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).