AAJA Imposes Jeremy Lin "Danger Zones" For Media, Including "Chink," "Yellow Mamba"

In the wake of the usage of derogatory terms in the media when the subject is Jeremy Lin, the AAJA has put together a set of guidelines to adhere to when reporting on the Knicks player, including several "danger zones" that are off limits, including references to food, eye shape, and, as shown here, driving.

After three unprecedented uses of the phrase “chink in the armor” with regards to Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin – all of which happened to be on ESPN platforms – you can tell that the Asian-American Journalists Association was so perturbed to the fact that they have issued guidelines for journalists to uphold, including over a half-dozen “danger zones” referring to features or customs of the average Asian.

The first “danger zone” is a given: “Chink” – not, mind you, the controversial “armor” phrase, but the entire word in general. Writes AAJA for this word: “Pejorative; do not use in a context involving an Asian person on someone who is Asian American. Extreme care is needed if using the well-trod phrase “chink in the armor”; be mindful that the context does not involve Asia, Asians or Asian Americans.” (Are you paying attention, Ben Yakas?)

The next “danger zone” on the list: “Driving.” “This is part of the sport of basketball, but resist the temptation to refer to an ‘Asian who knows how to drive.'” You may recall that Conan O’Brien did a bit on his TBS show last week on “offensive Jeremy Lin graphics at MSG”; one of them showed Lin in a faultless pose in front of a totaled car, with the words, “He’s only good at driving to the hoop.”

“Eye shape” in the next “danger zone”, and AAJA says such focus on this characteristic of Lin is “irrelevant. Do not make such references if discussing Lin’s vision.” Last week, a day before the “chink in the armor” phenomenon reared its ugly head, an anchor on the morning show of the Fox owned-and-operated station in New York, WNYW, wondered of Lin, “What about his eyes?”

“Food” is another no-no when writing or discussing Linsanity. “Is there a compelling reason to draw a connection between Lin and fortune cookies, takeout boxes or similar imagery? In the majority of news coverage, the answer will be no.” Hopefully, members of the sports media won’t be taking the time to construct their own “fan signs” and bring them to the Garden anytime soon.

Next on the list of “danger zones” is another Asian stereotype: “Martial Arts.” “You’re writing about a basketball player. Don’t conflate his skills with judo, karate, tae kwon do, etc. Do not refer to Lin as “Grasshopper” or similar names associated with martial-arts stereotypes.” While you’re at it, don’t forget to include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You know… cover all your bases.

The next “danger zone” is a sentence construed by the AAJA that, to my knowledge, has not been used by a sports journalist, but I think this is their way of – speak of the devil – covering all their bases: “Me Love You Lin Time.” They took Lin’s name and placed it in lieu of the word “love” in the phrase “me love you long time,” which was derived from the movie “Full Metal Jacket” (it was spoken by a Vietnamese prostitute) – you may recall this line being sampled like crazy in the song “Me So Horny” by 2 Live Crew in the 90’s. Quoth the AAJA: “Avoid. This is a lazy pun on the athlete’s name and alludes to the broken English of a Hollywood caricature from the 1980s.”

The final “danger zone” was actually inspired by another popular NBA player: “Yellow Mamba.” “This nickname that some have used for Lin plays off the “Black Mamba” nickname used by NBA star Kobe Bryant. It should be avoided.” AAJA added another facet to this term: “Asian immigrants in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries were subjected to discriminatory treatment resulting from a fear of a “Yellow Peril” that was touted in the media, which led to legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act.” All I can say to this is, Heaven help the media member who’s caught wearing a “Yellow Mamba” T-shirt.

In addition to these guidelines, the AAJA also compiled a list of facts about the player. “Jeremy Lin is Asian American, not Asian (more specifically, Taiwanese American)… To characterize him as a foreigner is both inaccurate and insulting.” I don’t know… does anyone think the New York Post’s “Amasian” cover is insulting? It encapsulates a winning moment – but it also flirts with being a bit derogatory, especially if you know that Lin is not a native of Asia.

Additionally, AAJA pointed out that Lin is actually “not the first Asian American” to play the game. That honor actually goes to Wat Misaka, of Japanese descent, who appeared in a few games for the Knicks in the late 1950’s. That’s right: before Linsanity, there was Misaka Mania! Subsequent Asian American players that suited up were Raymond Townsend (Golden State Warriors, 1970’s) and Rex Walters (New Jersey Nets, 1990’s).

You can read AAJA’s complete list of Jeremy Lin media guidelines from their website here. (In the event their website is down, you can also find it here or here.)

2 comments on “AAJA Imposes Jeremy Lin "Danger Zones" For Media, Including "Chink," "Yellow Mamba"

  1. Bo Sears says:

    TOPIC: Reporting on Jeremy Lin

    Resisting Defamation since 1989 has worked to let everyone know that the diverse white Americans are, in fact, diverse and Americans, and that any label given to us that papers over both those critical elements in our identity is bigoted. The diverse white Americans do have the same right as members of of other demographics have, after all, to name ourselves.

    We were disappointed this week to see that the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) claims to have the right to name us “Caucasian” which has obviously been deliberately chosen to smother awareness in various segments of our multi-racial society about our diversity and our nationality. In a word, the AAJA told us our name based on its claim to supremacy.

    The AAJA decided that we were “Caucasian” in this sentence: “Stop to think: Would a similar statement be made about an athlete who is Caucasian, African American or Latino?” What a supremacist insult.

    Let’s compare “Asian American” with “Caucasian” to illustrate AAJA bigotry.

    The word “Asian” explicitly invites awareness of diversity, including as that continent does national origins from Turkey and Israel in its west all the way across the world’s largest land mass to Korea and Japan. “Caucasian” is explicitly designed to smother our diversity.

    The word “American” explicitly claims nationality, while “Caucasian” is explicitly designed to smother our nationality.

    “Caucasian” is very clearly chosen as a label for us by the AAJA because it is a label that strips us of our diversity and nationality. The label reflects more racism, verbal thuggery, and bigotry. We can name ourselves, thank you very much.

    Bo Sears

  2. Wayne says:

    What a shame that these guidelines need to be created. When will racism stop, even as a joke?

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