Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Jeremy Lin means to Asian-Americans

As a long time Jeremy Lin fan since his senior year (2006) in high school, I am extremely happy that the outbreak of "Linsanity".  Even though I thought he could be a "decent" player in the NBA, I never thought he would do as well as he has.  Jeremy's break out has also galvanized the Asian-American community and I would like to talk about some of the reasons why.


Even though Bruce Lee has been dead since 1973, he is still one of the mostly widely recognized Asian-American celebrities in the world.  No Asian-American (or even Asian born) celebrity (actor / athlete) has completed filled Bruce Lee's shoes.  Well known Asian-American actors such as John Cho and Daniel Dae Kim currently have good followings but don't have Lee's star power.  Asian-born actors such as Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li also have their own following but their Asian life experiences don't resonate with the Asian-American population in the States.

The last Asian celebrity that rivaled Bruce Lee was Yao Ming.  The 7'6" giant was born in China but spoke solid English and showed a different side of Chinese cultural.  Despite Yao's ability to shift between the Chinese and American lifestyles, he was still an Asian born athlete who's life experience didn't reflect what Asian-Americans go through.

Enter Jeremy Lin.  The Palo Alto raised kid had to fight through many years of coaches and teams not recognizing his talent and ability.  He had to fight through racial taunts and stereotypes of what Asian-Americans males should be.  Lin is not as angry outwardly as Lee was, but you can see the fire in his eyes when things go well.

Jeremy Lin is not quite on the level of Bruce Lee just yet.  However, the impact in the past couple of weeks is similar and this impact could GROW as the months and years go by.


When the Golden State Warriors signed Jeremy Lin, it was thought to be a marketing ploy to cater to the large Asian-American population in the Bay Area.  When he didn't do well (and eventually got cut by the Warriors and the Rockets this year), the assertions seemed to be correct.

It is now Week 2 of "Linsanity" and we've got people from all walks of life following and supporting Jeremy Lin.  Is it NOT JUST an Asian-American fan base.  It includes Blacks, Whites, Latinos, other professional athletes and even some actors / actresses.

Jeremy Lin's rising star should be a sign to the American business and entertainment worlds that Americans will support of other ethnicities besides White / Caucasian.   In the music industry, it was only recently that an Asian-American group, Far East Movement broke through with their #1 Billboard  hit "Like A G6".  However, while their other songs received some attention, none have duplicated their success.  Prior to the Far East Movement, there have not been many mainstream Asian-American musicians.  There are a lot of underground singers and groups but not many are known to the general American public.

In the movie and TV industry, there are quite a few well known actors including the aforementioned Daniel Dae Kim and John Cho.  While Cho has had some lead roles with Harold and Kumar, none of the movies were huge multi-million dollar hits.  Kim and other American born actors have solid roles but are still not considered as the main lead actors.

However, Jeremy Lin's sudden emergence and the fan response shows the world that people will support anyone IF they have the talent.  I believe that Jeremy Lin's sudden rise to fame will open the eyes of other industries to consider looking at people's talent beyond the color of their skin.  It may take some time but Asian-American lead actors and mainstream musicians should eventually appear and became as normal as an Asian-American NBA player.


I've blogged about this before.  Jeremy Lin was a good student in high school and college.  Now he's playing in the NBA.  In many ways, he is living many Asian-American male's dreams. There are certain parents who rather their kids focus on their studies instead of sports.  I am the believer that both things can co-exist.  Now I have an example I can point to in Jeremy Lin.  If I ever have kids, I can say "if Jeremy Lin can do it, so can you".

There's probably more things I can write about, but I'll leave it for now.  Enjoy the Linsanity.

No comments: