4 Things The Jeremy Lin Story Reveals About Modern Racism

#2. Clumsy, Inaccurate Race Jokes


Making watermelon and fried chicken jokes about black people is pretty offensive, but making pirogi jokes about black people would just be bizarre. I'm sure black people aren't as mindlessly and uniformly addicted to fried chicken as the stereotypes say, but their pirogi consumption has got to be next to nil.

Silar, Wikimedia Commons
Pirogi. Perogi? Perogy? Why do so many countries make this thing? Can't we settle on one?

If you started joking with a black friend about how he probably eats pirogi all the time, and how his family all wears sombreros and shoots pistols in the air, and rides bicycles around the Eiffel Tower, he would probably wonder if you knew what race he was.

I'm going to leave off there, because I can't speak for other people too much, but if someone called me a "gook," for example, my immediate gut reaction, before even thinking "racism," would be "THAT'S NOT EVEN THE RIGHT RACE." I know that critiquing the accuracy of a racist joke seems sort of like criticizing the construction quality of a cross being burned on someone's lawn, but in a weird way, someone not even being informed enough about you to use the right slur is a sting in its own right.

You want to annoy a Chinese-American? Make some sushi jokes, or kimchi jokes, or maybe even some sweet and sour pork jokes. Apparently not a lot of people know this, but there's a number of dishes that Chinese people really don't eat a lot of, and they're mainly for appeasing the mostly white clientele of many Chinese restaurants. Sweet and sour pork is one of them.

If you want to do a "This is what Chinese people be like" joke, you probably want to talk about how they can't get enough of the tapioca tea or something. That'll hit a little closer to home.

Maybe racist. But I can't honestly say they're inaccurate.

You can really see the creaky, rusty wheels turning as people struggle to make Jeremy Lin puns and race-related jokes. You can see the panic in people's eyes, going "Oh shit, I forgot these people even existed. I am really going to have to scramble to remember what stereotypes we are supposed to have about them."

It's the same look in people's eyes when you introduce yourself and you realize they don't remember you, but know they are supposed to, so they bravely fake it. "Oh yeah! I remember you ... from the ... yeah! Of course! How is the ... wif- girlfriend? How, uh ... yeah!" All the time their eyes are flicking around desperately, pleading for help that will never come.

"Of course I remember you! From the ... thing ... with the thing!"

The fact that they are trying so hard makes it even worse, because it just emphasizes how buried and unimportant their memory of you was. At least if they hated you and told you to fuck off, you could feel mad and righteously indignant. But as they knit their eyebrows at you, you just feel like a sad nobody who doesn't make an impression.

It's like people in the media are embarrassed to be caught flat-footed, admitting they haven't thought about Asian-Americans in years, if at all, and are trying to pass themselves off as men of the world who of course have a saucy, irreverent quip or anecdote ready for discussing any citizen of our diverse country.

Sometimes they panic, and this happens.

All they end up showing is that Americans have about 10 Asian jokes that they play over and over again on repeat like songs on a Clear Channel radio station: small penis, yellow puns, pidgin accent (love you long time), slanty eyes, eating dogs/cats, weird food, good at math, martial arts, bad drivers and owning laundries, which is particularly sad because apparently Americans haven't gathered enough new jokes since the 1800s to bump the laundry joke off the list.

Can't anyone come up with some new jokes? DVD piracy jokes, maybe? Gold-farming jokes? For heaven's sake, at least keep it fresh.

#1. Studying People Like Lab Specimens


In this article, the author wonders if Jeremy Lin being Chinese has anything to do with his point guard skills, pointing to some studies contrasting how Chinese subjects and American subjects responded to certain images.

There's a lot of complaints about why he'd even do that analysis, which other people have covered plenty, so let's just look at this weird paragraph:

"There's at least one problem with my conjecture. These experiments were done with Asians, not Asian-Americans, and presumably immersing people of Asian heritage in Western culture makes them more and more like Westerners. Indeed, other researchers showed Rorschach cards to China-born Chinese and American-born Chinese and found that the China-born subjects were more likely to view the patterns as a whole, whereas the American-born focused more on details."

Presumably, he says, if a hypothetical Asian was born in America, perhaps this theoretical person might be very Westernized. There's nothing wrong with that theory, except it sounds like it was written by someone who has never met an Asian-American. Maybe the author has, but it's just worded very strangely, referring to studies and guesses of people who walk the same streets as you every day.

Maybe if you're lucky they'll even sleep on you!

I mean, I understand that anecdotal evidence is inferior to statistical evidence in general, but this wasn't a scholarly paper by any means -- it was some guy free-form brainstorming about Chinese people having basketball-wired brains, for heaven's sake. And the westernization part wasn't even some far-fetched theory that needs support. I mean, stating that people who are raised in one place are somewhat influenced by it is a pretty safe statement. You don't need the careful "We don't know anything about these people, we can only guess" language, unless of course you see these people as such unknown quantities that you can't guarantee that an obvious truth would apply.

You know there is something off when a racial group of 15 million Americans is talked about in theoretical terms like the elves of Middle Earth or some exotic tribe, using language that implies it's highly improbable you'll ever meet one.

So yeah, I'm pretty sure most people don't mean any harm by any of this. All I'm saying is, when you want to make some Asian joke in the future, maybe check yo self before you wreck yo self.

No, that was NOT adorable. Shut up.

For more from Christina, check out The 6 Worst Parts of Being Chinese (Not In The Stereotypes) and The 5 Stupidest Ways Movies Deal With Foreign Languages.

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