Jeremy Lin matters to Kyle

ERIC MILLER, Reuters Photo / Chicago Tribune

ERIC MILLER, Reuters Photo / Chicago Tribune

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Tribune
February 15, 2012

Jeremy Lin is riding a well-deserved wave of goodwill and adulation. After being undrafted and waived by not one, but two, NBA teams last year, the 23-year-old point guard for the New York Knicks has become the sport’s latest sensation. And Asian Americans are loving it.

Each time Lin shows off his skills on the basketball court or does an on-air interview where — surprise! — he has no accent, he helps Asian Americans get one step closer to being accepted as “real” Americans.

Like millions of other viewers last week, my family was glued to the TV watching the Knicks defeat the Los Angeles Lakers. Like most Americans, my 3-1/2 year old son, Kyle, had never seen an Asian-American basketball player in the NBA. Pointing at Lin, he shouted, “That’s me! He looks like me!”

What a difference a few decades make.

I was a little older than Kyle when my family emigrated from South Korea to the United States. I don’t recall seeing anyone who looked like me on television, except for a few extras on the original “Hawaii Five-O.” And although I loved watching “Kung Fu,” I was acutely aware even then that David Carradine — the star of the series — was not even vaguely Asian.

So it was not surprising that when I entered kindergarten, my classmates weren’t sure what to make of me—this little girl who looked nothing like them and spoke with a strong accent. A few wanted to know how I got my hair so straight. Since I wasn’t Caucasian, they assumed that I must have been African American.

To help me make friends, my mother sent me off to school with bags of M&M’s and Oreo cookies to share with my classmates. Years later, she told me that she used to watch from a distance as I passed treats out at recess, hoping somebody would play with me. It must’ve broken her heart to see them accept the candy, but not me.

When my family went shopping or stopped at McDonald’s, other children gawked at us while their parents tried to redirect their attention. I once asked my folks why the kids were pointing at us. My mother said they were staring because I was so pretty.

As I grew older, however, I realized that some people weren’t just staring because I was so cute, but because they didn’t like me. And they didn’t like me because I was a “chink.” I heard that word quite a few times in my youth. Adults shouted it from their cars as I walked to school. Older boys said it as they shoved me off the sidewalk.

And in gymnastics, a girl who was at least five years my senior, called me a “dirty chink” every chance she got. Sometimes just to mix things up, she’d threaten to beat me up, too.

But like her, karma’s a bitch. This Mean Girl, who was about 15 at the time, filled out fast, eventually becoming too big to compete. As she left the gymnasium, she tried to hurl one last zinger at me. But I beat her to the punch and said, “Who’s the chink now?”

I know that doesn’t make any sense. But at 10, it seemed like a pretty clever thing to say to a bully.

Of course, while it may have seemed like it at the time, my entire childhood wasn’t filled with racism. But prejudice is such a powerful thing that the memories of it stay with you, long after the words have been spit out.

I am grateful that my son is growing up in an era where there is more diversity all around. Back when I was a kid, toddlers didn’t eat ethnic foods unless they were part of their culture. Kyle and his friends have already been exposed to pho, Greek yogurt and quinoa and don’t think twice about it.

And pop culture is slowly catching up, too. In the revamped “Hawaii Five-0,” two of the four leads are of Asian descent. My little guy is too young to watch that show. But he’s just the right age for “Ni-Hao Kai-lan” and “Dora the Explorer,” which teach toddlers to speak Chinese and Spanish, respectively.

Never mind that he still thinks I’m speaking Spanish when I’m actually talking to him in Korean. He gets it that I’m not speaking English 24/7, and that a lot of his friends’ parents aren’t either.

I’m not sure what Jeremy Lin went through when he was a kid or what was going through his mind during his Harvard days when opposing teams taunted him with racial epithets. Was he irritated that people told him to go back to China, even though he had been born in Los Angeles? Or did he just rise above it?

I suspect he rose above it, which is what I hope my son will do, too, should the need arise.

 

Copyright ©2012 Jae-Ha Kim

***

* Per requests, I have added some of the reader comments from the Trib’s site, exactly as they appeared at chicagotribune.com.

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Comments (78)

  1. axdrew says:

    In New York where I grew up, I rarely ever got called “chink” but was often taunted with a similiar: “ching chong” then people would pull their eyes to the side slanted. I had similiar taunts growing up also and it got stuck on my mind a little bit but I believe I arose out of it. I never felt emotional pain from it, just thought the insulters were idiots, but never liked it regardless. These “bullies” I think were more so in the ’80s or prior. They grouped all Asians the same thinking “we all ate cat or dogs”, I mean please, you have tourist seeing a small group of say 1000 or so out of a billion Asians who have done that and they think we all do. Your article is so right, in the 70s & 80s people didn’t see the good, just the poor “dirty” side of the population, never seeing the positive/potential side, so I guess they insult based on the “dirty” side they see. Times have changed in the past decades, there is less prejudice, let me emphasize: less. As Asians continue to adapt & expand more into media the future looks brighter. As for Jeremy Lin, I think he’s a very good ball player, few Asian players, no where near Michael Jordan but he helps win games. The last Knicks Championship was in 1973, even if he doesn’t take the Knicks there and this is just a passing fever, at least it’s by an Asian. He’s not great, just hyped for being Asian. A talented one, outshining prejudice.

    • Bob_Johnson says:

      Axdrew, there’s a little more here than just hype for an Asian NBA player.

      His stats for his first week as a starter (points/assist/rebounds) are very impressive. You have to go back to Lebron James (#1 pick) to see similar. Prior to Lebron you have to go back to Isiah Thomas (#2 pick). He ended his first week as Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

      The Knicks are 5-0 with Lin as a starter. No, he doesn’t singlehandedly win games but he does help elevate a team that’s plagued with injuries and mediocrity to a higher level. Not bad for a player nobody else wanted.

      He’s more like the typical guy who likes to shoot hoops than any other player in the NBA today. That’s something a real fan like me loves to see.

    • Roca de Piedra says:

      “at least it’s by an Asian.”

      Sounds a little bit as if you are bordering towards racism.

      He’s not great, just hyped for being Asian.

      Reminds me of a president who is just hyped for being a certain race.

  2. Harriet says:

    Wonderful article. Brought tears to my eyes. So nice for your son!!

  3. ShempLabs says:

    I literally had to wipe the tears from my eyes to finish reading this piece by Jae-Ha Kim. She’s written books about TV shows, columns about a variety of different Pop Culture subjects, and is currently doing great work as a Travel writer.I have enjoyed reading her stuff for years, but nothing has touched me the way this column did. Share it with your friends. Make your kids read it. (My kids loved it too.)Sports are awesome. They’re a distraction. They give us something to bond with our friends over (or sometimes have spirited arguments about.) Sometimes a sports story will come along that can truly inspire people. Sometimes it can even change the way people think.I hope this is one of those stories.

  4. geezuss11 says:

    Im starting to believe in this kid, he really hit an amazing shot tonight. check it out here:

  5. Chi Kim says:
  6. Jindalle says:

    Dear Jae-Ha,

    I just read your article about Jeremy Lin in the Chicago Tribune. Thank you. Your words and experiences resonated with me. I am a Korean-American and I grew up during the 1980′s and 1990′s. I had very similar experiences as those you describe, and I just want to say thank you for making it clear that I was not alone in those experiences, although sometime it felt as though I was.

    Sincerely,
    Jindalle

  7. tcloud says:

    I was in grade school in the 60′s, in Park Forest, not exactly a cosmopolitan town. There was one Asian boy and while some may have teased him (not any that I saw) he certainly was not ostracized.

    It’s impossible to refute Ms Lin’s account since I was not there but to me it does not pass a sniff test. A class of kindergarten kids refusing to play with a child? In the 80′s? My memory fails me at that age but my grandchild is there now and I’ve never once seen Any kids that age refuse to interact with others. Kids that age just are not programmed that way, now or then I believe. Perhaps with an individual parent egging one on but as a group, not buying it.

    Kids staring, pointing everytime she was in public, because they’d never seen an Asian, in 1980? That doesn’t strike anyone as exaggerated i guess. Drive by adults screaming daily slurs at Asian kids? Hard to swallow.

    No doubt people say mean and racist things sometimes, and that is wrong. Yet I wonder where (if) that sort of cesspool of chronic racism existed in 1980. Understood it’s not a PC view and all,just smells fishy.

    • Smunkey says:

      I’m not sure where you are getting that the author’s story took place in the 80s. Both of the TV shows mentioned were from the 70s. But that’s beside the point. I don’t think you should question the veracity of someone else’s experience no matter what you think you know. Your experiences are irrelevent to the point of the story, period.

    • solarfida says:

      i hope you don’t think that i’m being sacrastic when i say that your post (tcloud) is some top-notch research. your experience in park forest in the 60s has given you the vast experience to give you an omnipresent ability to see what experiences are fabricate and which were genuine. i especially love your use of logic by repeating what the author said and then following it up with a damning question mark, essentially devastating any claim to authenticity the author feigned.

      have you considered starting a blog using such muck-raking and hard-hitting journalism practices? you can count on at least one full-time reader here.

      • tcloud says:

        @solar, too bad you’re not sarcastic, it would make more sense. Guess I missed the part where I claimed omnipotence, doing research or hard hitting journalism. A kind person like you would surely also excuse me daring to raise questions on an op-ed piece,based on my own personal experience, knowing as you must that the occasional journalist has been known to stretch the truth, yes, even fabricate.

        I agree that logic can be devastating, sarcasm and mockery often the sanctuary for weak minds.

        I am confused though, if I should blog, would you be the one reader? Would you then let me know what I am allowed to write, or offer an opinion on?

      • GregB. says:

        To Smunkey and Solarfida, Jeremy Lin is 23 years old, which means he was born in 1988 or 1989. Ms. Kim says she’s not much older than him, which I take to be 10 years older at most.

        I don’t see anything wrong with Tcloud’s observations of his own experiences. I don’t see how his experiences are irrelevant. Authors are often prone to embellishment for the sake of making a better story.

        • Bob_Johnson says:

          To GregB:

          No, Ms. Kim does not say that she’s not much older than Jeremy Lin. She says that she’s was a little older than her son is now when she imigrated to the US. From the TV shows she mentions and other works she’s written I’m pretty sure she grew up in the Chicago Public School system during the 1960s and 70s.

          Chicago in that time period was not a pleasant place for many minorities. That was the time of the 1966 race riots in Humbolt Park and the West Side riots of 1968.

    • GregB. says:

      I agree. I’m wondering exactly where Ms. Kim grew up. I also wonder how much embellishment she employed to make the story resonate just a bit more with readers. I grew up in the 70s in a northern suburb of Chicago that was extremely white. My best friend from childhood is Asian-American, and when we were growing up, he and I were inseparable. I don’t recall thinking that he was any different, just because he wasn’t white, than the next kid down the block who happened to have brown hair instead of blond.

      I’m sure there were probably some bullies in school, but Ms. Kim makes her world seem like a world of rampant racism. She grew up in the 80s and people thought she was black because they didn’t know what an Asian was? She makes Asian-Americans seem like an alien race.

      To me the saddest part of the whole article is when she says that Jeremy Lin is helping Asian-Americans become accepted by white Americans as “real” Americans. It’s 2012, not 1962. I “accepted” my best friend as a real American 40 years ago. It’s sad to me that Ms. Kim suggests that she thinks people don’t think she is one.

    • KingKwon says:

      Ummm…let me guess…you’re caucasion? Try not to turn a blind eye.

      My mother brought us over here from South Korea back in 1983. I was 7 years old at the time. All I knew was the alphabet and numbers, which I could recite in english. My father had taught it before we made our move to the US. My father stayed in Korea till he received his visa, eventually moving here in ’85.

      Till then we were with my mother’s immediate family. My mother, younger brother, and myself. We resided in Maryland at the time living not too far outside of D.C.

      The author hits it spot on as what she went through. I was called everything under the sun that had some racial epithet relating to asians. This coming from both my peers and adults! Yeah, it’s truly hard to believe adults would act this way. But they do. I was physically beaten, harassed, and verbablly abused. I’ll tell you I can’t count the amount of bullies I had to deal with growing up with two hands.

      For anyone to discredit this writer and say it never happend or she’s embellishing, I feel honestly sorry for you.

    • Bob_Johnson says:

      tcloud, you’re wrong on your facts.

      The author is Ms. Kim, not Ms. Lin. Having read articles by Ms. Kim before I can tell you that she’s a product of the Chicago Public School system from the 1960s and 70s, not the 80s.

      She doesn’t claim to be a little older than Lin. She states that she was little older than her son is now when she emigrated.

      I grew up in a major city and in a public school of 2,000 students we had one Asian kid and two black kids. So I can see Ms. Kim’s story being a very accurate representation for what many people have experienced.

      • tcloud says:

        Bob,

        I did mistakenly call the author Ms Lin.

        I never said she claimed to be a little older than Lin, your fact is wrong.

        Kung Fu aired originally in 72-75. If she watched those shows in kindergarten as her piece leads one to believe, my take was K-8, plus High school from the mid 70′s equals the bulk of schoolage years in the 80′s. Perhaps you are correct, I don’t know her personally.

        In the school of 2,000, did you witness or hear of chronic race baiting? What decade was it? We disagree but I am curious how you are so certain many people received the same treatment.

  8. min-aha says:

    I read another article about all the racist stuff people yell at Jeremy Lin at basketball games, and all the racist things reporters or other athletes have said about him. It’s so crazy to me that such blatant racism is still happening! It’s really quite shocking. So many of the Asian people I know now tell me stories similar to how we grew up. Even though there were so many Asian kids in America when we were growing up it’s incredible how so many of us had the same experiences with white people. I also used to watch Hawaii 5-0 (the new version on now) when it first came on last year solely because it had Asian people as main characters. It was actually the first time in my life I watched a show that was predominately Asian. It blew my mind. And then I thought how sad it was to be in such awe of seeing Asian people on TV because I’m 37, and it’s just sad that it took that long for that to happen.

    My sister and I are both adopted from Korea (our parents are Caucasian), and we grew up in an area that was white, and pretty much, only white. It was a tough road. To this day I still find myself crossing the street when I see a group of white teenage kids walking toward me. Why? Because if you knew how many times I heard a racist comment leak from under their collective breath as I passed them, you’d cross the street, too. Frying pan face was probably the comment I disliked the most – although the day someone in 5th grade asked if my face was flat because my mother stomped on it when I was a baby was a near second.

  9. Thomas7 says:

    Jeremy Lin is a prime example of the pre-conceived notions of college and professional coaches about prospective players. Despite an outstanding career at Palo Alto (CA) high school, he received no scholarship offers. Instead, he went to Harvard on his student qualifications. Harvard, like all Ivy League schools, offers no athletic scholarships. Then, upon graduating from Harvard, he was not drafted, even though he made the all-star team. The question is, how many other deserving players are not even considered in college or the pros because of the tunnel vision of coaches?

    • Bob_Johnson says:

      Exactly, but it is pervasive through the system and includes scouts, agents, trainers etc. How many scouts visit largely Hispanic schools? Now maybe people will realize there’s a larger pool of talent out there than what they’re used to looking for. Before 1950 and players like Earl Lloyd nobody scouted black players. The times are still changing.

      • JohnnyRuss says:

        Your reasons are why I loved “Moneyball.” A guy who fits this bill is LaGrange’s Jeff Hornacek. He played for Lyons, but was a walk-on at Iowa State, after which he was a late 2nd round pick in the NBA draft. The Jazz retired his number. Scouts miss a lot of guys

  10. Charles says:

    I just read your article about Jeremy Lin in The Chicago Tribune and I wanted to say that I loved it…that is all.

    Thanks.

  11. Red eye says:

    I grew up watching guys like Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas drop 42 on the Lakers with a sprained ankle in the NBA Finals. Nobody who knows the game of basketball is going “Linsane” until he starts beating double-teams and winning in the playoffs instead of February.

  12. Stan Hack says:

    I think Lin’s ethnicity is receiving much too much press. It’s not like he’s the first ever Asian athlete to succeed in professional sports. There are some amazing Asian athletes out there like Ichiro, Yao Ming, Tiger Woods, Hines Ward, Michael Chang, Michelle Wei, Nomo, Matsui, and on and on. I didn’t even notice Lin’s ethnicity until the media made an issue out of it. To me, the story is that this kid came out of nowhere and is playing an elite NBA game. He’s not a speciman like LeBron James. He’s a normal-looking guy and is somebody everybody can relate to and pull for. Lin is a great American sports story.

  13. travelingriverside says:

    I’m half Japanese and grew up in the 80′s and 90′s in Oak Park, IL. A liberal and “integrated” community by reputation (I would guess 62% white, 30% black, 3% Asian, 5% Hispanic). I’m not going to lie and say I had an unhappy childhood… I was pretty happy. I lived in a nice neighborhood, had a great family, and had lots of friends….. who all called me Jap. I would estimate that on a monthly basis I was addressed with at least one racial slur. I can remember being sung racist songs. Have you ever been sung a racist song? Man that’s some sh*$. I also got stares. I also got kids not wanting to play with me. Do I believe Ms. Lins story? There’s no doubt time has a way of obscuring memories, it’s the burning and dodging of real events. Most people really remember those strong emotional events. Based on my experience in Oak Park in the 80’s and 90’s….. Yes I can see it.

    Also being half white, I feel like I have license to say that if you live in a predominately white community, you can never truly feel the sting of racism or understand it’s psychological impact. Yes, I tried retaliating with “white racial slurs”. It’s like water off a ducks back, just not the same.

  14. Florida 57 says:

    WOW people love to use the WORD RACISM. They love to be THE VICTIMS. Man what a world of whiners we live in. Asian Americans haven’t been around? Where in the world has she been? The biggest star in the world in the 70′s was Bruce Lee? She ever hear of him? My DAGO Uncle was told they didn’t hire “blank” Italians in the breweries in the 1930′s. When he came back a war hero from WWII, guess what he was hired. This lady sings a song of living in sometype of terrible racist Country where she was called names by everyone, give me a freakin’ break. Guess what lady, if you are different, as in wear glasses, not good in sports or just a little bit different you get worked on. Sorry, but that is life. I was called DAGO many times growing up. That wasn’t RACISM, it was just life. Man I know I am old and I know that whining, crying and being over-sensitive about everything is what the P.C. crowd and this generation do, but this lady it going way, way overboard. Is there racism in this Country? YES. Will there be RACISM in this Country 100 years after I am dead and buried? YES. Was this lady ever refused service in a resturant because of the color of her skin? Ever told she couldn’t use a bathroom or water fountain because of the color of her skin? Grow and stop whining. Sorry about the soap boxing.

    • Pinoy9 says:

      It sounds like you are the one doing the whining

    • Dan McComb says:

      I’m sorry you were called a dago. And I’m even sorrier that you aren’t intuitive enough to know that yes, being called that is a form of racism and that it should not be a normal part of life. Robberies happen every day, too, and will for a 100 years after you’re dead and buried. By your theory, should we just accept it as part of life and grow thicker skin?

      Yes, I know that being robbed is much, MUCH more serious than being called a derogatory racist name. However, my point is that we shouldn’t be asked to accept the unacceptable. Why should these jerks get a free pass to do whatever they please at others’ expenses?

      And FYI, you know that famous guy Bruce Lee you’re talking about? He came up with the idea for “Kung Fu” as a starring vehicle for himself–you know, a real-life Asian guy who also was a real life martial artist. But instead, the producers decided that America wasn’t ready for an Asian-American actor and gave the role to David Carradine. You know–that caucasian guy who had no martial arts experience. So Bruce Lee–that famous guy you mentioned who, by the way, was born in the U.S. but wasn’t considered American enough–went back to Hong Kong.

      And I agree with Pinoy9. You’re the one who sounds like a whiner who needs to grow up.

  15. rivernorthmike says:

    Man, one of the best b-ball players in my southside Catholic league HS was an Asian by the name of Doug Woo. He was about 5’5″, so he only played intramural ball, but the kid shot “lights out” from anywhere on the floor and had excellent ball control. Every time he touched the ball the crowd spontaneously erupted into chants of “Woo, Woo, Woo”!

  16. David says:

    I wanted to personally tell you how much I enjoyed your article on Jeremy Lin. My wife and I recently adopted our son from Taiwan and we are so in love. I can’t imagine loving anyone any more. Im so happy that Jeremy is doing so well and hope that he continues. He gives my son a positive role model to look up to, and those are hard to find in today’s athletes. Again…thank you!

  17. brando1002 says:

    While I wouldn’t go so far as to say she isn’t being truthful, I do think some things seem worse then they actually were. Look, all kids get picked on about something. Short, tall, different race, fat, skinny, it happens. I was the shortest kid in my grade until I got to high school. Did I get made fun of? Yes. But I still had plenty of friends. Is it possibile that the kids didn’t like the author because she wasn’t a likeable kid? I taught for years, and while people liked to claim it was bullying etc, the fact was some kids were just annoying. I found them annoying as an adult, so I”m sure the other kids thought worse. There were many times that there was a reason other kids don’t like someone, aside from their race. As someone pointed out, most kids, especially kindergardeners aren’t wired that way unless they have incredibly racist parents.

    As for Lin, I honestly think he’s just a novelty act. Is he good? Yeah. Is he great? Not at all. Remember Yao Ming? He was all the rage for a while too. and it is because a great NBA player of asian descent is rare.

    If he is still lighting things up in a year, let me know.

    • Bob_Johnson says:

      We’ll see how Lin does as his career progresses, but if you look at his first week as a starter in the NBA you have to go back to Lebron James to get similar score/assist/rebound stats. Prior to that you have to look further back to Isiah Thomas. James was a #1 draft pick and Thomas was a #2. Where did Lin fall in the draft?

      That’s something to talk about.

      He’s the “from out of knowwhere” player that is also a good role model to all kids and a great example for Asian’s who dream of playing hoops. Nobody can take that away from him.

    • lifeitself says:

      brando1002, you were/are a teacher? That’s unfortunate. Because you’re the type of teacher that would stand by as kids get bullied and go, “They’re just kids being kids!” To suggest that the author deserved to be picked on and called names (by adults, no less) because she “wasn’t a likeable kid” suggests a lack of decency on your part. Furthermore, your reading comprehension is sorely lacking.

      This is an essay–one person’s perspective, as per the section title–of memories from childhood. She never says she never had any friends. She even says, “Of course, while it may have seemed like it at the time, my entire childhood wasn’t filled with racism. But prejudice is such a powerful thing that the memories of it stay with you long after the words have been spit out.”

      The point is that these benign words that mean nothing to you (or so you say, you stupid sack of … Ha ha, just joking! Laugh it off!) meant something to her and made her feel less than welcome and less than American.

      • just amazing says:

        Didn’t read the reply from lifeitself – who quoted the same section I did – before I wrote my reply. Very nice, lifeitself.

    • just amazing says:

      I grew up in the NW side of Chicago in the 60s and 70s. It was pretty racist then. If she grew up anywhere in Chicago during that time, I could see these things happening.

      Could all the insults have been because the author wasn’t a likeable kid? I suppose. But she does say “Of course, while it may have seemed like it at the time, my entire childhood wasn’t filled with racism. But prejudice is such a powerful thing that the memories of it stay with you long after the words have been spit out.” You know how kids can pick on others for whatever reasons. And that can follow the kids from grammar school, jr high, to high school. What she says doesn’t impress me as somebody who had a miserable childhood. She’s just recalling some instances of racism.

    • JulesJim says:

      “I taught for years, and while people liked to claim it was bullying etc, the fact was some kids were just annoying. I found them annoying as an adult, so I”m sure the other kids thought worse.”

      Wow. Just wow. So you are saying that some kids are pretty much asking to be bullied because they were “just annoying?” And we should empathize with the bullies as, since you the adult teacher found the mistreated kids so annoying — well, just imagine the suffering the little bullies had to put up with due to those picked-on kids! Really, how is a bully supposed to hold back from mistreating such unlikeable kids? Especially when the adult there is giving tacit permission or even approval for it?

      I really, really hope that you are never placed in a position of “teaching” children again.

  18. Robert Dobbs says:

    Embellished story…..

  19. JF Kennedy Democrat says:

    Apparently he’s very religious, thanking God in an interview this morning for his talent. An “Asian Tebow?” That’ll freak the hell out of the libs, to say nothing of the aethists – or both.

    • Automatic for the People says:

      More like it will freak out the religious right, because he doesn’t look like them. Prejudice overrides Christian beliefs.

  20. Junnie says:

    Thank you for writing this! I had tears in my eyes when I read this also. As a half Korean American I am so happy we have more Asian American role models in sports, entertainment, and media.

  21. John Moore says:
  22. Roca de Piedra says:

    I suspect that as in the case with Michelle Obama, that this might also be the first time in her adult life that the author of this article has been proud of the United States of America.

  23. thebkg1 says:

    I am more impressed with the many Asian Americans that earn great grades, make honor rolls, become skilled professionals, and avoid trouble than with some basketball player – even if Lin turns out to be a genuine good guy. Just imagine if the same often-true stereotype of Asians as academic over-achievers also existed for Blacks and Latinos.

  24. Shaolin Sword says:

    I have to admit, I’m kind of amazed that someone could get into Harvard on academics and also play at the NBA level. That is some serious dedication and focus.

  25. beef wit hot says:

    Funny how the media can’t wait to mention race. And then start crying foul when jokes and stupid insults start flowing.

    And yeah he look like delivery boy from Chinese joint. No maybe more like guy at Chinese laundry.

    And many have heard this one……..How do you know a Chinese family broke into your house?

    The homework’s done, the cat is missing, and they are still trying to back out of the driveway.

  26. Rummana says:

    Loved this piece. Reminded me of being of the few brown faces at school in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Some people are so clueless and/or denial. I remember being a pretty confident kid but when I’d hear the occasional derogatory comment it would really make me sad for days on end and the words would linger in the back of my mind. I knew other kids who had it harder as they were physically assaulted or had their faces rammed in toilets for a “whitewash.” My niece and nephews are growing up in an age where it’s hip to be Indian but I’m sure they’ll face anti-Muslim racism as they grow older but they live in a more global society than us Generation Xers.

  27. markchicago1221 says:

    Yet not one word about Taiwan (where his parents are from).

    Such Politicall Correctness.

    PRC must be censoring any reference to ROC.

    Your Op-Ed is useless.

    • Bob_Johnson says:

      Nothing else to complain about tonight? The article isn’t about Lin’s parents. I’m not even sure which NBA team his parents play for.

  28. markchicago1221 says:

    “Jae-Ha Kim is a syndicated columnist. ”

    And has no interest in Taiwan.

    • Bob_Johnson says:

      Really? I thought Jeremy Lin was an American, born in California which is in the United States of America. But don’t let the facts get in your way.

  29. Diane Farr says:
  30. fcman01 says:

    I’d like to point out that for me as Asian American in my mid-40s, growing up on the North Side 60645-46/59, 18, etc. in the 70s-80s was a community in transition. These areas are still in transition from predominatly whatever ethinic group to the next group or mix of others. My experience and as a male with regards to education, sports, and community has been intermixed with highs and lows. As kids in the 70-80s, I experienced direct racist taunts, namecalling, etc. but also yet others accepted for who I am. Years later, I attributed this to family and how the kids were raised. I also want to point out from my experience that those families that had family members go to war in the 70s (Vietnam) is where most of the anger were direct to anyone that looked Asian. It was not pretty. Moving away to college, out of state – I yet also experienced racism from time to time. Most noteably on the basketball courts at the recreational gym. I was pretty good although not pro material but good enough to play. I did experience what Jeremy experience when it came to name callling on the court! I internalized those taunts and made myself play higher than those on the court. At other leagues that I’ve played in where some teams were dominant either white or black along with name calling, when I got the double team – that meant respect because the 1 on 1 – I could handle.

  31. Dan McComb says:

    It’s great to hear from all you folks who claim to have had one Asian friend who never said anything about having been picked on/bullied/called names/shoved around. That’s great. If they never confided in you, and you personally as a white man never saw it, then it must’ve not happened. How convenient. Some of you seem slower than others. So let me break it down for you. It doesn’t matter if this occured in the 1960s or the 1990s. It happens. I’ve seen it with my own 2 eyes. Not as a “victim,” as you so condescendingly describe it, since I’m in the majority. But I’ve heard how people talk when “they’re” not around. I’ve heard the things derisively said to my Asian-American (and African-American) friends when we’re out. How many times are you asked, “Where are you from? No, where are you REALLY from?” Never? Well most Asian Americans have to listen to that drivel all the time. And guess what? They’re AMERICANS, too.

    Instead of telling minorities to get thicker skins, how about you stop acting like uneducated, idiotic buffoons and stop the namecalling?

    And FYI, to the previous poster who thinks it’s ok to call Italians “dagos”–you’re an idiot. Try that in my family and you’ll regret it.

  32. lifeitself says:

    I don’t like the Knicks, but I like Jeremy Lin and his approach to life and basketball. He never gave up, even when others did. The naysayers of this column don’t get it. It was beautifully written and resonates with a lot of people (and not just Asian Americans), who have experienced exclusionism. The writer never said that she had or has a horrible life. She relayed a part of her life that was relevant to this piece.

    I used to hear her on Jonathan Brandmeier’s radio show in the 1990s. She was always bright, funny, and nice. There was one incident when Buzz Kilman and Brandmeier called Asian businesses and made fun of their accents. No one on the show told Kilman he was being a jerk when he referred to Asians as “Chinamen.” But Kim did. She told him that was uncool. Their callers then proceeded to call her many names–the classiest being “a chink -itch.” That’s right, this was in the mid 1990s. Not 1960s or 1970s. And Brandmeier did nothing to stop it. So what makes you think kids at school wouldn’t do this?

    For all those who say that they never saw their Asian friend(s) being bullied in school–then or now–you probably had or have blinders on. There have been articles and studies recently in the news that documented that Asian American students are bullied the most out of all kids. I have no reason to believe that the writer wasn’t.

  33. Min says:

    I read through some of the comments regarding your article on Jeremy. Your articles and your opinions speak for so many of us, Jae. What you write clearly has an impact. While the negative comments are ignorant and upsetting, I appreciate that you are not afraid to incite the discussion. I’d like to believe that articles like yours, and people like you, are continuing to bring awareness to the fight for equality and the end of racial stereotyping. I admire that greatly, and I hope you never stop.

  34. Jirawat Amorn-Vichet says:

    Great article! I can relate to the stereotypes and being called derogatory names while I was growing up. I learned back then, to always stand up for myself. As for the comments about the story being exaggerated or made up: Made up my ass. I grew up in the 80s and there were plenty of racist punks I had to deal with then. I can’t imagine how bad it would have been in the 60s. That’s great how Kyle related with JLin. I think it’s awesome since he can see with his own eyes that he himself can one day make it into professional sports if he puts in the work and not be hindered by race. Lin is a great story no matter how many people (Mayweather etc…) try to shoot him down.

  35. Nino says:

    I relate to the article because I’ve experienced similar prejudice and racism that you went through. I was called a chink when I was a kid and I didn’t even know it was derogatory. In fact, a couple of white kids went on calling me that for a few weeks until I asked my father, who is white, and he explained that they were making fun of me. Anyway, after confronting them, it stopped, but after that I became more aware of what racism really was. Being the only Asian looking kid on my baseball team I got plenty of offensive insults as well. Several times when I was up to bat, I wouldn’t get the normal “Hey batter, batter!” that my other teammates would get; instead I would get something like “Ching…chong…ching…chong” or some other indecipherable slur. As I look back and reflect on your story, I wonder how things have changed since I was a kid. I’m hopeful we live in a more tolerant world now and your son doesn’t ever have to experience these types of things, but like you say in the article, we just need to rise above it. Thanks for the article.

  36. Linda says:

    Love it! Had tears in my eyes with this article, because I went through it growing up in Queens, NY. Thank you. it’s on my wall.

  37. Madduxboy says:
  38. anniliseff says:

    I am the mother of two Asian-American children, born in Korea and adopted into our family as infants. I clearly remember when my son, now almost 20, was four stating he wanted to be on television. In the next breath, he asked why no one on television looked like him! We lived in a community, with a small Asian population, and I had not given any thought, until that moment, of the skin colors on television. This was only the first question he raised related to his ethnicity. As he pursued his acting desire, many times he given a supporting role not because of his lack of talent but what seemed to be an unconscious choice to fit a stereotypic main role profile. Hard work, talent, and effort are often not enough when confronting even unintentional discrimination. Jeremy Lin, like Jackie Robinson, has broken an unspoken color barrier. The world has had to again acknowledge talent is not relegated to skin color. Jeremy Lin’s graduation from college demonstrates an understanding of the necessity of having life-long skills because professional athletic success does diminish and end. He represents a well-rounded young man, a professional basketball player, who is smart, respectful, articulate, self-effacing and fun to watch! He represents tenacity and belief in himself. And in economic times like these, is a role model for all, no matter our skin color.

  39. Geraly says:
  40. Junnie says:

    Hi Jae-Ha! Thank you for responding to our comments! I’m astonished that people don’t realize racism exists. Thank you once again for your wonderful article. I agree with Rummana as well. Even the slightest comment can hurt for years. I will NEVER forget those harsh words I heard growing up in rural Delaware about being my being half Asian. Nor will I ever forget that my Korean grandmother was shot in the arm by a bb gun by our next door neighbor just because we were different and easy targets. Keep up the great work! You are a great role model!

  41. Mick44 says:

    Well said Jae Ha. And NECESSARY! As a half asian at 50, we (Asians) used be a rare breed growing up. I am proud and pleased to see the younger ones speaking English without an accent and oftentimes (like myself) as their only language. For many yrs., only the Japanese spoke primarily or exclusively English. No more, I’m happy to say. Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese to name some have to a great degree assimilated themselves into mainstream America. Undoubtably, this is a key in ridding our society of unnecessary prejudices and stereotypes.

    Good work!

    Mick44

  42. Chris Gorham says:

  43. Josh Charles says:

  44. Bob_Johnson says:

    For those who claim Ms. Kim is exagerating about the racist comments she endured, check out ESPN. They retracted their headline “Chink in the Armor”. It’s amazing how racists don’t see anything as racist.

  45. Mike says:

    Hi Jae-Ha,

    “Jeremy Lin matters to Kyle” is very moving, very powerful. As a white just married to an Asian I’ve already gotten my own “inside look” on growing up Asian. My new basketball-loving nephews talk about Jeremy Lin & Yao Ming.

    But, now this?! FYI, Mike
    RE: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/breaking/chi-espn-apologizes-for-offensive-headline-on-jeremy-lin-20120218,0,1877823.story

  46. John Harrold says:

    I just now saw the ESPN item.

    Unbelievable…the more things change, the more they stay the same, unfortunately.

    My family was dysfunctional, but my parents never uttered a word of those sorts.

  47. MJ says:

    Hi Jae-Ha,

    First and foremost I want to thank you for your touching piece on “Jeremy Lin matters to Kyle”. I was deeply moved by your story, especially as a Korean born American experiencing similar hardships.

    Unfortunately, I feel that many Asian-Americans have more than their fair share of stories involving blatant racism, but have never had the appropriate stage to speak out against it until the opportunity was just right to expose it all in the face of mainstream America.

    That time has arrived indeed.

    It’s tough when you’re growing up in a community where you’re frequently seen as an outsider and made fun of for your God given looks. There were times as a child where I’d wish I wasn’t someone of Korean heritage and would ask myself why I couldn’t be white like everyone else around me. Why did kids have to be so mean pulling their eyes back making them slanty, saying racial slurs and telling me to go back to my own country?

    But with every milestone that Asian-Americans achieve from Far East Movement to Jeremy Lin, that time becomes more and more of a distant memory. Today, I embrace my Korean heritage to the fullest and believe that many Asian-Americans are now becoming vocal, breaking stereotypes (good or bad) and learning how to become the leaders of tomorrow.

    I’m glad that Kyle will now be able to grow up watching an Asian-American role model on TV like Jeremy Lin besides having to resort to the outdated martial arts, ass-kicking Bruce Lee.

    Maybe one day the stereotypes we endured will simply turn to stories which Kyle recites from our history books and not from his own, personal experience.

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