Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jeremy Lin’s Fortune Cookie, a Reflection on Asian Stereotype

Dear Fellow Asian Americans:

Jeremy Lin, the undrafted, unheralded, twice-cut player, has just set records for a first-time NBA
starter and swept the world into "Linsanity". His utter destruction of Asian stereotype does
not come without backlashes. Sports commentator Whitlock offered a gratuitous description of
Lin's anatomy, with boxer Mayweather concurring "All the hype is because he's Asian". MSG
network displayed a questionable fortune cookie image (Attached: "The Knicks Good Fortune").
Not to be outdone, three ESPN affiliated journalists described Lin as a "Chink" . (We salute
ESPN for promptly firing the script writer and suspended anchor Bretos.)

To Asian Americans, Jeremy Lin's experience resonated for different reasons. Some quotes:

o "Jeremy Lin has now gotten what every Asian American has ever really wanted - the
chance to succeed or fail based on performance and not on preconceived notions or
racial stereotypes."

o "He almost wasn't given any chance to show he could play, until Coach D'Antoni turned to his
final option, play Lin because he was one of the last warm bodies on the bench."

o "You hear endless debates about: 'How can this be happening? How can he be doing so well?'
They're looking for answers other than he's athletically gifted."

o "Deep down inside, many of us were decoding that secret language that resonated with our
own experiences which justified keeping him on the end of the bench. It translated into the very
troubling and all so obvious … "he's Asian".

o "There's this idea that it's OK to stereotype Asians. Just don't with African-Americans or
Latinos because you'll get in trouble and you'll get an aggressive response."

o "Asian Americans are supposed to be 1) short, 2) nerds, 3) devoid of leadership skills, 4)
unaggressive, and 5) virtually invisible."

o "As any member of the "model minority" can tell you, Asian Americans feel we have to work
harder to achieve the same level as our non-Asian counterparts. SAT scores for college
admissions is the perfect example."

o "Stereotypes act as another gatekeeper, deterring kids from even trying to compete."

o "Asian-Americans must dedicate themselves to becoming the Jeremy Lins of their
respective fields. If you feel pressure to be quiet instead of speak up, consciously push your c23 self
out of your comfort zone and share your thoughts. If you feel you've been overlooked, stand up
for yourself. If you think you think you might have the skills do so something your boss may not
see at first, fight to have the chance to prove yourself. We must take it upon ourselves to
change stereotypes …, just as importantly, our own minds about the limits of our leadership.
Society may not always be able to avoid stereotypes, but we all have the power to change them."

As Jeremy Lin moved off his brother's couch and into America's conscious, the stereotype of the
socially inept, meek Asian American is one that desperately needs changing. That ultimately
requires us to challenge ourselves - and society at large - to rethink the place of Asian-Americans
in our society. 80-20 is at the vanguard to challenge our own APATHY toward community
affairs and to challenge ourselves and the broader society to give Asian Americans the Equal
Opportunity to contribute to the best of our qualifications and abilities.

On Feb 21, 2012, the Supreme Court has taken up the "Fisher v. U Texas at Austin" case.
80-20 will file a legal brief to advocate for Asian American interest in college admission.

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