For Asian Americans, there is often a double-bind to media representation. Increased media attention is often met with a personal, stomach-jerking reaction of giddy eagerness (like seeing two Asian American characters in Glee‘s first season) or sheepish embarrassment (American Idol’s William Hung). But that additional representation is often dismissed as being tokening, stereotypical (Han from 2 Broke Girls), superficial, unquestioning, and ultimately buttressing systemic injustice.
These Asian Americans in the media usually have relatively little agency: mainstream editors took excerpts of Amy “Tiger Mom” Chua’s work out of context, and actors generally have very little say in how they are cast in movies and TV shows (like in this Super Bowl ad). On the basketball court, however, it should just come down to how you play. And the Knicks haven’t had an Asian-American player since Wat Misaka, in 1947. The attention years ago surrounding Yao Ming, a Chinese citizen who also played for the Rockets, celebrated Asian-ness.
But the birth of “Linsanity,” exploding across both mainstream and social media, is excited about his Asian American-ness. And this I find infinitely more energizing. As another Asian American blogger, Popchef, recently wrote: “He doesn’t have a duty to embrace Asian America, speak for Asian America, or represent Asian America because right now he IS Asian America. Go to Church, drink that blue shit, but don’t you ever, ever, ever, stop being the normal-ass Taiwanese-American you are.”