Posts tagged Jay Caspian King
This much is clear: We still haven’t figured out how to talk about Asian Americans. The term “model minority” has long since expired, for good reason, but the nerdy kid who, through hard work and natural intelligence, pulls himself into good standing still remains the dominant narrative. For the most part, that’s how Jeremy Lin has been processed. He’s described as humble and smart and a great kid who worked hard to overcome long odds. All these things might be true, but they simply mirror the quiet way in which we succeed in this country. In an earlier column, I said that it has become standard practice among high-achieving Asian Americans to dodge any questions about race. This impulse comes, I believe, out of guilt and a pervasive, irrational fear that if we talk too much about prejudice and act too indignant over insensitive comments, the powers that be will reverse the course of history and send us back to building railroads. As such, if Jeremy Lin simply went about his business, got his stats, and helped his teammates, his accomplishments would be celebrated, but they might not resonate as powerfully with his Asian American fans.
Instead, we have a 23-year-old kid who dunks, keeps the ball for himself in pressure situations, preens, chest bumps, and gets caught up in Kim Kardashian rumors. The public record of Jeremy Lin might show a modest kid who praises Jesus, but that’s not how he conducts himself on the court. I’m not particularly proud of it, but over the past two weeks, I’ve exchanged countless e-mails with my Asian American friends about how the only way the Jeremy Lin story could possibly be better is if he talked like Nas and released a dis track on Tru Warier Records. All of us have shared stories, without a hint of modesty or shame, about getting choked up while watching Knicks games. Lin has reignited the possibility of ChiNkBaLLa88 and the Mental Oriental — a pluralistic, autonomous minority who, without apology, represents a life spent stuck between expectations.
Maybe it’s not fair to Jeremy Lin, and it’s certainly too much to heap onto a young man whose saga through the NBA has just reached its 10th game. But regardless of what the polite rules of our post-racial society might say about conflating athletes into symbols or talking too much about race, Jeremy Lin-as-symbol-for-his-people has already arrived.