I had no idea how Jeremy Lin would react when I asked about his experience as an Asian man. And I’ll admit, I was nervous. This was a Q&A, yes, but most of the questions were about Jeremy’s NBA career. And if his experience as an Asian man has been anything like mine….well, I knew it might be a sensitive topic.
My palms were sweating when I took the mic but I asked my question anyway. Here’s what happened:
Maybe none of this sounds like a huge deal to you, but here’s why Jeremy Lin admitting that being an Asian man is hard was a life-changing moment for me (and for the Internet, apparently. Huffington Post picked up the story, and it’s going gangbusters)
I had a ton of self-hatred growing up, all because I was Asian.
I’m adopted. No one in my family or my community looked like me.
I’d turn on TV and watch movies, and the only Asian men I saw were martial artists. They must have been the only Asian men my classmates saw, too, because other kids teased me by making martial arts joking and doing karate chops and calling me “chinaman.”
Girls (including the few Asian girls I knew) told me they weren’t into Asian guys.
So I did that shitty “If you can’t beat them, join them” thing where I started making fun of my own race. I’m still embarrassed by this, but looking back, I realize it was a coping mechanism. After all, I was the only Asian male in my entire school. When classmates told me I was the “whitest Asian” they knew, I took it as a compliment rather than the shitty racism it actually was.
I love my family, but them insisting I was being too sensitive or should just “get over it” didn’t help (they realize this now).
I felt like a joke.
I started to use fitness as an outlet. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. While it took a few years to learn how to balance exercise and life in a healthy way, my health focus has hands down been the key to developing a positive self-image of myself. It also helped extinguish a lot of the anger that was starting to consume me.
But that doesn’t mean all is right with the world. Even in 2017, negative Asian stereotypes are still being perpetuated by the media. They hurt Asian boys and men everyday. Including me.
It’s why I asked Jeremy Lin if he’d ever struggled with feeling attractive as an Asian man. Because I had a hunch he had.
When he answered with yes, and even elaborated, I was surprised how much it affected me. I felt emotional. I felt less alone. Even though my loneliness and anger about being Asian is mostly behind me, it must still persist, based on the connection I felt with Jeremy Lin in that moment.