“Knick”names and Jeremy Lin- Problematic or Terms of Endearment?

April 30th, 2012 | Categories: Ethnicity, Race

I’m conducting a study of discussion of Jeremy Lin, a New York Knicks basketball player, during Linsanity on RealGM’s NY Knicks Basketball forum and came across this post by Moose on Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:48 am.

“Just to be clear…I’m pretty sure Lin has accepted the fact that he is Asian. As long as the nicknames aren’t mean-spirited, I don’t think he would get offended by giving him a nickname that represents his culture.

If you are Asian, and someone nicknames you dragon and that offends you, I’d like to know why…perhaps you have some personal beef against dragons.

Its not a bad thing for people to be different, and if others are being playful, and not hurtful in acknowledging those differences, then I think that’s better than the alternative, and a step in the right direction.

Some people may find it unsettling, but no one is attacking anyone here. I just felt like posting this before we have 12 pages on why everything is racist.”

The post is thought-provoking and reflects that the previous several posts had begun a debate of what nicknames are appropriate in general.

Master Lin
The Pork Fried Point Guard
The Last Dragon

are a few that were discussed. And most of these were confronted with accusations of stereotyping and racism. Knicks 80_20 commented, “Do we have to use stereotypes? Really?” and another poster moocow007 explained, “Its like me saying that maybe we should give Shumpert a nickname of Sweet Chitlins or Manly Hamhocks.”

So which is it? Are these nicknames stereotypes and, so, problematic or as Kidknick commented “in poor taste”? Or are these legitimate “Knick”names suggested by Lin’s adoring fans? In this blog I offer standards by which to determine the answer to this and similar questions.

THE DEFINITION STANDARD: Are these “Knick”names stereotypical at all? Stereotypes are most commonly defined as a characteristic associated with a group. From this bare bones definition Noodles, Master Lin, The Pork Fried Point Guard, and The Last Dragon could be considered stereotypes because they imply that all those who are Chinese eat noodles and pork fried rice, are intelligent, and know karate (or like dragons if taken literally). By the definition standard I would have to say yes, these reflect stereotypes.

THE NEGATIVITY STANDARD: Even with these as stereotypes, should this warrant their no longer being considered as “Knick”names? Not necessarily. Why? Because that would impose negativity on an otherwise neutral stereotype. Sure, it is not a great idea to attribute a behavior to a group of people and then label one of the people from that group with a stereotype. However, this particular stereotype is being used as a “Knick”name by fans whose intent is to show devotion and admiration. After all, we use nicknames for our dearest friends and closest family members. Even a nickname like “Feet” that invokes sensory awareness of bad odors can be used, as is the case with a friend of the family, as a bonding tool to show someone they are welcome and amongst friends and family. People used the nickname “Feet” so often that I didn’t even know Feet’s real name for a couple of years. Are these “Knick”names used with a negative intent? By this standard I would have to argue, no.

THE CONTEXT STANDARD: We all communicate stereotypes casually with friends and family as well as strangers and acquaintances. When we do so, context matters in order to understand the meaning of the stereotype. Most people would argue that a friend saying “you know how women are” followed by some insult as you are trying to get over a break up with your girlfriend is a lot different than a coworker uttering the same sentence after interviewing potential (female) candidates for a vacancy with the company. So by the context standard I would have to argue that the context made it clear that they were not being racist. Indeed, Master Lin even sounds decidedly flattering and respectful.

The three standards just discussed can extend beyond the comments on the Knicks forum. Indeed, these standards should be applicable across stereotypical comments if they are to be useful to help determine the extent to which a communicated stereotype should be viewed as problematic. Well, let’s see if these standards generalize and in doing so let’s introduce a fourth and final* standard by which to make such a judgment.

Let’s look at the example that got caused a commotion in the media when an ESPN headline and an anchor each used the phrase “Chink in the Armor.”

THE DEFINITION STANDARD: This statement is not stereotypical. Instead, it is an ethnophaulism (fancy word for ethnic slur– impress your friends!!). Even though this comment does not pass the definition standard, an ethnic slur might be problematic still. Consider the N word, the Q word, the C word, the S word, and so forth.

THE NEGATIVITY STANDARD: Although the tone of the headline is negative, the negativity is not inherent in the word Chink. Instead, it stems from the full phrase. This full phrase is also what creates the humor because whoever is causing the chink in the armor is not doing well AND also happens to be Chinese. The Chink part is merely a double entendre intended to reflect that Lin is Chinese. In general ethnophaulisms are considered negative. However, even the N word and the Q word can be used positively despite being two of the most objectionable ethnophaulisms that exist. As a result, I don’t think the use of the word Chink in the headline is intended to be negative.

THE CONTEXT STANDARD: In the context of the headline, was the meaning in context racist or otherwise prejudicial? I would argue no or at least that it is unclear from the headline. The persons who spoke/wrote the story- and who were later suspended/ fired for doing so could be said to be racist. However, it would be a leap to make such a claim based entirely on what some would argue is a clever headline.

Now here is where things get tricky. Introducing…

THE CONSEQUENCE STANDARD: What are the consequences for communicating this way? By using the phrase “Chink in the Armor” I would argue the media single handedly reminded the culture that Chink exists as a word, demonstrated through legitimate power that saying it was an appropriate thing to do, and, especially thanks to the added negative media attention caused by the suspension and firing, made it cool to say. In this way, by the consequence standard, the headline is problematic. If you read the fine print (stated here) of the consequence standard, then you know that this standard trumps all of the other standards against which such comments can be measured.

So let’s use the consequence standard to revisit the “Knick”names for Jeremy Lin posted on the forum:

Master Lin
The Pork Fried Point Guard
The Last Dragon

Can what was said about the consequence standard related to the headline Chink in the Armor be said to apply to these “Knick”names? Consider that by saying these, it suggests- at least prior to the backlash they earned- that they are legitimate ways to refer to a person and that doing so is an appropriate thing to do. Moreover, because these were embedded in what ultimately is a humorous discussion, they make “Knick”names cool to say. Can you imagine how many people during Linsanity repeated these to others outside of the forum? And it’s not likely that in each of these cases there were people in the conversation willing to backlash against these “Knick”names.

The verdict from The Communicated Stereotype is ultimately that these “knick”names are terms of endearment because of the first three standards. But with the addition of the fourth standard, these terms can be viewed as problematic too because they ultimately, albeit it inadvertently, promote stereotypes.

* TCS reserves the rights to add, change, or delete standards.

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  1. PD
    May 2nd, 2012 at 15:22

    Wrapping stereotypes borne of ignorance and derogation into convoluted pseudo-rationale or “-standards” does not obviate the obvious. The four that you cite are relatively tame in comparison to the rancidity levels of the vast majority of the seemingly countless other references – or, as you seem to prefer to say, “terms of endearment” – that have spewed forth since the break of Linsanity; nevertheless, it’s rather too simple to point out why these four are still desultory. They are references originating from the degrading stereotypes of Chinese or Asians drawn historically via American media and culture, and accepted as such by large swaths of the public: Kung Fu movies and Chinese food. These are no more aggrandizing, nor even respectful, nor even acknowledgements of “endearment” than making references to laundries/dry-cleaners, to grocers, liquor stores. Such references emanate from the same type of sensibilities that would characterize, e.g., Latinos as fruit pickers, gardeners, illegal aliens. They come from a perspective of a sense of superiority, toward a group of perceived inferiority, a sensibility of mockery, not of regard, and certainly not of “endearment.”

    You don’t get it. That’s okay. Most don’t. But, just because you haven’t a clue — and you don’t — don’t try to “rationalize” it.

  2. May 2nd, 2012 at 15:32

    PD- Thanks for your post. I would note that although you accuse me of preferring endearment as a descriptor, I actually title the article in equal parts “Problematic or Terms of Endearment?” Moreover while my claims attempt to rationalize or I would prefer to say explore or explain, my conclusion base on the rationalization you slander is actually the same as yours- the terms are actually problematic (even these that you argue are mild). Thus, it would seem, I do have a clue. Indeed my post articulates the precise reasons why they can be viewed as problematic rather than merely and universally claiming without evidence or discussion that they are so.

  3. May 2nd, 2012 at 17:30

    Speaking as a Chinese-American with one foot firmly planted in each culture, I can but offer my own analysis of my visceral impression: My gut-level response is that “Noodles” and “Pork Fried Point Guard” are a bit demeaning (though certainly less so than others I’ve seen), and “Master Lin” and “The Last Dragon” are OK. (I’m a bit mystified by “The Last Dragon,” though.)

    Having done a little introspection on why I respond the way I do, I think the way I’d explain it is as follows. If these titles were characters in a film, would you expect them to be principal or supporting characters, or would you expect them to be–as Tony Shalhoub’s Fred Kwan in Galaxy Quest says–the “plucky comic relief”? By my lights, “Noodles” and “Pork Fried Point Guard” are solidly on the comic relief side, and that’s in essence why I respond negatively to them. (It’s a bit provocative, in this context, that Shalhoub–who is ethnically Lebanese, I think–plays a character with a Chinese name, who in turn plays a character with a Chinese name.)

    More generally, I think part of the reason why stereotypes are so prevalent is that they in fact work very well…according to the metrics that they are subject to (more on this in a moment). If one puts aside the negativity aspect, which can of course be substantial, then what a stereotype boils down to is an overbroad generalization of a population (which may be cultural, genetic, professional, or whatever) by which we organize our world. The critical point is that we personally evaluate our stereotypes not by how accurate they are–by which criterion they fail fairly frequently–but by how easily we navigate encounters with other people, using them as organizing principles. Since most encounters are fleeting and metrics for “success” are easy to pass, stereotypes typically fare pretty well in our heads. It is rare that a stereotype fails us so spectacularly that we are forced, internally, to reconsider them, especially as most of this process goes on almost entirely subconsciously.

    Many “stereotypes”–and I use the word in quotes to indicate that I’m talking broadly about prejudices that have some statistical validity–are demeaning to no one and are part of our collective subconscious. (E.g., “Children are typically smaller and less physically capable, and therefore need more accommodations than adults.”) Indeed, I think they’re part and parcel of people being as efficient in their everyday life as they are. Unfortunately, the human brain is not adept at using only those ones that do not demean, and filtering out the ones that do.

  4. Khuang
    May 2nd, 2012 at 17:41

    There are a lot of big words and bigger excuses in this article, but one thing is clear:

    Anybody who defends the usage of the word “chink” when talking about Asian Americans is a RACIST.

    That means YOU, Anastasia Kurylo!

  5. May 2nd, 2012 at 17:52

    @Khuang: Unless one comes only to pass judgment, there is a distinct difference between characterizing the use of a word, and excusing it. I say that as someone who detests the use of the word “chink” in that context. I found its cutesy-poo use in the headline revolting both on ethnic slur grounds and on stylistic grounds.

    That being said, there is some value in the exercise of determining exactly why the term is objectionable, even if in doing so, we must enter the heads of people whose thought processes we find deplorable.

  6. Khuang
    May 2nd, 2012 at 17:57

    Racism need not be explained.

    It simply needs to be DENOUNCED.

  7. PD
    May 2nd, 2012 at 18:09

    Anastacia, you don’t in fact conclude that “the terms are ACTUALLY problematic.” You stated, rather feebly, that they “CAN BE viewed as problematic” due to nothing other than the qualification of only 1 out of the 4 arbitrary “standards” by which you attempt to rationalize or “explore” the acceptability of terms that are rather not subtly desultory. An extreme analogy I grant, but the impression that your mini-treatise on the subject gives, at least to me, is one similar to that of a pre-Civil War Southern plantation owner, sitting comfortably in his tufted arm-chair, in front of a roaring fire in the library, writing eloquently in beautiful cursive with his quill an “enlightened” “exploration” on the propriety of the various “terms of endearment” that he and fellow plantation owners use to refer to their slaves, who, at that very moment, are in the frozen fields toiling in tattered clothes. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps you do not, at least at this point in your life, possess the combination of experiences, insight, empathy, etc., to be drawing for anyone besides yourself any kind of a definitive “exploration” on this particular subject.

  8. Anastacia Kurylo
    May 2nd, 2012 at 18:31

    PD- Just to clarify, did you just attack me on the basis of your assumption that I am young and, thus, (stereotypically) inexperienced? Your plantation reference also makes me think you think I am privileged with wealth (as well as race) and, thus, indifferent to the plight of the marginalized- also a stereotype.

    I appreciate your comments regardless.

    My discussion does not discount or render mutually incompatible any of your viewpoints on the matter. My stance on the issue of communicated stereotypes in general – as can be viewed throughout my blog- is to approach them with disinterest and neutrality. It is from this stance that I think I can help stereotypes to be understood and rendered impotent. It is also from this stance that I seek to understand commonalities across groups and across the people who use stereotypes. For me, your use of stereotypes in your comments against me is as problematic-if more subtle- as the newspaper headline, and the “Knick”names on the blog.

    There are lots of people in the world who are interested in coming at stereotypes from a critical perspective and lots coming from an experienced base perspective. If I were to provide those perspectives I hardly think my blog would be worth reading since both are common perspectives on stereotypes.

    I offer a unique perspective, if not always desirable one to my readers. Sometimes racism can be fought with logic and a level head rather than name calling and stereotypes.

    I urge my readers through my blog to take a step back from emotion. If it makes my readers think about the issues, then I’ve done my job regardless of whether a reader agrees with my content or not.

  9. Mr Inappropriate
    May 2nd, 2012 at 19:31

    I’m a Heat fan. When I see a Wade-to-James alleyoop, I think “look at them monkeys!” in an endearing way.

  10. May 2nd, 2012 at 19:41

    @Khuang: Assuming that what one wishes to do is to stop inappropriate stereotyping, then that can surely be done more effectively if one knows why the stereotyping exists and continues. One can denounce at the top of one’s lungs, but in my experience, people simply dismiss that as lung-top denouncing and walk on. They have to see why it’s wrong, and denouncing them just makes them defensive.

    I mean, do you think Ms Kurylo is going to turn around and tell you that the force of your denouncement has made her seen the wrong of her ways? I think that’s pretty unlikely, even if (for the sake of argument) her ways are actually wrong.

  11. PD
    May 2nd, 2012 at 20:39

    It’s very possible that I’m too dense to have noticed, Anastacia, but, thus far, I hadn’t considered myself to have either “slandered” or “attacked” you. I do think that, based on this one example – as this is the first and only piece of yours that I’ve read, and now that I’ve acknowledged that, I can see how it may be an insufficient sample for me to have made any kind of a comment at all; at the same time, I did sense a lack of freedom from ignorance on the subject in the piece, and found myself to have responded, all the while never expecting any response in return, much less the mini-mountain range that it seems to have become – you seem to be aspiring toward profundity on a subject for which perhaps you are as yet improperly equipped.

    Before you repeat your assertion of my “attack” of you in stereotyping you as a rich, white, young woman, let me begin by disclosing that I think essentially all people who are capable of enough thought to be able to function in society possess pretty much all “good” and “bad” characteristics/qualities, i.e., we are all to an extent racist, ignorant, hateful, loving, considerate, angels, assholes, reasonable, OCD, etc., etc., ad nauseum. The only difference is really in degrees and frequency. (Yes, perhaps there are tiny minorities who are pretty much inherently either purely pretty “good” or pretty rotten, with little compromises either way, but such populations are so small as to almost render them negligible.) So, for all practical purposes, I think we are all, certainly in our great nation, ignorant, and we all possess racist tendencies. Some own up to them, and try to be better. Others, more often than not, simply disavow them. In general, I find, and have learned without glee to expect, stultifying levels of ignorance and racism in this country, regardless of class, sex, race, etc. (I do not exclude myself from such shortcomings). So, one need not be a “rich, white, young woman” for me to perceive, based on a written “exploration” on racism/racist terms, an inadequacy in whatever the combination of qualities may be that a particular person would need to be able to form an argument on said subject that would demonstrate what would be sound reason to me. I would have tempered expectations of most people on the subject. Having said all that, I figured by your name that you were female. I definitely didn’t presume you were wealthy or of a wealthy background, although I suppose you could be now that you’ve mentioned it. Really, I didn’t try to picture you in my mind, though it would seem that that could’ve been something that I perhaps should have had an inclination to do; nevertheless, if I were to have tried to guess your age, I would probably think late-20s at the least, possibly 30s to mid-40s. If I had to bet, I would’ve bet that you are white, though I certainly could be wrong. Point is, despite your defensive posture, other than in the casual, rather dismissive, almost insolent tone (more than simply detached or objective) in the writing, I attempted to draw no direct correlations between you and the plantation owner of my acknowledged extreme analogy.

    In any case, to, in futility, cut an already overly verbose reply “short,” judging by the perspectives demonstrated in the plethora of comments I have read since the beginning of Linsanity, it would appear that your views would decidedly attract closer agreement along the spectrum of discourse on the subject among their writers than would my views. I don’t want to needlessly take up your time, so I’ll just thank you for your patience and civil discourse.

    Incidentally, given your seeming interest in the topic of racism, if you care to follow up, I heartily recommend (although you may very possibly already be familiar with him) Tim Wise, by far the best scholar and expositor I have come across on the subject. Not that it should matter particularly, but for sake of trivia if nothing else, he happens to be white. You can find some of his lectures on radio4all.net (you can just search under his name). Quite an extraordinary presenter, most of whose views I find quite reasonable.

  12. jp
    May 2nd, 2012 at 20:54

    As an Asian American, I’ve been frustrated by some non-Asian Americans’ inability to understand why the “Noodles” etc. type nicknames are offensive. But, it’s a pretty subtle idea, and so I can’t expect non-Asian Americans to get it without some explanation, so here goes.

    I was born here, and I feel a strong bond to this country. I feel a MUCH stronger connection to the US than to Korea, where my parents are from. And I think like myself, many Asian Americans, however proud we may be of our heritage, want to be accepted fully as Americans. But Asian Americans are constantly being reminded of our differences, with a subtle, underlying message that “you’re an American technically, but you’re not QUITE one of us.”

    These signals can be blatant and hostile, or subtle and seemingly even friendly. For example, I’ve been told growing up that I’m not truly an American, because I’m of Asian heritage. Even as an adult with a law degree, I’m asked at least a few times per year if I speak English. When people ask where I’m from, and I tell them New Jersey, it’s often followed up with a “no, where are you FROM?” This is often explained away as mere “curiosity” about my heritage. Fine, but how often are white or black americans asked that question? Is their heritage somehow less interesting? I wouldn’t call all of this “racist,” but it does send a subtle message about how we Asian Americans are viewed.

    The basic point is that all too often, Asian Americans aren’t treated as individuals, or as a normal part of the American fabric. We’re exotic, strange outsiders. And even if people don’t intend to be demeaning or rude, the message is “hey you’re different from the rest of us!”

    Imagine if when Tiger Woods first broke onto the PGA tour, people began calling him “Jazz” or “Denzel” or “the Black One.” Most people would recognize these as offensive, even though they aren’t slurs or plainly derogatory.

    Now, it is certainly a major part of Lin’s story that he is Asian American, just as it was part of Tiger’s story that he is African American. Both were trail blazers in their sports, and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that significance. But with Tiger, most of us would understand that labeling him, and defining him with race-based nicknames, even ones that were not outright derogatory, would be inappropriate.

    Race relations aren’t easy. I can’t expect every one to understand what may be offensive to Asian Americans, and why. With African Americans at least, we have had several public discussions about what is and isn’t offensive and why. We haven’t had those kinds of conversations with respect to Asian Americans. Unfortunately, with Jeremy Lin, lots of people got caught up in the “c—- in the armor” gaffe, and totally overlooked the more subtle, but much more important discussion of how our society treats and accepts Asians as legitimate members of American society.

    Sorry for the length, but thanks to Anastacia for keeping the dialogue alive.

  13. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 01:41

    Isn’t it also true regarding acceptance of american asians that caucasians are valid in their opinion that asian americans are not only of America. Asians in general are very insular and have relatives with tight bonds in asia and all over the world. Jeremy Lin was also quickly been accepted by the whole of china and have been claimed by them. Americans do not feel that he is exclusively american for these reasons, which are valid.Tiger Woods who is identified as black has no market apart from America, he therefore feels like an American product.

    • Steve
      May 3rd, 2012 at 09:57

      Actually Tiger Woods is half Thai and is a hero in Thailand. That’s one thing I’ve always thought weird, that in the media Tiger, Obama, Halle Berry etc are all identified as black, even though they are mixed race. Like if someone who was half Chinese half white became President, I’m guessing he or she would be identified as mixed race, and not as Chinese.

  14. harold
    May 3rd, 2012 at 02:52

    As yet another Asian-American, I find this post interesting but ultimately see it as a long-winded excuse.

    Caucasians don’t understand it and unfortunately(?) I think they never will no matter where they go unless the world turns upside down and all the nations in the world associated with Caucasians go bankrupt or otherwise become irrelevant.

    KL, what you are saying, if you read it through, is just 100% racial prejudice/stereotype. There are 3rd and 4th (and probably 5th and 6th as well) generation Asian-Americans who are no more likely to have relatives in Asia as african-americans with relatives in Africa.

    You are also wrong about Tiger. Tiger has been accepted by many Asian nations and was marketed in Asia as part Asian, and, actually is more Asian (half) than he is African American (Quarter), but because he looks predominantly African-American, is accepted here in the States more readily than others who may be half-Asian. But this does not register because Tiger’s African American looks makes you either ignore the others who claim him as their own (more rightly so, in terms of percentage of lineage) or unaware of it because his looks make you think it is impossible for others to claim him as theirs.

    But this is no different than caucasians more readily accepting and not questioning their acceptance until told otherwise. Blake Griffin, Jason Kidd and Shane Battier come to mind. For some Caucasians, they ‘look’ white enough just as tiger ‘looks’ black enough to ignore the fact that they are at least equal or more black than they are caucasians, and then use their acceptance as ‘proof’ that they are past racism.

    That used to irk african americans and I’m sure it still rankles a few of them who still feel the glass ceiling or the glass wall, but times have changed enough that the majority of african americans don’t recognize this at all. Unfortunately, now african americans are doing the same thing now to other, not-yet accepted ethnicities in the States, and just like it was either than recognized problematic or seen as an improvement by caucasians, it is seen as if it isn’t much a problem at all.

  15. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 03:41

    Harold, I feel my point of view is more realistic.

    Unfortunately for Asian Americans who feel the way you do, there are plenty of first or second generation Asian American families in America. No matter how entrenched the Asian American family is in America, statistically they are still more likely than other races to have strong ties with overseas relatives.

    African Americans statistically have much weaker ties to relatives overseas due to circumstance of immigration and culture.

    The other thing is that we Chinese in general think of ourselves as a race and culture more than a nation-state, most of our parents would say so. This is similar to the Jewish race – culture, which is why both societies have a harder time being perceived in the way you wish to be perceived.

    Jeremy Lin himself identifies himself as Chinese, and acknowledges ties to Taiwan and associates himself with Yao Ming for marketing purposes. However, this acceptance identifies him as as much Chinese as American.

    Tiger Woods does not speak Thai, (at least publicly), does not embrace his non-american heritage, and did not accept Thai honorary citizenship. His worldwide acceptance is more about his human interest story and excellence, much like micheal jordan.

    Finally the physical look is paramount to perception, like you rightly point out, the case of jason kidd etc. Jeremy Lin looks really chinese.

    • JP
      May 3rd, 2012 at 11:18

      You are right about one thing: Appearances are paramount.

      People have a fixed view of what an American is supposed to look like. Mostly white, maybe black (frankly, I’m not clear on how latinos are perceived).

      And that’s all this boils down to. It has nothing to do with the extent to which Asian Americans maintain ties to their homeland, or failure to assimilate. It has everything to do with the fact that we just LOOK different, and people can’t get past that.

      I don’t speak Korean, I have no relatives in Korea, I don’t much care for Korean food, and I don’t watch Korean movies or listen to Korean music. My friend who is of Italian heritage speaks Italian, adores Italian food, follows Italian soccer, and has family in Italy whom he visits frequently. He’s white. Guess which of us is regarded as less American.

      The notion that we’re not fully accepted because we’ve failed to assimilate, or because we have strong ties with relatives around the world is absurd. Many people just have a pre-set view of what an American SHOULD look like, and Asians don’t look right. Therefore, we’re treated as outsiders.

      Your argument that to fairly be considered an American, all other Asian Americans must cut ties with their heritage and homeland is utterly absurd. European immigrants from different nations all brought aspects of their cultures here to the US. All immigrant groups faced discrimination initially, but what ultimately allowed Italian, Irish, German, Polish, Swedish immigrants to be fully accepted as full fledged Americans, is that they LOOK like an American is “supposed” to look like.

      • KL
        May 3rd, 2012 at 18:02

        What I mean is that minorities have to cut ties to be part of the landscape. There is only one minority race that is perceived as American and thats African-Americans. Latinos are perceived as foreign because of the prominent Latino culture and Nations. Caucasians are the majority, so they feel like the fabric of society and have political dominance. Anyone who looks like them will belong. When china rises no caucasians living there will feel ‘assimiliated’ or part of the landscape. Any sense of equality will come from true ability, economic, physical and mental equality or supreority.

      • KL
        May 3rd, 2012 at 18:04

        Look at what African-Americans had to go through to be ‘accepted’ or more accurately, ‘perceived’ as ‘local’. Doesnt strike me as a priviliege.

  16. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 03:50

    Jordan and Tiger Woods are also extremely accepted because their cultural background is of a middle class upbringing, despite their being totally identified as african american, which is why the middle class market really appreciates them.

  17. JK
    May 3rd, 2012 at 05:08

    I agree with JP. Asian Americans are viewed as the “perpetual foreigners” in the U.S., even for those who are the 3rd or 4th generation. Lin is treated differently from other famous people of various ethnicities. He’s always identified in the press as Taiwanese-American even though he’s born and raised in California. American press don’t identify 1st generation of other ethnicities in the same way. For example, do they identify president Obama as “Kenyan-American” everywhere? He’s the first generation American and he has relatives in Kenya too.

    And why can’t the press celebrate Lin’s on-court performance without noticing his race in headlines? Seth Meyers used the analogy of Sandy Koufax, who’s jewish. Did headline editors use various Jewish puns? Did they call him “Kosher Koufax” or “Dodgers’ Jew-el”? What about athletes of Italian descent? You tell me whether these are “terms of endearment” or not:

    Don xxxxxxx
    The Msaala Chicken Point Guard
    The Last Mobster

    BTW, Lin has never identified himself as “Chinese”. He has not given any intention to accept citizenship of Taiwan. (Taiwan recognizes dual citizenship while China does not. Taiwan openly says Lin can get the citizenship if he wants it.) Why is he less an American than other first generation Americans like president Obama?

  18. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 05:32

    He is less american because of the reasons i meantioned.

  19. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 05:39

    ‘Percieved’ as less american rather.

    Just like Jason Kidd never has to identify himself as ‘Caucasian’, all he has to do is speak and interact like one.
    Jeremy Lin talks about his background as Taiwanese-American and does not go out of his way to interact with caucasians only, like Tiger Woods does to a certain extent. You can see in Jeremy’s promotional youtube videos he lives a very asian-american community life. Its not a bad thing but it identifies him as more Chinese-American rather than American. Something that seems to be important to you people.

  20. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 05:44

    You want to be perceived as totally local/part of the Indigenous American landscape your entire (or majority) race/community has to assimilate and cut ties with the culture/language/relatives overseas.

  21. T
    May 3rd, 2012 at 09:50

    Chink has historic significance as derogatory. No good.
    Yellow Mamba was my favourite. A racial compliment. You are as good as Kobe, but he’s black. Lin is yellow. Scalabrine is white, and the joke is he’s no Kobe.

    Are people too shy or afraid to acknowledge their heritage? Are we so eager to be the same?

    AK-47 : Andrei Kirilenko (A russian known as a communist symbol of the cold war)
    Birdman : Chris Andersen (not racist, but based on skin color)
    Chocolate Thunder : Darryl Dawkins (Usually brown, even racist people like chocolate).
    The Hick From French Lick : Larry Bird (WTF?)
    The Vanilla Gorilla : Joel Przybilla (skin prejudice, with body image commentary)

    Own it.

  22. Khuang
    May 3rd, 2012 at 10:11


    Stereotypes cannot be “rendered impotent”. That’s what racists try to do, via words and fists and money.

    Denouncing racism at the top of one’s lungs WORKS. After all, “understanding” and “silence” are the means by which racists cow ethnics like me into submission.

    The only thing that works against racism is to fight back will all one’s might, but cleanly and legally.

  23. Khuang
    May 3rd, 2012 at 10:21

    Jeremy Lin is Chinese American or Taiwanese American, depending on who’s viewing.

    Lebron James is African American or Black.American, depending on who’s complaining.

    Chris Kaman is Anglo American or German American, depending on which national basketball team he chooses to play for.

    All three players are ALL AMERICAN, according to their Social Security cards and birth certificates and passports. That includes Jeremy Lin, though plenty of racist haters feel otherwise.

  24. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 17:36

    Khuang I dont know,.. the culture is to complain and protest everything. It gets results in some ways politically but it is not the only way to go about things. Rather than that it is more respectable to overcome whatever negative stereotypes that persist. Stereotypes arise due to traits that are observed in the majority. If asians were thought of as laundry and restaurant owners, get an education, progress to middle class and ownership class. If asians have funny accents, learn to speak english as well as anybody. If asians are tiny and puny, go to the gym. If asians have no sense of humour, learn to be witty. These are real weaknesses, you only eliminate the stereotype by overcoming them. Anyway the asian community has overcome most of these stereotypes in todays generation thats why asians are not as outraged and sensitive to name calling as maybe the african-american community are. Basically when the stereotypes arent true anymore is when racism really ‘fails’.

  25. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 17:41

    Personally I find loud protests annoying and undignified. Protests should be ruled by common sense and justice. Racism againts african americans in the 50’s were truly unjust and crimes againts humanity, discrimination againts women was also unjust. Today its mostly at the annoying and nitpicking end of the spectrum. Everybody should have a more balanced point of view.

  26. JK
    May 3rd, 2012 at 17:43


    Your insistence in justifying the “perpetual foreigner” stereotype is both puzzling and self-defeating. Are any other 1st generation Americans required to cut ties with their relatives and culture or distance themselves from anyone with similar heritage? Do Irish Americans or German Americans or Italian Americans have to do the same in order to prove their “Americaness”?

    Jeremy Lin doesn’t live in Chinatown, speaks accented English or drops out of high schoold/college. He speaks perfect English. He has accent when he speaks Mandarin. He graduated from a highly respected American Institution, Harvard, the same institution that produced 8 US presidents. From everything reported, he likes junk food/candies just like American kids. He has plenty of friends of different ethnicities. He hangs out with his teammates, Landry Fields, Shumpert, Jeffried and Steve Novak. To say he’s “less American” is stereotyping.

    • KL
      May 3rd, 2012 at 18:10

      Jeremy Lin is perceived properly. Americans accept him as ‘Asian-American’. A local with foreign ties. Same with JJ Barea etc. I just dont think theres anything to complain too much about. The main point is you will never be as ‘American’ as African Americans, unless your entire community really are as ‘American’ as that, ie: you have nothing else outside of America.

      Apart from appearances, if Jeremy Lin was third generation American and socialises with caucasians more extensively, he would be regarded as more ‘American’. I think Michael Chang was.

  27. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 18:12

    All im saying is that self-defeating or not, this is reality. And the only way to be localised the way you all describe is the way I described. And I dont think its a priviliege personally.

  28. KL
    May 3rd, 2012 at 18:19

    Of course I can only be objective as a chinese that studied overseas and came back to asia. Culturally I am very in between western and eastern cultures. And I also felt how tough it is to assimilate as a minority in a western community and understand how a local might want to be accepted more readily and easily. So its interesting what Asian-Americans think to me but I think all people overuse the term and concept of unfairness nowadays.

  29. T
    May 3rd, 2012 at 20:48

    We are who and what we are. A rose by any name smells as sweet. The power of a word derives from how it is perceived. The speaker’s intent is more significant than the word spoken.
    It is unfair to stereotype those who know the difference as racist.

  30. Mark White
    May 3rd, 2012 at 21:36

    The only reason so much has been made of Jeremy Lin’s ethnicity is because he is the first Asian-American to play professional basketball. Asian-Americans are rightfully proud of him. If Jeremy Lin were a baseball player or a tennis player less would be made of his ethnicity. I think sports writers are seeking a nickname that represents his attributes yet may subtly highlights his ethnicity hoping it will catch on. I think the test is does it properly describe the attributes in a positive way. For example the first two nicknames seem to be ok..Noodles implies he is fast loose and slippery on the court. Master Lin implies he plays smart basketball. I think both nicknames could be used for a black or white playes with the same attributes. However the last two nicknames do not describe or imply his basketball talents but only seem to highlight his ethnicity. I guess that is why we will tolerate Black Mamba to describe Kobe.

  31. Mark White
    May 3rd, 2012 at 21:40

    By the way I don’t understand how Noodles is any more offensive than “Cornbread” Maxwell

  32. JK
    May 4th, 2012 at 03:19


    Lin isn’t the first Asian-American to play professional basketball. He’s the 4th. But his three predecessors played long ago and none of them was a star like Lin. Two of them are mixed-race and don’t look Asians.

    Sports headline writers can highlight his basketball skills but why highlight his ethnicity at all? It’s not like anyone who looks at him would mistaken his ethnicity. Did people call Sandy Koufax “Dodger’s Jew-el”? Would the Jewish American community think that as a term of endearment?


    I see. You’re not an Asian American. You don’t have a stake in the game. So please stop justifying the put-down of Asian Americans. Asian Americans fought the perception of being “less American” for generations. That stereotype makes Asian Americans the second class citizen in the country they grew up in. See what Japanese American had to go through to prove their loyalty to the U.S. during and after the WWII. I even saw some comments on sports sites after Lin broke through that urged people to remember “what his people did to Pearl Harbor”, never mind that the only connection between Jeremy Lin and Pearl Harbor was the history textbook he read in the grade school.

    The “less American” perception is harmful to Asian Americans. Please stop perpetuating it or justifying it.

  33. Mark White
    May 4th, 2012 at 05:51

    The first Jewish superstar baseball player was Hank Greenburg and he was called the “Hebrew Hammer”. Jackie Robinson was refered to as “the Colored Comet” when he started playing baseball. I don’t think people were offended but proud. Like Lin both players were trailblazers who make their ethnic group/race proud and attracted non fans to the game. I understand you can’t compare 1930’s and 1940’s to today. I do feel we will get beyond racism when no one is hyper sensitive and ethnicity or race is merely a trait, like be a redhead or having freckles. We need to get to a point where every American should be equally proud of Lin’s accomplishments and not just Asian americans. We are not there yet but hopefully the stereotypes will be behind us and people just don’t care anymore. If people don’t care ethnicity will not be mentioned in the nicknames anymore. I don’t think a black baseball player has a larger black following than white following anymore and no one really comes out with black centric nicknames.

  34. Anastacia Kurylo
    May 4th, 2012 at 11:37

    You all may be interested to check out my latest post on the Asian as foreigner stereotype. http://thecommunicatedstereotype.com/one-asian-persons-perspective-on-the-foreigner-stereotype/

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