Sunday, February 26, 2012

Linferiority Complex

I was chatting with a student about this article, in which an Asian-American writer, while thrilled with the sudden superstardom of Jeremy Lin, was simultaneously worried that Lin's ascent would make his life harder. Why? Because Lin actually embodies many of the stereotypes associated with Asians and Asian-Americans (and Asian-wherever-elses). You know, smart, humble, hard-working, loves his mom, a team player - the writer even argues that the fact that he loves Jesus, too, fits with the stereotype. He laments that this could cause a redoubling of such beliefs about those of Asian heritage - especially Asian men - and admits openly to wondering secretly if there will ever be a "cool" Asian-American role model , you know, a stereotype-flaunter who, as one friend put it, "snorts cocaine off a Kardashian's ass". (Sorry moms).

(Not that I think that's cool.  But it does flaunt stereotypes of Asian and Asian-American men).

So, the student thought about it - I didn't use the Kardashian sentence, by the way - and finally said "but that's OK!"


"Because it's good to be hard-working, smart and humble. Why not?"

"Well, those are good things, but they're also stereotypes of Asians in the US."

"Maybe, but they are good stereotypes. So that's good! I hope everyone thinks Asians are hard-working smart and humble. I hope we can all be."

...err. I'm chalking this one up to culture differences. I know many Taiwanese people who would completely understand the modern American aversion to stereotypes, and those who are aware of such stereotypes enough to know not only that such profiling can be a problem, but why. I can kind of see how many others in Taiwan (and the rest of Asia), would genuinely not see anything wrong with everyone thinking they are all smart, hard-working humble folks who love their parents, because that's what they want people to think of them. It's just such a fundamentally different way of relating to these stereotypes from, well, from pretty much every Asian-American I know. There seems to be a fundamental difference in understanding of whether and how a "good" stereotype can still be "bad".

1 comment:

Readin said...

I agree with the person who said "but that's ok". Jeremy Lin has done a twofer. First, he breaks the stereotype that says people of Asian ancestry aren't great athletes. Just as importantly, he breaks the stereotype that says you can't be smart, humble, hard-working, a team player and love your mom and be a great athlete and stud.

While there might be some negatives associated with positive stereotypes, the positives outweigh the negatives. People in the US are constantly harping on the lack of positive black role models. Why would anyone want for people of Asian ancestry to give up their positive role models and have a negative role models? Certainly when you become a parent, you want your children's role models to be positive!

Rather than being upset about a positive role model, you should be focussing on eliminating negative role models. Yet another idiot who snorts stuff off a Kardashian's darker regions would be a negative for whatever race the snorter was and indeed for humanity in general.