Sunday, February 12, 2012

Grades of Asian

Even now, in one of the most diverse cities and times, people I've just met find it perfectly acceptable to immediately ask "where are you from?" The correct answer would be "New York now, raised in Connecticut, born in New Rochelle," but that's not what they want to hear. 

They say, "You know what I mean. Originally..." (Duh. Of course, I'm not stupid, I'm Asian.) "Your family." That would be China, two and three generations ago. Because I'm Asian-American, I'm immediately tagged who-knows-how-many ways. And I'm hesitant to turn the tables, because for the most part, I don't care/it doesn't matter, and I find it sort of rude. As if by virtue of being Asian it's part of my duty to disclose personal facts that have little to do with the conversation at hand.

But of course, when it comes to Jeremy Lin, it cuts both ways. The Lin-nomenon that exploded this past week to grab the spotlight from the Giants' Superbowl win. (Go Giants!) Lin, essentially a bench warmer for the Knicks, stepped in for the team’s two absent stars, and has scored career highs in four subsequent games. He happens to be Asian and a Harvard grad, two facts that clash mightily with his presence in the NBA. I've felt some strange, overwhelming pride about Lin that seems to be preverbal.

Upending cultural stereotypes is pretty great, but what is stranger is that he has somehow sparked this soporific team to win, and give its fans something to root for. It's also a reason to make up dumb puns, and apply any old Asian-related chestnut that comes to mind, like Kung Fu or Emperor Lin. Yeah, go ahead and sum up the largest race in the world with one stupid phrase that has little to do with the individual, for your convenience. We're not offended because we're smarter and work harder than everybody and you can't tell us apart. Seriously.

Okay, this just in, a Spike tweet: "NBA celebrates Black History Month By Profile-Lin Jeremy Lin and Abraham LINcoln. INSANE." All is forgive-Lin.

No comments: