Racism Isn’t Just Black & White

Jeremy Lin has been in the headlines for his basketball skills, but a lot of people have taken interest in another aspect of his identity, his race. Lin is one of the first famous Asian American NBA players, and the media can’t seem to get enough of him. From ESPN to Twitter, Linsanity has taken over. Recently, there has been controversy over ESPN’s repeated usage of the phrase “chink in the armor,” especially as a headline on their website referring to a recent Knicks’ upset below a picture of Lin. See image here: http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2012/2/18/2807696/espn-chink-in-the-armor-headline-jeremy-lin. For the purpose of this post, I will be discussing the picture in the link above and this video of a news anchor using the phrase again: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregorymcneal/2012/02/18/espn-uses-chink-in-the-armor-line-twice-did-linsanity-just-go-racist/ ESPN has since removed the headline and reprimanded the people involved, but unfortunately, thanks to technology these images will live on in internet infamy.

For those who do not know the term “chink” is a derogatory term for people of Chinese descent which has then been applied to all Asians. “Chink” can also refer to a crack in something. The arguments justifying the headline point to the punny nature of the phrase. No matter what the intention was, this is a microaggression with much deeper consequences than just calling it a literary device can account for. In fact, I think writing it off as an effectively eye-catching headline or a pun is reinforcing the idea that minorities are “overly sensitive” when it comes to things like this. As was pointed out by many infuriated by the headline, putting that phrase next to a picture of one of the few Asian American basketball players is careless and inappropriate. The justification and apology from the newsanchor’s end of things are that he had not intended to offend anyone with the added point that his wife is Asian. Overall, the public response to this has been fairly tame.

How would something like this get past editors of a national sports’ news source? Did no one think anything of it? This is exactly why microaggressions can be so harmful. They’re written off as everyday things that people (especially the groups targeted) shouldn’t make a fuss over.

Would something like this have happened with the ultimate, overtly racist N-word? Would there be a picture of a Black man above a headline of this nature? How much more news coverage would something like that have gotten? I think that the coverage this issue has gotten has been relatively limited. This is a clear race issue, but does America only care when race is Black and White?