What, another year? Another heritage month? Why not let your friendly longtime amok columnist slice and dice things up for you nicely?
This year we replaced poor Asian American YouTube hater, Alexandra Wallace, the blonde buxom bully of Asian Americans in the library, with basketball star Jeremy Lin.
The unwanted baller came off the bench to turn the New York Knicks into a real team and in doing so, inspired a worldwide phenomenon called Linsanity.
My personal choice was “Lin-phomania,” the irrational fanatic love for Lin’s irrational basketball success. But alas, Linsanity won out and is on bumper stickers.
Simply defined, the term is that quintessential state of being so totally in the zone. For a moment in time, Lin was in some rarefied space. He was the model minority’s model minority.
But you knew it couldn’t last. As it happened, Lin’s knees gave out first.
Still, it was quite a run-up to being “Most Famous Asian American on the Planet.” And it’s not over. When the knee heals, we’ll all be ready for Linsanity II.
It doesn’t take much for us to get inspired. Lin was the anti-stereotype of anti-stereotype. Tall for an Asian American, but undersized by NBA standards, he defied the stigma of being undrafted. Using the extreme work ethic we all know and love, Lin kept working and never gave up — through the stint with the Warriors, through his being cut and sent to New York, Lin never failed to keep working.
And then, as is usually the case in sports, someone gets hurt and the time comes to shine. Opportunity, will you be ready?
Most of us, if we follow Lin’s method, will be ready. Maybe some of us won’t. The winners will keep working, not give up, and wait for their time to come. You need a model? There’s Jeremy Lin. He’s the APA feel-good-story of the year.
BY THE NUMBERS
All around, it has been a good year for Asian Americans. There are more than 17 million Asian Americans living in the U.S., making up 6 percent of the nation, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. We’re the fastest growing minority with the vast majority of us in three states, with 15 percent in California, 8 percent in New York and 57.4 percent in Hawaii.
But Asians are popping up like weeds everywhere. Arizona, where that aggressive immigration law was passed, has seen 95 percent growth in the last 10 years. Nevada grew by 116 percent Georgia’s growth rate is at 83 percent. Alabama is at 70 percent.
On the mainland, being Asian American doesn’t necessarily mean California.
Add to that the ethnic diversity of nearly 20 different ethnicities, the emerging mixed race population (Japanese, Indonesians, Thais and Filipinos are the most prolific mixers), and the emerging 21st century picture of Asian America is hardly some monolith.
Indeed, we are 60 percent foreign-born, representing a rainbow of every kind of Asian American experience. There’s what I call “The Gold Mountain, been-there-done-that, sixth or seventh generation” Asian American. Then there’s the “mid-generation immigrants” from the ‘60s. Then comes what I call the “ 2 ½ Worlders” who immigrated in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And then there are the present day newcomer immigrants who still keep coming.
Asian Americans are a multigenerational, multiethnic, multilingual hodgepodge trying to fit into one big egg roll wrapper.
No wonder we have to spill out on the streets every year at Street Celebration time.
The challenge to the community going forward is to teach and learn without forgetting our history. Presently, at any given moment in the community, we should instinctively know what every other Asian American has experienced. The success stories of second-, third- and fourth-generation Asian Americans and beyond are well-chronicled. But the immigrant of today is undergoing a version of what our fathers and our fathers’ fathers experienced. Only a real understanding of our history will give us the sensitivity and compassion to relate to what has become this complex thing we know as Asian America.
Of course, we are all individuals in this disparate free market world. But in the end, we can only gain by knowing about ourselves through a rich history and heritage that both unites us and makes us a community worth celebrating.
Award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist Emil Guillermo has written about the Asian American community continuously in his Amok column for more than 15 years.
His latest “Amok” columns are at www.amok.com, and at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog, www.aaldef.org/blog
Read Emil’s greatest hits at http://www.asianweek.com/category/bloggers/emil-amok/