Leonard Pitts Jr. admires the way that Jeremy Lin has defied stereotypes in his column, “Attn. Young Blacks: There’s A Message For You In This “Lin-sanity:”
An open letter to African-American young people:
So, have you caught “Lin-sanity” yet?
Meaning, of course, Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks point guard who has, in just a couple weeks, done what big name stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire could not: make the Knicks matter. Indeed, by carving up defenses like Thanksgiving turkey, scoring with ridiculous ease and handing out assists in bunches, he’s made them one of the hottest teams in basketball.
Suddenly, he is world famous. Suddenly, people who, until recently, thought driving the lane was something you do on the freeway are following his feats with fascination. Part of the interest is due to the fact that he went from no-name to superstar almost literally overnight. Part of it is because he is conspicuously humble in a league where the players are more often conspicuously conspicuous. But the greater part — let’s be honest here — seems to stem from the simple fact that he is a Chinese-American.
Or, as black boxer Floyd Mayweather groused on Twitter, Lin is a great player, but black players do what he’s doing all the time. In other words, if he were black, he’d be just another Tom, Dick or Kobe. But of course, the point is precisely that he isn’t black and therefore, he isn’t what we expect.
It is always jolting when someone breaks out of the context to which you have subconsciously confined them — like when you run into your teacher, at the mall with her kids. Similarly, when it comes to Asian guys, we expect that they will excel in engineering or chemistry. We emphatically do not expect them to break the defender’s ankles and take the rock to the rack with malice.
There is a word for expecting things from people based on the racial, religious, gender or cultural box you have put them into. The word is “stereotyping,” a form of mental laziness in which people believe they can know who and what you are simply by seeing you.