What Does Jeremy Lin Have to Do With Black People?

February 23, 2012  |  

A lot of people have gone Lin-sane lately, and it’s not just sports fans. Of course New Yorkers and those who support the Knicks are grateful for what Jeremy Lin’s athletic prowess has brought to the team, but others who are watching the social commentary time clock say the recent scandal surrounding racist terms used in reference to the Chinese American basketball player serve as a teaching moment for the black community.

With the good there always comes some bad, and unfortunately when the Knick’s lost their first game under Lin’s reign, we saw the bad come out of a writer and a news anchor who alluded to the loss as a “chink in the armor.” The dismissed writer who created the offensive headline insists the use of the racial slur was an honest mistake, while the suspended anchor said his offense was unintentional. Regardless, ESPN took action against both. But what do racial slurs used against an Asian man have to do with black people? Let sports commentator Stephen A. Smith tell it, our hypersensitivity to racism has paved the way for incidents like this. On an episode of ESPN first take, he said:

“The black community has to recognize that we share a level of culpability in any kind of incident like that that transpires because the heightened sensitivity that exists in our society today we have a lot to do with.

“That heightened level of sensitivity has had a contagious effect on other communities so suddenly everybody is sensitive because their saying, ‘well if the black community gets to be sensitive about anything that may be perceived as racist what about what I find racist.’ Then you have people from the white community saying, ‘wait a minute, what about what we find offensive,’ and then the Hispanic community, ‘what about what we find offensive,’ now you have folks from the Asian community saying, ‘what about what we find offensive,’ and the list goes on and on…. And here’s what happens, we’re in an unforgiving society now…

“You have to get to a point where you don’t erase what you’re sensitive to but you have to be forgiving from the standpoint that if somebody apologizes genuinely, let’s try to be a bit more forgiving because if we’re not, other people aren’t going to be so forgiving when something goes down with us—whether its other ethnic groups or the homosexual community.”

Sounds like a Roland Martin reference. While I agree that black people ought to use the R word sparingly, are we really to blame for the disciplinary action taken toward these careless employees? I will say there seems to be a growing trend of calling for immediate dismissals of writers, commentators, etc. who cross the racial lines, and employers are no longer willing to take a chance and wait for backlash before implementing immediate disciplinary action against offenders. But rather than these calls for action having to do with a lack of compassion, as Stephen Smith suggests, I think they are more so an example of  people who are tired of racial attacks being swept under the rug.

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