I have written several times about Jeremy Lin arranging a video chat with my Asian American daughter both at the height of Linsanity and at the depth of my daughter's ethnic harassment and bullying at the hands of her middle school basketball teammates while the school administrators turned a blind eye to my and my family's numerous complaints about the essentially all-white school's failure to apply its Tltle VI policy to address even one single act, among the scores of humiliating acts our family directly reported to school personnel, beginning with a 7th grade basketball coach, an 8th grade teacher, and moving up through the school board and district superintendent.
After a NYC civil rights group, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) intervened on my daughter's behalf (evidencing the extent of how egregious the acts suffered by my daughter actually were–because of the resources involved in representing a single girl in rural eastern Kentucky from the NPO's office in NYC), the group also soon learned that the school administrators continued to act with the same deliberate indifference toward the civil rights group, as they had toward my daughter and my family, and that, incredually, the school district had hidden the fact that it had NO actual Title VI policy at all, and thus no mechanism to address my daugter's civil rights violations in any way. Eventually, AALDEF filed administrative complaints with both the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education–who eventually addressed my daughter's complaints through execution of a Resolution Agreement with the offending school district. During the two-year period my daughter attended the offending school district's middle school, the entire school district did not employ a single minority (including not only teachers, but cafeteria workers, bus drivers or volunteer coaches). If the reader is interested in reading a more detailed description of my daughter's mistreatment, please see the article by WDRB's Eric Crawford, “Kentucky Girl Claims Racial Harassment from Basketball Teammates.”
After moving my daughter to a new school system far away from the offending school district, she is now thriving in every possible way and has not been the subject of a single ethnic slur during her 2+ years at her new school, excelling academically and athletically and being recruited for both her academic and basketball achievements by D-1 basketball schools, including Vanderbilt, Xavier, Ivy League institutions and universities throughout the country.
I mention my daughter's background to show the type of character Jeremy Lin possesses. His 45+ minute video chat with my then 13-year old daughter, which Jeremy arranged between NBA practices, resulting from his mother telling him about my daughter's mistreatment — which she learned of in the Asian American media. Jeremy and my daughter talked about their shared experiences of being the subject of frequent ethnic slurs (chink, gook, etc.) from mean-spirited teammates, classmates, and others, many of whom claimed they were only teasing (as if the harasser's stated intent is relevant in any way), being told frequently that “Asians can't play basketball,” and the myth of the model minority–in which Asian American students are presumed by some American teachers and school personnel to be innately advanced in math and science (and if they are not, they are labeled lazy) and the ridiculous, but persistent, stereotype that Asian Americans are “more suited” for individual “sports” (such as tennis, cross-country and chess) rather than team sports like basketball and football. He also told her to always take the high road and never descend to the level of those who have hurt her and that he knew her to be incredibly brave because she had the courage to stand up against her harassers and the adults within the school Disrict charged with protecting her. He also told her he was sure most of her tormentors would be unable to cope with issues unique to Asian Americans and to stay the course, regardless of how someone tries to label you. [Actually, Jeremy's advice to my teenage daughter could be instructive to adults, as well as teenagers.]
At the conclusion of their video chat, Jeremy left my daughter with his agent's cell phone number and told her several times that she could get in touch with him anytime she needed to talk about anything. Fortunately, his reassuring talk lifted the self-esteem of my daughter before she moved to her new school and, in the nick of time, renewed her interest in basketball and academic achievement and, most importantly, her trust in her new fellow students.
It is not in the least surprising to me that Jeremy Lin has decided to speak out on the deleterious issues faced by Asian Americans–issues to which other ethnic groups are largely immune.
This isn't to say that other ethnic and racial groups in America do not face daunting issues, perhaps even more so than Asian Americans. I am a Human Rights Commissioner, and, of course know that there are other critically important racial and religious intolerance policies and issues outside the Asian American community which have spurred organizations to “fight the American political system” (whatever that may mean, if anything, in today's modern world). #BlackLivesMatter, of course they do, and while I have a great number of friends who practice the Islamic faith, my Muslim friends are kind and gentle people who are horrified by the atrocities committed by Islamic extremists.
This blog post, though, is written as a tribute to Jeremy Lin, who not only helped my daughter come to terms with who she is a human being and who has the potential to succeed in life (a difficult concept for a middle school girl to grasp), but also as a thank you note to Jeremy because he was willing to take a risk to his professional career in order to begin a public discussion about the other side of the back-handed compliment of the so-called “model minority” stereotype–the side, not of conforming, curve-busting students, but of the incredible academic pressures bearing, sometimes, intolerably down on Asian American students and consequent suicides where “every homework assignment, every project, every test [for an Asian American student] could be the difference . . . The difference between success and failure. The difference between happiness and misery.” The quotation cited above comes from an on-line piece from CHRON, a media outlet in Houston, and is entitled, “Former Rockets guard Jeremy Lin opens up about academic pressures and suicides” and is important reading to anyone associated with or part of the Asian American community. [Matt Young, December 16, 2015]
It really should come as no surprise that Jeremy Lin is once again standing up for marginalized groups of Americans on the video (“Jeremy Lin's Advice on Bullying“) posted to the U.S. Department of Education's YouTube channel a couple of months ago as part of the White House Asian American Pacific Islander Initiative, Anti-Bullying Campaign.
The point of this post is simply to thank a kind and compassionate young man, who just happens to play in the NBA, for restoring my daughter's self-esteem through a call he generated–simply because he cared, cared for one single Asian American teenager facing a part of his past in an isolated community in Kentucky–and, in doing so, unlocked so many potential opportunities for the remainder of her life. I knew it would only be a matter of time before he spoke, not just to my daughter about the unique challenges of simply being an Asian America in the USA, but to a much wider audience who respect him, his humor and his display of personal courage to succeed where so many have failed.
Thank you, Jeremy, for your act of kindness toward my daughter and your desire to reach out to all Asian Americans facing unique pressures largely unknown outside the Asian American community.