I was invited to go to a swimming pool with a friend and her family. I remember being really excited about getting to play in a real pool. Per the admittance requirements, we all rinsed off in the locker room and waited in line. One by one, we stuck our arms out so that a park district employee could rub his or her fingers on our forearm to ensure our cleanliness. The whole thing sounds crazy now. But those were part of the rules, I guess.
I found this picture of Marlee Matlin and me. I remember it was a fun photo shoot. While she was in hair and makeup, the photographer took a few test shots of me to make sure the lighting etc. was set up properly. He snapped a picture of the two of us before I interviewed her. She had just gotten all made up. Me? As you can see, not so much. But, I still like the photo. And it reminds me that I want to dig out that James Dean shirt for the summer. (I used to collect them. Did you know that?)
It has been almost three decades since Long Duk Dong made his appearance in “16 Candles,” and it doesn’t look like Hollywood’s perception of Asian men has changed all that much. Actor John Wusah turned down a chance to audition for a film, where the Asian character was there just to be made fun of. I can’t imagine that it’d be easy for an actor of any race to turn down an opportunity to work. So Kudos, Mr. Wusah.
I remember sitting at the butcher’s with mother. Young boys slanted their eyes with their fingers, bowed to mother, snickering and said, “ah sooo.” I was 11. I knew that mother (and I) were being made fun of.
There was a little boy sitting nervously on his bicycle as my dad talked to him. The boy had called my father a chink, and my father was calmly explaining that it wasn’t a nice thing to say, and that his parents would be disappointed to hear him say that to an adult. (Who’re we kidding? We all know that this kid probably learned to be a racist at home. But my father was giving him the benefit of the doubt.)
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.
Crouching down in my seat so that he wouldn’t see me cry, I choked out loud sobs that surprised me. I thought about the first time we saw him in Korea, when he was still a baby. I cried for all the losses he’d already suffered before his first bithday. I cried for the years that we had together where the days, at times, seemed tortuously long, but now were flashing by at a speed that startled me. I thought about what it would be like when he went off to college. And I hoped that I wouldn’t die before he grew up to be a man. Clearly, I was having a melodramatic moment.