Tongue-Tied: Jeremy Lin and Media Dialogue on Race Matters | Urban Cusp

Tongue-Tied:

Jeremy Lin and Media Dialogue on Race Matters

David J. Leonard

I spent much of the last two weeks watching New York Knicks games, a painful reality given my unwavering loyalty to the Los Angeles Lakers, to participate in the phenomena that has come to be known as Linsanity. When not watching games, my days have been spent listening to interviews, reading commentaries, and debating and discussing Jeremy Lin’s meteoric rise. Among the many things I have noticed is how we as a society lack a level of media literacy, seemingly accepting the narrative disseminated by the national media. With little reservation or questions, there is little room to think critically about how Lin is being positioned within most media circles.

For example, we have been told that Lin “came out of no where.” Simultaneously erasing his experiences and the hard work that led him to become the starting PG with the Knicks and his past successes (at Harvard, including dominating performance against UCONN; during the NBA summer leagues), the “out of no where” idea reflects the “American Idolization” or the “The Apprentization” of American life. Discounting hard work, talent, and a myriad of factors, we increasingly live in a society that imagines the American Dream as simply around the corner, available with a little bit of luck and opportunity.

The appeal of Lin as “coming out of no where” does not reflect the power of stereotypes but a sense of pleasure that comes with our collective belief that our dreams can come true. Irrespective of the profession, we all believe or think we can “come out of no where” to garner success and appreciation. Such belief in meritocracy and in the American Dream reflects a certain level of Lin’s appeal, a fact that should elicit self-reflection and critical analysis.

Likewise, the belief that Lin is undermining, if not eliminating, stereotypes about Asian Americans, is optimistic to say the least. Timothy Yu’s “Will Jeremy Lin’s Success End stereotypes?” embodies this hope: “American culture tells us, in short, that Lin shouldn’t exist. Every time he drives to the basket, he upends stereotypes of Asians as short, weak and nerdy. Every time he talks to the media, he dispels the idea that all Asian-Americans are like foreigners speaking broken English.”

Jay Caspian Kang pushes this conversation further arguing that it isn’t simply Lin’s presence on the court that undermines longstanding stereotypes but the style that he plays with. “I’m sure we’d all like to peg the humble Asian kid as unselfish. But Lin can be a bit of a black hole [with the ball]. Some of his most exciting baskets have come on drives that start around half court.” Yet, that isn’t the narrative in circulation. As noted by Picca and Feagin, stereotypes “act, like self-fulfilling prophecies tend to be reinforced when new information fits them, while information that negates a stereotype tends to be rejected.” The stereotype, in itself, impairs our ability to see the reality.

For example, in the aftermath of the Knicks loss the New Jersey Nets, which was Lin’s first game playing alongside Carmelo Anthony, the criticisms directed at Anthony focused on his selfishness and ball-hogging approach in the game despite the fact that Lin took 18 shots compared to Melo’s 11. Understanding the desire to see Lin as a “game changer,” as someone who is ushering in a new racial moment, the persistence of inequality and institutional racisms leaves me questioning the level of optimism, one that seemingly places stereotypes on the doorstep of those who have been confined within the prism of racial expectations.

One of the emergent narratives, especially in the wake of the tweets from Jason Whitlock and Floyd Mayweather, ESPN’s headline and the MSG “fortune cookie” image, has been the ways in which racism has been directed against Asian American communities. While illustrating the profound ways that racism guides both public discourse and material conditions impacting AAPI communities, the efforts to create a hierarchy whereupon anti-Asian prejudice (institutional racism is never figured) is tolerated whereas anti-black or anti-Latino racism is met with opposition and condemnation represents a significant failure.

continue reading @ Tongue-Tied: Jeremy Lin and Media Dialogue on Race Matters | Urban Cusp.

When It Comes to Sports, Race Still Matters – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY

When It Comes to Sports, Race Still Matters

By David Leonard Writer

The emergence of Jeremy Lin as international superstar, and resulting tweets from Jason Whitlock and Floyd Mayweather, has prompted widespread debate about whether or not race matters in both the media representation and in understanding the arch of his career. Without a doubt, race matters when talking about Lin given his path to the NBA, prejudice experienced while on the court (see here for examples; see here broader discussion), and the larger context of anti-Asian racism. Lin is not evident of some post-racial fantasy, but instead a reminder of how race matters. It matters whether talking about sports, housing, education, foreign policy, economic inequality, media culture, and interpersonal relations.

Race matters when examining the media representations of Black athletes, whether were talking about the demonization of Michael Vick (the most despised athlete in America), Barry Bonds, or LeBron James; it matters in look at the stories of redemption afforded to Ben Roethlisberger and Josh Hamilton, or the lack of media attention directed at Kevin Love following his recent stomp. To deny the impact and significant of race with Lin is as absurd as deploying “the race denial card” in these contexts as well. To imagine Lin outside of the scope of race and racism, or to isolate race as something usual in this instance, especially given the ways that the NBA is associated with blackness (the subtext here feels as if the discussion is being reduced to anti-Asian prejudice from African Americans), represents an immense failure.

So race matters when thinking about Lin’s recruitment (or lack thereof) out of high school and his path to the NBA, as race matters when talking about employment discrimination.

Racism holds people back in every industry, from higher education to the business world. Researchers at the Discrimination Research Center, in their study “Names Make a Difference,” argue that racial discrimination represents a significant obstacle for employees. Having sent out 6,200 resumes with similar qualifications to temporary employment agencies, the authors found that those with names associated with the Latino and white communities received callbacks more frequently than those presumed to be African American or South Asian/Arab American (called back the least frequently).

Similarly, MIT professors Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan concluded that perspective applicants with “White sounding names” are 50 percent more likely to receive a callback after submitting a resume than were those with “Black sounding names.” They concluded that Whiteness was as much an asset as 8 years of work experience, demonstrating that race has a significant impact on one’s job future. In their study, “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination,” the authors conclude, “While one may have expected that improved credentials may alleviate employers’ fear that African-American applicants are deficient in some unobservable skills, this is not the case in our data. Discrimination therefore appears to bite twice, making it harder not only for African-Americans to find a job but also to improve their employability” (“Employers’ Replies to Racial Names” 2003).

In a society where those with “Black sounding” and “Muslim sounding” names receive call backs from perspective employments with 50% less frequency, this an opportunity to talk about systemic racism.

Continue reading @ When It Comes to Sports, Race Still Matters – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY.

NewBlackMan: Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes

 

 

Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes

A Questionable Victory?

by Theresa Runstedtler and David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

The ongoing efforts to control, manage, and demonize black athletes, especially black boxers, once again came to a head a few weeks ago when Floyd Mayweather, Jr. beat Victor Ortiz with a “controversial” knockout punch to win the world welterweight title.

The fight promised to be a battle of two diametrical opposites. The self-assured 34-year-old black tactician with a defensive strategy was set to take on an earnest, up-and-coming 24-year-old Latino with an iron chin and aggressive style. Mayweather’s scenes in the pre-fight HBO production of 24/7 – talking into a stack of money as if it were a phone, buying a new luxury car on a whim, and fighting with his father in front of a crowd of fans – were wildly colorful, sometimes surreal, sometimes stomach-turning, and entirely bombastic. But all the while, Mayweather kept training; he kept honing his craft and conditioning his body, even pulling his entourage out of bed (and out of the club) for 2:00 am workout sessions.

In the meantime, 24/7 fashioned Ortiz into a paragon of ascetic virtue. His scenes revolved around a triumphant and righteous tale of social uplift – the quintessential good immigrant story. He came from nothing. His parents abandoned him and he still managed to pull himself up by his own bootstraps to become a successful, but humble fighter. Unlike Mayweather with his large entourage and celebrity friends, Ortiz mostly kept to himself with his truck-driving trainer and loyal brother.

The first few rounds were tight with Mayweather grabbing the early lead. In the fourth round, in what was probably Ortiz’s most effective moments in the fight, the wheels came off his attempt to defeat Mayweather. Launching at Mayweather, Ortiz landed a vicious head butt, leading Referee Joe Cortez to step in to penalize Ortiz. After several apologies from Ortiz, a few hugs, a kiss or two, and the tapping of the gloves, the fight resumed; although it appears that Ortiz didn’t get the memo leaving him vulnerable to a classic Mayweather combo that ended as many have before: with his opponent on the ground. Replays clearly illustrate that Ortiz was not paying attention and not following the creed “to protect oneself at all time,” ending the fight in what was both one of the more climatic and anti-climatic moments in boxing history.

Before the fighters even exited the ring, commentators had already denied Mayweather the victory. Described as a “questionable” win, a “marginally legal” knockout, and as one that resulted from a “cheap shot” and a “sucker punch” the victory was not simply hallow but purportedly a window into Mayweather’s dubious character. “Like the Tyson ear biting incident of yesteryear, Floyd Mayweather proved to be dirty fighter this evening who hit a man when the action had not officially commenced by the referee,” noted Jet Fan on The Bleacher Report. “To a chorus of boos, Mayweather then imploded in a post-fight interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant as he questioned Merchant’s boxing resume and then proceeded to terminate the dialogue in a profanity laced tirade. To Merchant’s credit, he stood toe-to-toe with an obvious bully who seems to relish in antagonizing men twice his age, including his own father!” A commentary on The Statesmen encapsulates the demonization directed at Mayweather that used the fight to lament Floyd’s character, pathologies and otherwise undesirable traits:

Congratulations, Floyd Mayweather. You are now the most despised athlete on the planet, non-O.J. division. Mayweather is sullying his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of our generation. His latest classless missteps came last Saturday night with a one-two punch. First, he cold-cocked Victor Ortiz in the closing seconds of the fourth round of their welterweight championship fight while Ortiz was apologizing for an intentional head butt. Yes, what Ortiz did was idiotic — first the head butt and then letting his guard down while referee Joe Cortez had his back turned toward the fighters. But what Mayweather did — perfectly legit under strict interpretation of the rules — was a punk move. But he was just getting started. Mayweather then went after HBO analyst Larry Merchant in a post-fight interview, spewing profanities before Merchant grew tired of it and yelled, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I would kick your (butt).

Apparent from the media response was both a lack of respect and a dismissal of the specifics of what happened in the ring. Rather than simply comment on the fight, the media reasserted “common sense” understandings of black athletes, reiterating the narrative of Mayweather as an immature, greedy, and petulant child who represents everything that is wrong with modern professional sports culture. The media response in this regard reflects the longstanding project of constructing black athletes as “bad boys,” which in the end “works to reinforce efforts to tame their ‘out of control’ nature” (Ferber 2007, p. 20).

Continue reading at NewBlackMan: Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes.