Earlier this month in a podcast, Brooklyn Nets point guard Jeremy Lin shared the many stereotypes he had to overcome and racial slurs he heard while playing basketball, particularly during college.
In the podcast Outside Shot with Randy Foye, Lin detailed how he was called “ch–k” openly by players and “that Oriental” by an opposing coach, heckled by a fan screaming Chinese food names at him, and taunted by crowds about his eyes.
The reaction? Largely indifference. Referees looked the other way, and we can infer security and the schools themselves didn’t respond meaningfully, if at all.
In speaking with other Asian Pacific Americans, I am struck by how familiar the experience Lin describes is to many in their own life experiences. To many, having preconceived notions imposed on them and being the recipient of racially tinged offensive remarks are commonplace, including at the workplace (even if the remarks may be without malice), and the indifferent response is unsurprising.
But the reaction needs to change. One of the principal missions of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) this year is to bring greater attention to these matters.
Whether it is being loud when a television personality like Steve Harvey makes offensive jokes about Asians or Fox News airs a “Watters’ World” segment mocking New York City’s Chinatown residents with the correspondent self-proclaiming it was “all in good fun.”
Or highlighting APA talents deserving of promotion while bringing attention to the disproportionate underrepresentation of APAs in the senior ranks of in-house law departments, law firms, the judiciary, public service, and political office.
Or focusing attention on news stories affecting the APA community, such as the shootings of two Indian engineers in Kansas earlier this year by a gunman who allegedly yelled “Get out of my country” before firing, and the subsequent increase of other violent acts against South Asians.
In 2012, at the height of “Linsanity,” ESPN ran an unconscionably derogatory headline “Chink in the Armor” tied to a story about the end of the Knicks’ winning streak which had been fueled by Lin’s play.
We at AABANY hope to speak out, educate and advocate so that people think twice, with the goal that such headlines become a thing of the past.
Dwight S. Yoo
This article originally appeared in the 2017 Spring Edition of The AABANY Advocate. You can find that issue here.