Growing Pains - Part 2: Changing the Culture?

Maryland high school basketball player Robb Lim with his girlfriend Karen Mendoza and his father Jesse-Thomas (courtesy of the Washington Post)

There was a Washington Post article yesterday about how Jeremy Lin is inspiring other Asian Americans and highlighted on one young basketball player from my area. An excerpt:

When Jesse-Thomas Lim was a teenager in the Philippines, it never occurred to his parents to watch an athletic event, much less allow their son to participate in one.

But on Friday night at Seneca Valley High School’s varsity basketball game against Damascus, Lim, who is of Chinese ethnicity, yelled himself hoarse as his 18-year-old son, Robb, a lanky 6-foot-3 senior, sprinted up the court and shot the ball through the net.

While Robb Lim’s swift, catlike moves have for months attracted the attention of recruiters from colleges such as Hood and St. Mary’s, in recent weeks his name and his race have brought him minor celebrity status at school. Friends call him a “Lim-spiration,” and compare him to Jeremy Lin, the 6-3 Taiwanese American point guard for the New York Knicks, who blazed into the national spotlight this month.

Lin’s athletic prowess has surprised many in the United States who believed the stereotype of Asian Americans as violin-playing bookworms who think sports are a time-waster.

But Lin, Lim and other talented Asian athletes have not burst forth out of nowhere. They tend to be children of Asian Americans who have been in the United States long enough to move past the Tiger Mom mind-set and embrace a more well-rounded childhood.

“It’s part of his achievement,” said Lim’s father, who has lived in the United States for 23 years. “You’ve got to let them explore what they like to do.”

Over the years, icons such as martial artists Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and Asian American figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan have chipped away the stereotype of Asians. But Lin has smashed a wrecking ball into it.

It's funny because the article focuses more on first and second generation AA's it seems, having a more traditional mindset and not wanting the kids engaged in extra curricular activities like athletics. My experience wasn't like that. My brothers played on their high school basketball team, ran track, played baseball, a sister played on the field hockey team. Unfortunately, we didn't get the physical size that these younger AA kids are getting to be. I played hoop, track, baseball, and tennis as a kid and was probably best at basketball and was pretty good at it until I stopped growing and all my non-Asian friends continued to grow and the compete level outgrew my talent. It's good to see these younger kids have the physical attributes AND the talent to forge ahead.

Moreover, the article further addresses that Asian American parents are starting to "get it", that being involved in sports carries a measure of value in American society.

The point here is that I'm hoping these are growing pains that the AA community is going through with the goal that it will change the popular culture at hand in how AA's are perceived, that we are more than media stereotypes. What I hope for is that our participation in athletics, all the attention the community gets via Jeremy Lin's story, begins to normalize our presence. That it isn't so novel to see an Asian American kid playing basketball on a playground, on a high school team, or in college, or even in the pro's. I'm hoping.

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