- Programming note: Watch Jeremy Lin on "Race in America: A Candid Conversation," airing Tuesday, Feb. 23 on NBC Sports Bay Area at approximately 8:30 p.m., after the conclusion of "Warriors Outsiders."
We’ve all by now seen some of the videos of Asian Americans, mostly elderly, being subjected to cowardly acts of hatred, literally slammed into and shoved onto sidewalks and streets. It has happened in Bay Area, in New York, in many places in between.
Much of this despicable behavior stems from the vile rhetoric of a few American politicians who misguidedly blame Asia, China in particular, for the COVID-19 pandemic that some dismissed as a hoax but has killed about 500,000 people in the United States.
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Insofar as most of the attackers have been Black or white, these incidents have Asian Americans on alert.
Moreover, they shine a high-wattage light on the emotional segregation that can exist in this country among racial and ethnic groups.
As a guest on “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” airing Tuesday night on NBC Sports Bay Area, Asian American basketball player Jeremy Lin, a Palo Alto native, brings measured analysis and a plaintive plea to an issue plaguing America.
“I feel bad for somebody who harbors hate for somebody else, who they’ve never met, just based on skin color,” he says. “That makes me want to do something. It makes me want to educate people or speak out and find ways to make a difference.
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“Honestly, it goes almost from anger to heartbreak. Almost like a sadness, but mixed with compassion. I almost feel for the people who are hurting the victims.”
Lin has engaged in a number of forums discussing the issue of violence against Asians, including one last year with former NBA player Caron Butler, Indian American civil-rights attorney Vanita Gupta and one-time presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
It’s the kind of group, spanning several specific ethnicities, that are imperative to gain real traction against discrimination of any kind, certainly that which leads to violence.
“I’ve always said that in the long run, it can’t only be Asians caring about Asian issues, or African Americans caring about African American issues,” Lin says. “If, as minorities, we want the majority to understand what it’s like to live a minority experience, and to sympathize and change, we as minorities also have to collaborate, unify and use our voices and stand up for each other. There has to be solidarity on that front.”
Action is being taken in that regard, at least in the Bay Area. Mistah F.A.B., the Black hip-hop artist based in Oakland, is collaborating with China Mac, the Asian rapper originally from New York, in an effort to bring the two communities closer.
There is a history of White America inflicting barriers on both groups, most notably with slave labor and Jim Crow and Internment camps, that provides common ground and, thus, a gateway to teamwork.
“It would be hypocritical of me to say I’m anti-racism if I only stand up for people who look like me,” Lin says. “There is definitely power in unification and solidarity. That must happen and needs to happen. If we can continue to do that – and that’s one great way, between the Asian and African American communities – if we can really combine and show for each other and support each other, that would give us more momentum in that direction.”
Lin, 32, notes that his basketball experience has allowed him to an easy way to get educated in the ways of other cultures. The game is played by all races and ethnicities, though it is predominantly Black at the NBA level.
Lin spent time in the Golden State system but his most recognizable work in the NBA came in 2011-12 as a member of the New York Knicks. Over the span of nearly a month, he played so well, finding teammates for easy baskets and making clutch shots, that the term “Linsanity” entered the American lexicon.
That’s the high that can come from playing a game that has enriched his life.
“I have spent more Thanksgivings at teammates’ houses than in my own house since 2006,” Lin says. “That’s what I love about basketball, is that it has totally broadened my perspective and my understanding, while at the same time I can invite people into what we’re doing. Even last week, with Chinese New Year and things like that.
“It’s fun when you actually to meet somebody who you really care about, who you really respect, and you learn about their culture and that allows you to have a wider lens or perspective. And that’s what the world needs right now.”
Wise words from a man who is living the dream that comes with playing pro basketball for a living and the nightmare that comes with knowing at any time that someone who looks like him might be the victim of senseless violence.