Jeremy Lin and Racial Slurs

One of things I’ve found most surprising about the Jeremy Lin phenomenon is that he had to deal with racial slurs when his Harvard team played Ivy League rivals.

English: Palo Alto native and Harvard Universi...

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Lin says he heard slurs at most of the Ivy League gyms, and a Harvard teammate says a rival Ivy League player directed one at Lin.

I thought in the Ivy League racism would be marginalized enough to stay underground. Intelligence and education seem to me strong contraindicators of a tendency toward racism. And wealthy people have fewer reasons for the resentments that breed racism; not every Ivy League student is wealthy, but as a group I suspect they are.  (We see plenty of racism from wealthy politicians, but that, rather than a sincere point of view, is a self-serving attempt to keep underprivileged whites from recognizing their common cause with the underprivileged of other races.) And I think of the east coast as a place where there’s less racism than elsewhere in the country.

Am I wrong about intelligence and education? Are there enough non-students in the Ivy League fan base that as a group the fans aren’t particularly intelligent or well-educated? (Are there really a lot of people who get excited about Yale basketball without having gone to Yale?) Do sports just bring out the worst in us?

Also at polentical:
Lin Part of an Overrrepresented Demographic

More on the Jeremy Lin phenomenon:
The Atlantic: The Secret of Jeremy Lin’s Success
Jerry West: “My G-d, he’s a tremendous player”
New York Daily News: Lin calls run “a miracle from G-d”
National Post (Canada): The Jeremy Lin Story is Real Magic

Added on 2/16:
USA Today: Asian stereotypes appearing in coverage of Knicks’ Jeremy Lin

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6 Responses to Jeremy Lin and Racial Slurs

  1. Matthew says:

    It’s a thought-provoking post, Todd, so please forgive my verbosity! I do have a very different experience than yours when it comes to seeing racism in relation to wealth, education, and the east coast.

    My own experience of growing up on the east coast was that it had plenty of racism, probably more than I’ve seen since switching coasts. Boston in particular has a reputation as a very racist city (although the Bostonian wrote an article a couple years back saying that things have changed and I haven’t lived there for over a decade). I found Massachusetts to be a combination of extremes, at times very progressive (this was the historical home of much of the anti-slavery movement) and at times very racist (my beloved Red Sox were the last team to integrate). If you want a contemporary example of the division, think of Elizabeth Warren vs. Scott Brown.

    I also don’t see less racial resentment among the rich. Racial resentment is not, of course, logical. As you point out, it would make sense for the underprivileged of various classes to make common cause, and there are historians of race who believe that race developed in part just to prevent that common cause, at the benefit of the very wealthy. And for many people, the more they have, the more they worry about others taking it away.

    Finally, as a man who has more degrees than is reasonable, I actually don’t trust education to bring on understanding on its own, whether it’s racial understanding or any other kind. (Germany may have been the best-educated country on the planet when the Nazis rose to power.) Education can help promote certain kinds of critical thinking and awareness, but there needs to be some real world experience to give it context — and the real world does not include country clubs and board rooms. Just thinking specifically about the Ivy League, it’s an institution that used to have a quota on Jews (let alone blacks) and still retains major elements of that old (white) boys network although, yes, it’s gotten better.

    So really, I’m not surprised that Lin has encountered racism in the Ivy League…but I am disappointed.

  2. V. Lyn says:

    Ditto to Matthews comment “So really, I’m not surprised that Lin has encountered racism in the Ivy League…but I am disappointed.” racism is not relegated to one particular class although the less educated and rigid a person is studies have shown that that group has a high percentage of racism in it…buit racism is also founded on eliteism and entitlement and fear of change…and the Wealthy are not immune to the fear that the status quo will change and the other is therefore the enemy.

  3. Todd says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses. My impression of the east coast is based on brief vists and its reputation for liberal thought. I guess I’ve got to adjust it. It’s a little harder to adjust my views of education and intelligence. The racism I’ve seen (like the antisemitism I’ve experienced) has come entirely from dumb, uneducated people. And there’s something about shouting a racial slur that strikes me as inherently dumb and uneducated. I do realize that intelligence is no guarantee of an open mind. (I was careful to say that I thought racism would be marginalized in the Ivy League, not that I thought it wouldn’t exist.) Shouting a racial slur is less insidious and more open than the country club types of racism you two bring up (so I suppose my post is pretty trivial). The slurs still strike me as out of place there, though you’ve made me start to reevaluate.

    • Matthew says:

      Well, the slurs definitely should be out of place, and I don’t at all think it’s trivial to consider why they’re happening! Bringing these racist acts out into the light is one way to try and eliminate or at least reduce them.

  4. Mike says:

    No, education does not lead to less racism. Highly educated people can actually use their education to prove their racist views. Philosophers like Kant, scientists like Darwin were extremely racist.

    • Todd says:

      Thanks for your comment. Certainly education is no guarantee against racism in every case, but I still believe (or hope?) that it should reduce the likelihood. An analogy: knowing people who are Asian is certainly no guarantee that you won’t hate Asians, but the more Asian people you know, the less likely you are to think they are all the same and to form one opinion about them as a group. It makes sense to me that education, exposure to the way the world works, should have a similar tendency.

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