In a recent GQ article by Senior Editor Devin Gordon, who is a white man, titled “The Jeremy Lin Debate No One Wants to Have,” Gordon discusses how NY Knicks small forward, Carmelo Anthony publicly proclaimed that Lin’s 3-yr, 25 million dollar deal with the Houston Rockets was “ridiculous.” Never mind that the 8.4 million dollar average per year is, while above average for your average NBA player, well, pretty average for a starting point guard. What Carmelo Anthony did was a faux pas in the world of sports. Players do not bash other players’ contracts in the fraternity of professional sports, because well, isn’t getting the best contract you can, the name of the game in a short-lived athlete’s career? In fact they publicly applaud each other for getting the best $$ they can. But Gordon made a great point that, well, Carmelo Anthony must not think that Jeremy Lin belongs to the fraternity. Carmelo Anthony must think that Jeremy Lin is an outsider. In his article, Mr. Gordon goes on to say that ‘Melo would not have dared to say that about another African American player. Carmelo Anthony is not the only person irritated by Jeremy Lin’s contract. There’s also Jim Dolan, the owner of the Knicks who seems to be taking things personally. Even tho the NY Knicks encouraged Lin to seek out other contracts. To quote Mr. Gordon, “Could it be that [Jim Dolan] thought he owned Lin, had made him, and became furious when Lin refused to behave like it? Could it be that he expected Lin to be more – ethnic stereotype alert – submissive?”
Recently the La Jolla Playhouse came under fire for the lack of Asians in the cast of their Page to Stage production of “The Nightingale.” In a cast of 12, 2 performers are of Asian descent (both female) and 3 women are of African American descent, 1 woman of ethnically ambiguous background and 6 white men. The show is set seemingly in feudal China and the plot centers around an emperor who lives a shuttered life in a palace. According the the creative team, it is actually mythical China. (More on that in my next post). Which makes me think of one of my favorite Broadway shows: “The Lion King.”
In the mythical Africa of “The Lion King,” where animals talk and experience the exigencies of love and family loyalty, casting can be creative and multi-cultural, but by and large, casts have skewed towards African-American. It is a show written by Caucasian men and directed by a Caucasian woman and produced by Disney, founded and run by Caucasian men. Yet there seems to exist a desire to authenticate the story of the animals in a mythical Africa, (that are based on animals that exist in real world Africa), by populating the stage with performers of color, particularly those of African American descent. I don’t think there has been nor will there be a Lion King cast that consists of only 16.7% African American performers, which is what the 2 out of 12 cast members of ‘The Nightingale’ breaks down to. But let’s say that did happen. That in a cast of 49 actors (I counted on the lionking.com web page), roughly 8 actors were African-American. I think there would be a lot of people upset by this, not to mention the NAACP. In actuality, I counted on the website of the national tour, based on their headshots, 41 Actors who appear to be of African American descent, 2 actors of mixed race and 6 actors who appear to be Caucasian. It is a cast made up of 83.6% African American performers in a rainbow show that is about mythical Africa. And I don’t think anybody, not casting, not creative would have ever dreamed of telling a story set in mythical Africa without the use of African American performers and not expect to piss people off. It just wouldn’t happen. It would be unthinkable, because African Americans are respected, the way Carmelo Anthony respects the other players who are in the NBA fraternity.
So, that’s really where my upset lies. Yes, opportunities have been missed for Asian Americans who could have been cast in the La Jolla Playhouse production of “The Nightingale.” Yes it takes place in mythical China. Yes it is a ‘rainbow production.’ But did you expect the Asian American community to be – ethnic stereotype alert – submissive and not be upset? Could it be that you don’t respect the Asian community enough to have considered that you could offend a group of people?
Consider us. Respect us. Because it’s obvious by your defenses and excuses of this production, and the blatant oversights, that, with all due respect, that you don’t respect us enough. But why should you?
Maybe you should respect Asians because Asians are the fastest growing minority population in America? Maybe because the average Asian household is richer than the average American with the Asian median annual household income is $66,000 versus $49,800 for all Americans. Maybe because China, the real, non-mythical country has the largest population in the world with 1.2 billion people and owns approximately 1.2 trillion dollars worth of U.S. Debt and rising (3rd only to the Social Security Trust Fund and the Federal Reserve). But maybe you should respect Asian Americans simply because in the words of Aretha Franklin, we just want a little of it.