I know very little about professional basketball, but I can’t be the only person to have noticed that the endless and annoying references to Jeremy Lin in every corner of the old and new media, at least over the past few days, have been distinctly racial. One can’t come across an article about Lin, for instance, without being reminded that he’s “Asian” (Indian? Bangladeshi? Thai? Cambodian? Chinese? Russian? Taiwanese, born in the USA, actually.) One also finds many self-pitying quotes, from Lin and others, to the effect that “Asians” are finally “getting their shot” in the NBA or in professional sports.
This is bad enough, but the appeals to ethnicity have become even more strident. Whereas last week’s Lin stories focused on his general “Asian” character, this week’s stories are all about how Lin is the victim of racism. The latest controversy (after Jason Whitlock’s comments) is that ESPN headlined one of their articles about Lin “chink in the armor.”
That headline is, to be sure, unacceptable, and ESPN has since removed it. But does anyone for a moment seriously believe that the writer of that headline intended malice? It’s an overused sports phrase that was used in an unfortunately inappropriate way. Wrong place, wrong time and all that. But such stories are never taken to be unfortunate mistakes; columnists and news agencies must spin the stories out of control to prove how racially sensitive they are. It’s as if the mere presence of a minority like Lin puts everyone in panic mode, with everyone clamoring to be the first to point out and defend his “Asianness.” During the French Revolution, you were considered an enemy of the people not only if you spoke ill of the Jacobins, but if you didn’t sufficiently praise them as well.
There have also been pseudo-sociological takes on Lin. A boring, pointless article, written by Sameer Pandya, a former professor of mine, claims:
The stories about Lin’s perseverance fall perfectly into the “model minority myth” placed upon generations of Asian immigrants to America. They come here, silently work hard for the collective good, maintain their families, and do not ask for government handouts. And this ideal is often presented in contrast to myths about African-Americans.
Pandya is one of those people who are cognitively incapable of looking at a non-white person and not reducing his entire life to a racial narrative. In fact, you’ll notice that all the people involved in the Jeremy Lin racial storylines–multicultural sportswriters, Jason Whitlock, Floyd Mayweather, liberal former professors of mine, etc.–are all people who probably fancy themselves either victims of racism or spokesmen for such victims. Everything they write is tinged with the innuendo that they’re actually crusaders against (white) racism. And yet they’re not aware that it is they, the multiculti commentariat, who are the only ones engaging in racism and race obsession, not some Archie Bunker Republican stereotype.
Simply put, certain people in this country can not deal with minorities. Members of minorities are not people to them; they are symbols. They see someone like Lin and they immediately start falling over themselves trying simultaneously to praise his racial identity while avoiding the inevitable perils of racial discussions, like rats racing over a mine field to get at a brick of cheese.