cheering for "our own kind"

Jeff Yang's latest "Asian Pop" column is all about basketball: A league of their own. As Harvard's Jeremy Lin continues to turn heads and leads the Crimson toward victory -- giving Asian American hoops fans a reason to believe -- Jeff tangles with the light and dark side of cheering for "your people" to succeed.

Meanwhile, an Atlanta sports promoter, Don "Moose" Lewis, recently made the announcement that he's starting a new pro basketball league called the All-American Basketball Alliance -- which would distinguish itself from the NBA by only allowing players who are "natural-born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race." Jeff interviews Lewis, then thankfully calls out underlying racism behind his notion of "genuine American entertainment":
Of course, much of Lewis's language is, bluntly speaking, a screen for the most insidious type of racism imaginable -- the type that denies itself while simultaneously claiming injury from a historically victimized population. When he uses the term "our kind," it echoes the bristling, preemptively hateful phrase "your kind" -- as in, "We don't like 'your kind' 'round here." When he says that the NBA is full of uncouth, showboating brawlers ("Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands?"), he's putting family-friendly context around a subtext that's rooted in white fear of a black planet.
But what's the difference between when White-Only Basketball League guy says he wants to "root for our own kind," and your average Asian American basketball fan goes crazy over players like Jeremy Lin, or even Yao Ming? Are we not, in fact, cheering for the guy who looks like us? I'll admit, I do it here all the time -- not just in sports, but in almost every other arena. But reading the article, I think difference is fairly obvious.

To write the piece, Jeff called on a big group of some of the most passionate Asian American sports fans he knows, and got a really interesting conversation going about race and sports. He couldn't fit the entire "virtual roundtable" into his column, but he's posted up the transcript in its entirety on his blog. Check it out part one: Ballers of Another Color: An Asian American Roundtable on Race and Sports. Then read part two.

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