Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Obligatory Jeremy Lin Post

Every blog that has anything to do with Asians needs to have a Jeremy Lin post this week, right? I'll start mine with a quote from Eric Liu's article at TIME.com (2/13/12):

"Lin has made millions of Asian Americans feel vicariously, thrillingly embraced. Not invisible. Not presumed foreign. Just part of the team, belonging in the game. It’s felt like a breakout moment: for Lin, for Asian America and, thus, for America." (http://ti.me/xEnZON)

And that was written BEFORE the last-second jumper in Toronto, a shot that brought tears to my eyes the first time I watched it (and the second time, and the third time, too).

"Not presumed foreign": I don't know how many times near-strangers have asked me, "What ARE you?" When I was 5 years old, with very short hair, I would answer "a girl." Of course this was not the answer they wanted. They wanted me to identify my heritage, to answer "I am Korean and Chinese." They did the same thing to Jeremy Lin: "What are you? Chinese or Taiwanese (or what)?" The answer: Lin's paternal side is Taiwanese, going back to the 1700s, while his maternal grandmother moved from China to Taiwan in the 1940s. Take a white basketball star; in the first week of his stardom, would people ask if his grandparents were from Germany or France? Would they care?

Moving on: Why do I, not even a basketball fan, get so choked up when Jeremy Lin leads the Knicks to a win? (I never got excited about Yao Ming.) 

I think the answer can be found in my poem "Other." But if I recognize my Asian American self in one quick glance when I see Jeremy Lin, how can I possibly object when people lump me together with all Asians?

The answer is: self-determination versus determination by others. Please don't lump me together with all other Asians. It's different if I do it myself. It's the difference between trying out a new diet and being starved as a prisoner-of-war; between hanging out in your room, enjoying some quiet time, and being grounded. While sometimes I might think of myself primarily as an Asian person, other days I will answer the question "What are you?" by saying that I am a writer, or a mom, or an Audi driver, or a potato chip eater, or an American who is very worried about our country's future and wants you to visit TheDeclarationOfInterdependenceBlog.blogspot.com.

Thinking more deeply about this now, I realize that I see Jeremy Lin as more than a fellow Asian American. I see him as a person who believed in himself when others did not, who patiently waited for his big chance and did a great job when he got it. As a person who generously shares praise with his friends and teammates. And you know what? I like to think of myself--the best parts of myself--in the very same way. (One of these days I'm going to write the next Goodnight Moon--I just know it!)


Let's hear it for believing in our unproven talents...three cheers for Linsanity!!!



6 comments:

  1. "Thinking more deeply about this now, I realize that I see Jeremy Lin as more than a fellow Asian American. I see him as a person who believed in himself when others did not, who patiently waited for his big chance and did a great job when he got it. As a person who generously shares praise with his friends and teammates. And you know what? I like to think of myself--the best parts of myself--in the very same way"

    Agreed! Well said... (or well written, in this case).

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  2. Love this, Janet. Well-said and heartfelt. I, too was always asked "what" I was... and I know what they wanted me to say. (a Jew) I never said that because I wasn't raised with any religion. So I said "American," but that didn't do it. Then I'd say, "my ancestors were Russian, Polish and Austria-Hungarian," but that still left them questioning. So I just said, "I'm a mutt," and left it at that. I still haven't figured out why this matters so much to others. We are all humans. Shouldn't that be enough? Why do we have to be put in a category?

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    1. And back at you--I love your comment!!

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  3. Go Jeremy Lin!!!!! I love him despite the fact that he is on the Knicks and I am a HUGE Celtics fan. He is amazing and is my inspiration ( I play basketball also), so here is to Jeremy Lin. Hip Hip Hooray!
    Posted By
    NoZo :)

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    1. The fact that you can be a Jeremy Lin fan AND a huge Celtics fan at the same time is pretty neat!

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