It took a surge in hate crimes directed toward Asian Americans and Jeremy Lin being called “coronavirus” for America to register the atrocities being inflicted on a community of its own. As an Asian American, Ethan offers a powerful and chilling wake up call to our country.
What has been going on with Asian Americans in this country is nothing short of fucked up. If you are not sure what I am talking about then maybe you are living under a rock? I don’t know. In New York City alone there has been a 1900% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the last year. That statistic is staggering. Then remember that is just the reported hate crimes in just one city and it’s painfully clear we have a serious problem in this country. Just last week Jeremy Lin—the man who dropped 38 points on Kobe’s forehead—issued a statement on his Instagram where he said someone on an opposing team called him “coronavirus.”
This man captivated the world back in 2012. He arguably resurrected the Knicks during that magnetic season. He is a 9-year NBA veteran and is honestly a GOOD basketball role player.
Yet he is just like me and every other Asian American living in this country right now—having to deal with dirty looks, racial abuse, and sometimes assault and violence.
One of the most tragic parts of being an Asian American right now is that nobody believes in the reality of our racialized trauma. It took a 1900% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in NYC and Jeremy Lin being called “coronavirus” for people to start paying attention.
Now let’s talk about Jeremy Lin for a second because his story is important here. Jeremy Lin has been overlooked as a basketball player his entire career. He did not receive a single Division I college scholarship despite being named to California’s First Team All-State in high school. After deciding to go to Harvard, Lin received 2 All-Ivy League First Team nods and was one of 11 Bob Cousy Award finalists for the best college point guard his senior year.
Despite clearly having NBA-caliber talent and athleticism, Lin went undrafted. He would sign a 2-year free agent contract with the Golden State Warriors and then bounce around the league. On his second stint with the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey is quoted saying that Lin, “shockingly lit up our model.” The Rockets organization started to measure player’s first two steps. Lin is recorded as having the fastest first move of any player they measured. He was freakishly athletic. If any of these NBA executives and front office individuals watched film on Lin, they would have seen this from his college tapes and his Summer League performance.
Morey confirms, “he’s incredibly athletic…but the reality is that every person, including me, thought he was unathletic.” So why do we think “everyone” thought that? Because he is Asian American. Because American society has deemed Asian American men to be unathletic, feminine, and undesirable. You see it in Hollywood, you see it in sports, you see it everywhere. Relive Linsanity by watching this video. I mean that spin move on Derek Fisher? Sheesh.
Eddie Huang had a really important perspective on the recent surge in anti-Asian sentiment, amid the report on Jeremy Lin. In response to Jeremy Lin saying he would not snitch on the individual who called him coronavirus, Huang responded,
“For Asian Americans that wonder why I’m saying this it is because a lot of the rights we have in this country were fought by Black Americans. Black Americans are leading everyone right now on issues of power, race, identity, humanity, and community. We have to stay focused on this fight and be part of it. If there is a lesson in this to the movement it is that every community, every voice matters, and the movement MUST cultivate support in all communities if it is to succeed. Every revolution needed support from individuals and communities that were not native to the cause. We are your allies. The hate towards Asian Americans is WRONG but it is important not to unintentionally ally yourself with whiteness. It would be terrible if we fed into the narrative of reverse racism from the Black community at this moment. It will be used by THE MAN to erase the very real struggle of being black in this country. I’ve been called all manner of names playing ball, but everyone goes through that and there is a way to earn respect without snitching to THE MAN. There are very complicated powers at play right now with the movement to stop violence against Asians and it is of the utmost importance we stay allied with our brothers and sisters.”
For those of you who do not know who Eddie Huang is, I like to describe him as Hollywood’s Asian bad boy. He is unapologetically critical and honest. You may know him from ABC’s show Fresh Off The Boat, which is based on his book. Or his Viceland show Huang’s World, or his recently closed restaurant Baohuas in NYC. Without getting into too much detail on Huang, I always argue that he is one of the most important individuals in Hollywood, social media, and the food industry for Asian Americans.
Similar to Jeremy Lin, he is the polar opposite of the stereotype that Asian American men are identified with. Huang’s words are important because we are in such a pivotal time in race relations in this country. It is so important that Asian Americans pay close attention to the ongoing media coverage and create the narrative for themselves. Now is not the time to be silent and to be spoken for. Check out Eddie Huang’s directorial debut Boogie coming out on March 5th on HBO Max. While the trailer has left me underwhelmed, the film is timely; intersecting race, hoops, music. Stay tuned for a review coming soon.