On Valentine’s Day the washed-up American boxer Floyd Mayweather logged into twitter to announce: “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.” To put it lightly, the tweet was not received well by US commentators, with many holding it up as an example of attention-seeking race-baiting.
To be honest, however, that was not my first reaction. Rather, I was struck by how well it fit into China’s two-week old dialogue on Lin and race. That dialogue mostly takes place on twitter-like microblogs, but in the last few days it’s started to move onto some influential editorial pages here. It’s my experience that Americans unfamiliar with the frank manner in which Chinese talk about race can be taken aback by it; and, indeed, the current Chinese dialogue on Lin and race can be squirm-worthy for many Americans. But it’s also very important, and very worthwhile, if you’re at all interested in how China views itself, and the world.
So, without further ado, my current column for Bloomberg World View: Basketball-Crazy China Ponders Meaning of Jeremy Lin’s Race.
As it happens, I’m not the only person thinking about Jeremy Lin and race today. James Fallows has an interesting post up at the Atlantic in which he disputes that creeping tendency of some to ascribe Lin’s success to being Asian. It’s worth noting, I think, that Fallows’ position is one that’s increasingly popular in China, as Chinese take note that the only difference between them and American-raised Lin is that … he’s American raised. I recommend the piece!
Finally, and totally unrelated, I wanted to note how fond I am of Lucinda Williams’ newly released cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven.” The recorded version is on the new tribute/benefit record, “Chimes of Freedom.” If you want to sample before you buy, there’s a marvelous live version over on youtube that I just can’t get enough of. So great.