role models, which further implies that Asian men are to blame. No. It's the media.
    I'm glad many black men understand. And I feel for them, too--I can't believe that it's only now, in 2012, that we finally have a Hollywood film with an all-black cast that's marketed for everyone. Because blacks--and Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, everyone--are American history just as much whites.


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