Jeremy Lin Speaks Out on Anti-Asian Violence

Jeremy Lin, a nine-year NBA veteran and current starting point guard for the Golden State Warriors’ G League affiliate team, has spoken out against recent anti-Asian attacks through his social media platforms.

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Vichar Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand, was strolling through his San Francisco neighborhood on the morning of January 28 when a hooded man sprinted across the street and violently slammed him to the ground. The deadly assault left Ratanapakdee in an unconscious state, and the police later reported that he had passed away due to a brain hemorrhage caused by the attack. Though the perpetrator was eventually arrested for murder and elder abuse, the incident was more than just a case of harassment. Rather, it’s part of a wider trend of hate-fueled crimes against the Asian community spiking in recent months.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, Asian Americans have been victims of hate crimes at an alarmingly higher rate than in previous years. New York City and Los Angeles in particular have reported the most crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment. Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization created to address the rise in xenophobia and bigotry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, received 2,808 reports of anti-Asian discrimination between March and December of 2020. The pattern has continued into 2021, and President Joe Biden signed an executive order denouncing anti-Asian hate crimes shortly after he was inaugurated in January.

Jeremy Lin, a nine-year NBA veteran and current starting point guard for the Golden State Warriors’ G League affiliate team, has spoken out against recent anti-Asian attacks through his social media platforms. In a recent Facebook post, Lin expressed a common sentiment among the Asian community that is mainly a result of the model minority myth. Asian Americans are often pitted against other minority groups and portrayed as the “ideal” immigrants. The result is the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and expectations that all Asian people are supposed to live up to.

What’s wrong with being associated with a group of people who are seen as “successful” or “hard-working?” For one, the model minority myth harms Asian Americans by setting standards that are virtually impossible to meet for many members of the Asian community. For instance, while Asians are often expected to thrive financially, the pay of AAPI women who work full-time, year-round can be as low as 52 cents for every dollar paid to white men. The lowest wages among the AAPI group are earned by Burmese women (52 cents for every dollar paid to white men) and Nepali women (54 cents for every dollar paid to white men). The idea that all Asians should be wealthy ignores the disparities in their available resources, which is evident by this wage gap alone.

The model minority myth also harms other minority groups. These minority groups are often told to view the “success” of Asian Americans as something they must strive and work hard for. This concept downplays the racism that Asian Americans, Black Americans, and all other minority groups face in America. They are told that working hard results in success that will allow them to “overcome” the oppression that they face. Once they do become “successful,” the racism and discrimination that they once dealt with is suddenly erased. Society believes that a group cannot be oppressed or face racism if they have the ability to achieve such success. The model minority myth creates a toxic hierarchy among minority groups that prevents society from making true progress for racial equality while allowing white people to maintain their role as the oppressors.

In an Instagram post, Lin wrote, “We are tired of being told that we don't experience racism,” which has seemingly become normalized today. He described the various forms of racism that Asian Americans deal with on a daily basis, from having the shape of their eyes mocked to being told that they look like every other Asian person. Yet, he points out that society treats the struggles of Asian Americans, including poverty, like they “aren’t as real.” The model minority myth is detrimental to the recognition of struggles within the Asian American community, and as these struggles continue to go unnoticed, stereotypes and discrimination against Asian Americans worsen while expectations increase.

The basketball star revealed that he was once called “coronavirus” during a basketball game. Though NBA officials are looking into Lin’s claim, the 32-year-old stated that he won’t name the perpetrator, insisting that he only wants to raise general awareness of the issue facing Asian Americans. When inquired further about when he first became conscious of racism against Asians on the court, Lin replied, “I never really thought that much about it until […] I started to play really competitively.” Lin also stated that he was often called racial slurs during his time playing at Harvard University: “Yeah, multiple times […] talking about my eyes, talking about different stereotypes, talking about going back to China, things like that.”

Lin has said that he has taken more pride in his identity as a result of the rise in hate crimes directed toward Asians. “I’m actually more than okay being the Asian basketball player if that means that I can do things like this, which is stand up for and have a voice for the unheard,” he said.

Though most of us don’t have an online following as big as the basketball star’s, we must all take an active role in combating anti-Asian racism. We need to put aside our differences and combine our voices in order to break the cycle of violence and bring about real change. As Lin put it, “Hear [others’] stories, expand your perspective, [and] stop comparing experiences. I believe this generation can be different. But we will need empathy and solidarity to get there.”