Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jeremy Lin IS Racism. (Basketball)

By now, you've probably gotten your federally-mandated 33.4 minutes of daily Jeremy Lin conversation in, which is a problem because if you mentioned Jeremy Lin in any context, you are definitely a racist.

It doesn't matter what the context for your talking about Jeremy Lin is: Lin is about two steps away from becoming basketball's version of Godwin's Law: saying his name will instantly put a stop to that particular conversation, because (as I mentioned), merely talking about Jeremy Lin is pure racism.

Jeremy Lin's travel from couch-surfing basketball player to sudden-only-if-you-ignore-his-entire-basketball-career success to person who's not dating Kim Kardashian (even though the vast majority of people are [probably] not dating Kim Kardashian, you have to have a certain level of fame before you're required to deny that you're dating Kim Kardashian)

to living embodiment of racism took what, two weeks? That seems a bit long, actually, given that Lin, like Tebow before him, managed to explode onto the scene in an uncomfortable mix of religion and improbable-seeming success but that Lin, unlike Tebow, had the added element of being the living embodiment of racism.

It makes me uncomfortable just mentioning him so much; please remember that when I talk about Jeremy Lin in this post, I'm not really talking about him, so I'm not being a racist the way everyone else is when they talk about Lin. I'm doing this out of whatever passes for journalistic credibility when one is a nonsports blogger.

Here's why Jeremy Lin has gone beyond simply being an apparently-great (because let's face it the jury is still out on his basketball skills at the NBA level over the long haul; he could merely be the NBA's version of the spread offense) basketball player to being the living embodiment of racism -- an NBA version of Loki if Loki were the God of Racism rather than the God of Mischief...

...and how is it that the God of Mischief gets a seat at the head table? Are there legacies in Asgard? Seriously: Odin looks around the pantheon, sees thunder and day and love and... close-up magic, and the latter gets to sit next to him?...

...anyway: Jeremy Lin has moved beyond basketball player, icon, etc., to become racism by virtue of the fact that you can no longer mention anything about him without yourself being racist. Sure, for a while there it was cool to just like Jeremy Lin and pay 300% more for your tickets to unimportant games than you would have just two weeks prior (money the team doesn't get to keep, which raises the question of who is making money off Jeremy Lin, since ads for games were presumably sold long before Lin got into those games, and tickets are selling on the secondary market, not from the Knicks),
but then things got a little weird when it was pointed out that Lin was taking the game away from African-Americans, who sort of viewed it as their thing, I'm told:

I know that sounds crude and overly racial, but we process sports in crude and overly racial ways

Said Rembert Browne on Grantland, processing Lin in his own crude and overly racial way by claiming to be really happy that it's okay now, for black guys to lose to white guys, or maybe Asians:

Losing a pickup game to a team full of black guys pisses me off, mainly because I lost, but losing to a team full of white kids still feels somewhat unacceptable. (I say white in this case because there were few other races represented where I grew up, but had there been a squad of Asian kids in my high school league, those sentiments would have undoubtedly been 100 times stronger. Why? Because this was our sport, no longer a white sport, and definitely not a sport for some Asian kids.)

If we, as blacks, truly believe the idea that basketball is our sport, Linsanity is the perfect wake-up call. The honeymoon is over, and as a black guy, I couldn't be happier.

And by "happier" he meant "not really willing to denounce Floyd Mayweather for claiming that the media is racist in celebrating Lin but not black players," so if you're following along, at that point (February 16, 2012) it was okay to mention that Lin is Asian provided that you did so in a celebratory way while sarcastically (?) saying "there goes the neighborhood" and bemoaning the fact that nonblacks could sometimes win a basketball game.

But then came Chink In The Armor and the ESPN headline writer's firing; prior to that, Chink In The Armor" was a little-used phrase that served primarily as the web-address for a site that helps mortgage owners understand MERS. Those poor suckers are now page 5 of a google search for their name, which serves them right, racists: They were against Jeremy Lin before he was even famous, it seems.

That led another Grantland writer to muse about being Asian and the Wu Tang clan in a piece I got bored with two paragraphs into it, so I skipped ahead to the inevitable conclusion:

But regardless of what the polite rules of our post-racial society might say about conflating athletes into symbols or talking too much about race, Jeremy Lin-as-symbol-for-his-people has already arrived.

You know, the post-racial society where 20 Republican debates have revealed that the sole uniting thread in the GOP over the past two years has been the fact that the President is black and the Tea Party won't suffer such a thing.

But in this post-racial society where LIN stands as a thing not a man, you can't say nothin' about nothin' because merely to mention Lin is racist now. You have to search hard to find the racism in Jimmy Fallon's tribute to Lin:

But it's there. No, not the "Asian Tebow," part, but the part where he says that Asians really can drive. Jimmy, what were you thinking? Besides, maybe, "I saw that one episode of Family Guy"?

Jimmy must not have read the "widely-circulated" media guide warning about phrases to avoid using when covering Lin -- a guide that was covered with the de rigeur reference to America's favorite racist, Archie Bunker (if you're going to mention racism, you are required to mention Archie Bunker, who made it okay that your grandpa was a racist because Archie was funny about it in a way that your grandpa was not. Mentioning Archie Bunker is the Baby Boomer's version of rap lyrics: Rap lyrics make my kids feel like they can say words they should not, because they're quoting Kanye, or something, whereas Archie Bunker makes Boomers feel it's okay to think things they should not because they're just remembering Archie Bunker.)

The link to the guidelines on how to cover Jeremy Lin is down, probably because there's no way to talk about Lin anymore, as demonstrated by the one thing that always, no matter what, points out the flaws in our society:

Ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, specifically-- that ice cream brand that serves as our national, delicious, conscience, mirroring our society both in butterfat content and awkward sentiments: Chubby Hubby is both delicious and an indictment of the laziness of our society, and the fact that nobody can buy a pint of Wavy Gravy is a crime. Not for moral reasons; that was just the best ice cream ever made and I'm outraged that I can't get it at the grocery store.

Anyway, Ben & Jerry's decided that they ought to cash in on Jeremy Lin before his attempt to trademark his own name went through, launching "Taste The Lin-Sanity" all the way back on February 26, 2012, a younger, more innocent time in America when we didn't have all the racial tension that marks the post-post-post-racial America, an America so unracial that we've lapped ourselves back into racism.

When launched, Taste The Lin-Sanity had honey-lychee vanilla yogurt with (GASP!?) fortune cookie pieces. That prompted an almost-Netflix-style outrage, and within hours Ben & Jerry's had retraced their steps, pulling fortune cookies out and replacing them with waffle cone pieces.

The official reason was that fortune cookie bits get soggy in ice cream, but online critics were skeptical -- and the whole story hasn't filtered out yet, since other sharp-eyed commentators noticed that the

The flavor’s choice of fruit also tastes a little suspect, as the soapberry lychee is native to Southeast Asia and southern China.

That is the end of the Linsanity: When even the fruit in an ice cream is deemed racist, rather than celebratory, there is no longer any safe way to talk about, watch, or even think about Lin. Did you read about Lin on your (Chinese manufactured) iPad? RACIST! Did you say something that kind of rhymes with Asian when you talked about Lin? RACIST!

After all: you can't put fortune cookies into the ice cream because Lin is of Asian heritage. You can't put lychee into it because Lin is of Asian heritage. Has anyone noticed that the Ben & Jerry's pint containers look like round-versions of the traditional Chinese take-out boxes? Seems racist to me. Did you know that Vanilla, the majority of which comes from Madagascar, is now grown in China? It's true:

Xishuangbanna, the Southern Prefecture of Yunnan, has a suitable climate for high quality Vanilla growing.

says this site, which notes that the Xishuangbanna vanilla is organically grown, so vanilla is racist, too, the ultimate turnabout being the ultimate fairplay: the whitest food you know is the most racist, ever since Lin The Embodiment of Racism came on the scene.

How racist is it for Lin to simply exist? Plenty racist: Even the Chinese are against Lin, as evidenced by the fact that the Chinese government is concerned that celebrating Lin might be wrong, what with Lin's heritage actually being in Taiwan:

Chinese television has yet to broadcast a full Knicks game this season, ostensibly because of scheduling conflicts. Although Lin has become a popular subject on sportscasts, the hosts tend to steer clear of his religion and Taiwanese heritage.

China doesn't just dislike Lin because he's Asian, though: China also holds it against him that he's short:

If Lin had been born in China, his height alone would have almost certainly eliminated the possibility of his being trained to play at a professional level, commentators said.

(Same site.) There is no safe place for Jeremy Lin, and no safe way to talk about him. Best to let him get on with not dating Kim Kardashian, and move forward in our post-post-post-post racial world to the next scandal, which I predict will be a half-clone/half-machine excelling at bowling and raising the question about whether it's okay to discuss the way all the pins look the same.


Uncle Grumpy Bulldog said...

Why wasn't there all this insanity when Yao Ming was still a big star? Was it because he played in Houston (a city most people couldn't find on a map) instead of New York?

Tim Morrissey said...

I'm typing this on a LogiTech keyboard and watching the characters form on a Samsung monitor; my problem is, I don't know if this is racist or not..........

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