Tag Archives: Asian Americans

When Linsanity first swept America, I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. I don’t like bandwagon fans, and I think I have the ultimate reason to dislike bandwagon fans: After Michael died, thousands of “fans” came out of the woodwork. All I’ll say is, “Sure.” Honestly, though, it’s really stupid to try to prove you’re a “better” fan than bandwagoners or fair-weather fans. A fan is a fan. You both love the same person or thing for similar reasons; there’s no need to hate or classify. If anything, trying to prove you are a “true” fan is selfish. I find it very annoying. In the end, I’m glad so many people came to love Michael’s music. Sometimes I wish people would have loved it sooner.

Concerning Lin, though, I was adamant that I wouldn’t be like “those” Michael fans. I thought I would appreciate Lin, but not necessarily follow him.

Well, that plan fell through. I was caught in Linsanity, and of course my mind explored why. I love Jeremy for a number of reasons. Wherever he ends up in the NBA, I’ll be a fan. He’s made me love the Knicks, thus keeping my sports allegiance to New York (Giants and Knicks; if I watch baseball . . .).

Concerning Linsanity, though, a lot of my basketball savvy friends weren’t buying into Lin. I’ll agree: the media definitely overhyped him. I will argue, though, that he had to be overhyped. He is the underdog story inherent. I want to clarify, though, that I am not a Jeremy Lin fan simply because he is Asian American and happened to stumble into the limelight. That’s only part of my reasons. Let me share with you why Jeremy Lin gets me so excited!

  1. He is Asian American. When is the last time an Asian American (not an Asian international) has gained prominence in the American mainstream? When was the last time anchors and reporters were sharing a story about an Asian American? Yao Ming doesn’t count. Jackie Chan and Jet Li don’t count (I actually like Donnie Yen a lot more than either of them). What was the last Asian American thing to grab the national conscious? Fortune cookies? Wong’s Wok? Anime? Japanese schoolgirls (don’t even get me started on that)? Arguably, Bruce Lee in the 1960’s (it is currently 2012 FYI) was the last respectful Asian American icon that pierced the American mainstream–and he had to do that with an “exotic crutch”: wushu (AKA martial arts). Jeremy Lin is the first Asian American to gain respectable prominence in America since Bruce Lee. This 50 year hiatus is finally filled! All the more, Jeremy is surfacing in a very “American” thing: basketball. He has surpassed the national idea that Asian Americans are the eternal foreigner within, always having to be domesticated to become “American”. Jeremy Lin is American, America. And he’s doing something so America very well (debatable, but grant me rhetorical license).
  2. He is InterVarsity alum. Lin and I share something in common: We both were a part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I’m so glad that Jeremy and I were able to share in this college ministry. Faith is usually something that wanes at college, and I know my faith would have dissipated had it not been for InterVarsity. I was able to find a core group of friends that shared in my love for Christ through worship, Bible studies, conferences, and just by trying to discover what it means to be a Christian at college. I know Jeremy experienced similar things at Harvard, and I’m glad that we have this common denominator between us.
  3. He is a follower of Christ. It’s uncanny that Lin would follow Tebow, and that the two athletes would give Christianity prominence in American sports. Unlike Tebow, Lin is a bit more soft spoken about his faith on the court (i.e. there is no Lin-analog to “Tebowing” . . . unless you count this cute thing he does with Landry Fields). I’m sure there are many other Christian athletes that don’t go the route of Tebow (and I’m not saying that Tebow is doing bad things for Christianity), but it’s always good to have a spectrum of character within Christian profession. Should all Christians be vocal about their faith? Yes, but to what extent? If you ask me why I do whatever I do, I’ll always tell you because I want to do a good job or something like that, but then I might tail that explanation by saying something about my savior: “God’s blessed me with this opportunity and this ability, and I want to give it back to him for his glorification.” Jeremy is tactful about his witness, and tact is something that has been a fixture in my faith story.
  4. He is the underdog inherent. Unrecruited out of high school–after being named first team All-State and Northern California Division II Player of the Year? Walking-on at Harvard instead of being offered a scholarship to hometown Stanford? Undrafted out of college? Picked up and dropped by two NBA teams before settling with the Knicks? Only given playing time with the Knicks out of desperation, likely to have been cut the next day? Add onto this Asian American stereotypes, and you’ll understand that Jeremy embodies the underdog story. I love the underdog. That’s part of the reason I’m a Giants fan too. No one expected Eli to pan out and become an elite quarterback (yes, I’m saying that). No one expected the Giants to beat the Patriots in 2007–and then again in 2012. Likewise, no one expected Lin to be a starter in the NBA–let alone, make it into the NBA. But he did it, and I love it!
  5. He is the surfacing of Asian American exigencies in the national American culture. Like my first point, Jeremy Lin is addressing or bringing to light so many inadequacies of the American national culture in accommodating, mediating, and incorporating Asian American culture. This is evidenced by the insensitive and ignorant headlines: Chink in the Armor? The Knick’s Good Fortune? America clearly doesn’t know what to do with Asian Americans besides talk about them in a racially infested manner or to relegate our culture to “good food” and “subordinate women” (though Lin hardly brings to surface the latter . . . though he does do much for Asian American male sexuality). America can only progress from her failure to understand her own Asian Americans. That is why I’m so excited Jeremy Lin has received so much media attention. He’s arrived at a time at which I believe Asian Americans are finally integrating into the national culture, and I would mark “Linsanity” as the beginning of this act. I’m excited to see what is in store for Asian America. All the more, I am so glad my vision that a Christian Asian American would be the spearhead of this movement. Quick note on that last link to my “vision”: 1) Interesting to see how that within 2 years I developed a taste for the West Coast over the East Coast 2) I don’t necessarily speak about my vision for the Asian American movement to be led by Asian American Christians, but that is my heart for the coming years.
So much for trying to keep this list brief. Go Knicks! Go Lin!

Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, an unquestionably racist portrayal of Japanese-Americans

I think what I’m trying to say is that I love to celebrate cultural and ethnic identity, but I know that discriminating or holding a prejudice based on cultural and ethnic identity is racism.

However, my greatest dilemma in this is whether I contribute to racism. Let’s explore 3 cases.

  1. An acquaintance once asked me, when we first met, whether I liked Chinese food. She was obviously implying that I like Chinese food because I’m Chinese. This was offensive to me, but I told her, “Yes, I like Chinese food, but I’m actually Lao. Do you know where Laos is?” Of course, she had no idea — probably because she thought all Asians were Chinese.
  2. A friend once asked me whether he was correctly dancing to an Asian song. He proceeded to weave his arms upward. I don’t have much knowledge about how Asians dance (except that we fricking kill on ABDC and that us Lao can fawn like no other) ((Fawn is a traditional style of Lao dance.)) but I could tell that my friend was not interested in learning whether he was actually dancing correctly; he simply felt like doing something that felt Asian. This was offensive to me and I said, “I don’t know. I’m not Chinese.”
  3. I started trying to speak in an Asian accent. My sister is really good at it, and so I ask her to help me practice. I know a lot of Lao people that carry the accent that I try to mimic. I use the accent because I think it’s funny, but I know that all Asians don’t speak like that. Further, that accent isn’t what makes an Asian person Asian. You will not assimilate into our culture if you start speaking in a broken and drawn-out accent.

I don’t think that I directly contribute to racism, although I probably contribute indirectly. If I saw someone who wasn’t Asian speaking in a mock-Asian accent, I would be ticked — even if that person were honestly learning about Asian cultures. That is my dilemma: Why do I feel like it’s okay for me to feign an accent, but I feel like beating up non-Asians that feign the accent? Am I contributing to racism? Is it wrong or racist that I really do think Asian babies tend to be cuter? Where is the line separating a celebration of culture and a discrimination based on culture? Can only people of the same group poke fun at their group? What are your thoughts?

Image from Cult and Paste

I started reading Takaki’s book at the recommendation of my American Literature professor. We had just finished reading poems from Angel Island. They were poems written by the early Chinese immigrants. In short, the poems were the result of a crude American attitude toward the Chinese immigrants. For as much as I dislike poetry, I took a strong interest in the Chinese poems. I eventually wrote my midterm paper on the poems, analyzing the extent to which the poems foretell and/or capture the Asian American history.

I approached my professor for advice on how to continue further readings in Asian American literature. She perked up and started listing off all these authors and books. I was surprised — mostly because I didn’t know that such a wealth of literature existed for my demographic. Of the books she suggested, Strangers from a Different Shore appealed to me the most since it was the most historical (i.e. it wasn’t a fiction).

I’m about 200 pages in, and it’s exactly what I wanted to read. It locates Asian Americans in the short history of America, providing me with the fundamentals of Asian America. So far, I’ve read about the American call for (Asian) labor and the Asian response to that call, the Chinese in 19th century America, Hawaii and its plantation laborers (eerily evocative of slavery), the Japanese settlement in America, and I am in the midst of reading about urban Chinese-America. At this point, a lot of what I’ve read isn’t all that shocking. By that, I mean that it doesn’t seem like Asian Americans experienced any unique struggles that any other immigrant population may have experienced. That, of course, is a very general statement. A lot of (wrong) things have happened to Asian Americans since their migration into America, but I guess I’m surprised because I thought those struggles would be more “special” or unique to Asian Americans. Maybe they are and I’m too simple minded.

I’ve only recently become interested in Asian American history and legacy. Reason for this is mostly in my personal attempt to recover and preserve my Laotian heritage. I was disconnected from my ethnic roots for most of my life, and I realized this year how awful that is. You can’t ignore who you are or your past because that would be disrespectful and stupid. I’m very interested in becoming a leader of sorts in the Laotian American community. I’d like to preserve our literature, language, and foods among other cultural artifacts and characteristics. My fear is that being Lao will die once the older generation of Laotian Americans pass away, since they have the historical experience; they possess the Laotian American legacy and stories. This next generation needs to receive that.

I’m really glad and proud to be Asian American. It puts me in an ambiguous role, but I have a slight inclination that Asian Americans are about to bust.

I don’t know why I wrote this.