Last weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Maya Rudolph opened with a bit on the Jeremy Lin phenomenon, and happily, it was a surprisingly sophisticated take.
As I’ve said before, I have not been crazy about SNL‘s portrayal of Asians in the past, so this is more good news. Given the varied public reaction to Linsanity in general, and ESPN’s horrible “chink in the armor” headline in particular, I can’t help but wonder how many SNL watchers out there didn’t immediately get that the joke was not racial humor itself, but the double standard. If you know me, you may know that one of my favorite hobby horses is when people (usually conservatives) freak out over the alleged excesses of political correctness run amok. If you know me, you probably also know that I am not overly optimistic about humanity’s ability to not be racist, or Internet comments to be anything but cesspools of idiocy. Yet I was still astounded that anybody – including heaps of Internet commenters with handy links to definitions and previous media usages of the phrase – could think that the headline “chink in the armor” could, in this context, be anything but completely unacceptably racist. To complain about the outcry over the headline is to suggest that your obsession with the fantastical political correctness police, or your freedom to be edgy or make asshole-ish jokes, is more important than the ability of Asian-Americans to be free of racial harassment, and that is truly absurd.
Personally, I think what’s most offensive about the headline is that so many people at ESPN apparently failed to recognize that it featured a highly offensive racial slur. Even assuming that the headline writer is not racist and did not intend to pun on a racial slur, he’s still guilty of being ignorant — not that he’s the only one, of course. I grew up in central Connecticut, not far from Bristol, where ESPN is headquartered, and got called “chink” (and taunted with “ching chong” nonsense) plenty of times on the playground in recess and, most memorably to me, in middle school gym class, and not once did the (all white) playground aides, teachers, or other school authorities ever intervene or respond when I complained. I think that’s why it’s important that there be public accountability for this – so that people learn that really, it’s not okay.
The guy at ESPN who actually penned the headline has been fired, although he claims it was an innocent mistake – of course, the issue is, if you accidentally use a colloquialism in the wrong context such that it becomes offensive, you still messed up. And furthermore, if it’s your job to write for the nation’s premier sports outlet, it’s also your job to not make such mistakes.
Back to the point: at The Nation, Dave Zirin summed it up well:
No one at ESPN would talk or write about a lesbian athlete and unconsciously put forth that the woman in question would have a “finger in the dike.” If an African-American player was thought of as stingy, it’s doubtful that anyone at the World Wide Leader would describe that person as “niggardly.” They would never brand a member of a football team as a “Redskin” (wait, scratch that last one.)
This is probably only the first blog post I’m going to make about Jeremy Lin, because I’m pretty obsessed with him. (As my boyfriend says, I should just get a poster and hang it up in my locker.) But I’m sticking to my line that the Jeremy Lin story is interesting for good reason, because of how it reflects and magnifies critical issues in society. For example, here’s this opinion piece by NYU History of Education professor Jonathan Zimmerman, published by the Washington Post:
…I’m troubled by the much-heard refrain that Lin — whose parents are Taiwanese immigrants — has “overcome the Asian stereotype.” In the popular mind, this story goes, Asian Americans are quiet, studious and really good at math. By scoring 20 or more points in each of his first six NBA starts, including 38 against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Lin supposedly dealt a decisive blow against an insidious ethnic caricature.
But isn’t that stereotype — especially the part about studying hard — a very good model to follow? Why should anyone want or need to “overcome” it?
I just don’t know how this Ivy League-educated professor could write this entire 700-word piece without once using the phrase “model minority.” The least you would expect is some brief lip service towards, I don’t know, the problem of stereotypes in general.
Zimmerman makes a good (and topical!) point about the the unfair discrimination against Asian-Americans that is flagrantly practiced at elite universities. But that doesn’t excuse his willful ignorance/incuriousity/unprofessional omission about the many reasons stereotypes in general, and the model minority stereotype in particular, are bad for society.
For starters, the view of Asian-Americans as a monolithic model minority masks the very real needs of the diverse community that falls under the rubric of “Asian-American.” The model minority stereotype also likely plays a role in the high incidence of depression among Asian-American women, and affects the way that Asian-American students learn.
Personally, I can attest that the model minority stereotype has made my own academic successes feel less legitimate, and my own academic failures feel worse. Growing up in a nearly entirely white suburb in Connecticut, where things like athletic virtuosity were admired, the stereotype only compounded my feeling of otherness.
It is probably good for society if virtues like studiousness and hard work are more widely promoted and emulated. But there’s no good reason that it should be done through harmful racial stereotypes.
Lately, I’ve been coveting this gorgeous red satchel version of the Celine Luggage tote seen on Atlantic-Pacific:
She also has a bigger version of the Luggage tote, seen here. However, this purse is far, far outside my budget. But, J. Crew is not! And their new Tillary tote is a great alternative, ringing in at a still substantial $328 – a good digit less than the Celine:
I was also happy to find that someone else has basically written the blog post I meant to write, on the law of inspiration vs. piracy. According to The Fashion Law, the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act (IDPPPA) would permit this kind of reinterpretation. IDPPPA, introduced by Sen. Schumer of New York and endorsed by CFDA, was apparently reported favorably out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2010 but then languished; it has since been re-introduced in the House in the 112th Congress by Rep. Goodlatte of Virginia. I haven’t read and analyzed the bill(s), but the opinions on the Internet are, unsurprisingly, divided: one fashion lawyer/commentator I found thinks IDPPPA will only harm the fashion industry by adding burdensome litigation costs, and that originality standards will be difficult, if not impossible, to prove or enforce. This is not my area of expertise, but from what I’ve read and observed in the arena of art and copyright, courts are extremely ill-equipped to judge what amounts to original reinterpretation, fair use, or artistic appropriation.
Anyways, my foray into the world of purse blogging today has yielded a couple other high/”low” purse observations:
The Reed Krakoff Atlantique tote ($1,490) has a pretty similar silhouette to the Celine: