The media hype over Jeremy Lin's success reflects American stereotypes of Asians. We should know better.
Right off the bat, let me first congratulate Jeremy Lin on his success playing in the NBA. I wish him well. That said, his success should not have generated nearly as much media hype as it did as winning basketball games was his job. The reason that success did generate all that hype was because that level of playing ability was never expected from an Asian American. Why is that?
We have grown accustomed to Asian Americans out-pacing us in our school systems from Kindergarten to Graduate school. That became so much the norm for Americans that we had to look for other areas where White Americans could still succeed while we gave up winning spelling bees and valedictorian awards at our schools and universities. Sports became that outlet, that haven from the Asian Invasion, if you will. Now, New Yorkers are thrilled for the time being but do the rest of us feel the same? We should because we have seen this same thing in every generation.
From Hank Greenberg (Jewish) to Jackie Robinson (Black), Bob Cousy (small school) to Oscar Robertson (black and a point guard), Joe Gilliam (black quarterback) to Doug Williams (black super bowl winning quaterback), we have seen players from races and ethnicities that were once considered unfit to join whites on the field of play have astounded us with their skills, drive and talent. I neglected to mention Jim Plunkett and Mark Ripien (Native American and super bowl winning quaterbacks).
So, my question here is what will happen when the first Muslim athlete shows up in a professional uniform and wins. Will we respect him for his skill and leadership and invite him to our dinner tables as honored guests or will we, once again, be surprised that someone from a culture other than our own can lead us to a better place?
When will we learn that stereotyping anyone is a bad idea in the first place?