My son, Little Brother, on the soccer field. | Frances Kai-Hwa Wang contributor
I missed the first week of Linsanity because I was caught up in fighting the racist China-fear-mongering Pete Hoekstra political ad that aired during the Superbowl. I remember feeling beleaguered at the time, like we still had a looooong way to go until the elections in November, and if this was just the beginning…
I was surprised to learn that the mainstream considered Jeremy Lin an unknown who had come from out of nowhere, because even though I know nothing about sports, even I knew who Jeremy Lin was (courtesy of Ryan Higa and Kev Jumba).
As I got caught up in Linsanity along with everyone else, I found myself talking about Jeremy Lin with my Chinese language class, my Critical Race theory class, my Asian Pacific American History class, even at a career talk for Chinese American high school students. I finally had something to say to the little boy next door who spends his afternoons shooting hoops on the corner. Jeremy Lin applied to everything, everywhere, in equal parts good and bad, and for once, everyone—Asian American or not—was in agreement.
Then I realized the person who needed Jeremy Lin the most was my eight-year-old son, Little Brother.
My boy has always struggled a bit with his self-confidence, but I always thought it was because he has three larger-than-life teenage sisters. (We joke that the girls also have self-esteem problems—too much self-esteem). They are all taller, smarter, stronger, faster than him, just because they are older. He looks up to them so much, but maybe there is more to it.
I do the best I can to teach this sweet, sensitive boy how to be a good man in addition to being a good person. I try to teach him all the old school stuff about honoring your word, opening doors for ladies, carrying things for aunties and grandmas, walking girls all the way to their door, sharing generously, being helpful and kind, not hitting people but especially not hitting girls (including mean teenage sisters), standing up for your friends and family. He is so proud when he can do something nice for me, “because I am a gentleman.”
Yet I know this is all in such stark contrast to the tough guy stances he and the other second grade boys take on the playground, “Yo, dude.”
So I supplement and hope it is enough.
Little Brother has a cadre of Big Brothers from Chinese School—Big Jeff, David, Charles, Daniel, Douglas, Brian, Other Jeff, Kevin, Andy—who look out for him.
He drew a picture of Afterschool Special’s logo and gave it to Emcee DanAKADan (who, spotting Little Brother in the audience, had reined in his language during his concert). Now he has their poster next to his bed.
He folded paper airplanes with Tony-Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang.
When his older sister read a story aloud particularly dramatically, he laughed, “You sound just like Beau Sia.”
He needs a hero. We all need a hero.
As Little Brother and I watch the Linsanity highlights, we are captivated by the fluid physicality with which Jeremy Lin moves across the court; the gentle swag with which he dances the Dougie with fans; the triumphant photos of Jeremy Lin, mouth agape, owning that last play; the nerdy fist bumps and bouncing butt bumps and silly blue tongue wag; the humble way he gives God and his teammates credit; the sweet affection with which his teammates give him playful kisses; the oh-so-familiar stories about his family; even the kind way he turned down Kim Kardashian. University of Michigan Professor Scott Kurashige called Lin, “arguably the most likeable personality in all of America at this moment.”
I protect Little Brother from the more Linappropriate controversies, but I am Linspired by the grace with which this young man handles them. I am hopeful, revived, Linergized.
I dread the day when this might also be Little Brother’s Linderella story—overlooked, perhaps because of the way he looks, perhaps by his quiet unassuming manner. However, this hero shows him when his moment comes, he can blast forth to let his talent and hard work show.
I needed a hero, too.
Postscript: Today for the first time Little Brother was brave enough to go out to “shoot some hoops” (the first time he has ever used those cool words) with the older neighborhood boys “so I can learn to be Jeremy Lin!”
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is a contributor for New America Media’s Ethnoblog, Chicagoistheworld.org, PacificCitizen.org, and InCultureParent.com. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her Web site at franceskaihwawang.com, her blog at franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.