Jeremy Lin was among those stunned to see an Oscars joke featuring three Asian kids cast as representatives from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Oscars host Chris Rock introduced the youngsters on stage Sunday night by saying, "They sent us their most dedicated, accurate and hard-working representatives. I want you to please welcome Ming Zhu, Bao Ling and David Moskowitz."
All Asians are brilliant at math? How original. This was a clunky bit on its own merits. But considering that it occurred on a night that began with Rock delivering a powerful monologue about racism in Hollywood, a joke based on a racial stereotype screamed hypocrisy.
Rock followed it up by saying, "If anybody's upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids."
Even if it was just a quick post on social media, it was great to see Lin respond.
When Linsanity erupted four years ago, one of the accompanying storylines was about how Asians, particularly males, lacked a significant voice in the media and pop culture. Hard lessons were learned: ESPN fired an employee and suspended another for using the term chink in the armor in coverage of Lin.
But now Lin is such a voice. Even if there is some overlap among his combined 5.2 million followers on Facebook and Twitter, Lin has developed a significant reach. Fox Sports, USA Today, The Sporting News, San Jose Mercury News and the Hollywood Reporter were among outlets that picked up Lin's comments about the Oscars within hours of his posting.
While Rock has taken plenty of heat for his jokes (as cited in the Washington Post article that Lin included in his post), less has been said about Sacha Baron Cohen's Asian crack during the same show.
Cohen revived his old Ali G character to continue the night's theme of calling out Hollywood for its lack of diversity as he referred to himself as "yet another token black presenter."
"It ain't just me," Cohen said, then wondered about those "very hard-working little yellow people with tiny dongs -- you know, the Minions."
Seriously? He had to resort to the stereotype of Asian guys not being well endowed to make a point about diversity issues?
Perhaps there was some leeway for Cohen's line because he delivered it as Ali G, whose entire persona is based on being coarse, ignorant and buffoonish. But it is still hard to reconcile why Cohen needed to include an Asian diss while advocating for diversity, even if it was delivered in character.
Lin, of course, was subjected to the same crass joke four years ago, courtesy of Fox Sports commentator Jason Whitlock: After Lin went for 38 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals against the Lakers, Whitlock wrote, "Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight."
It would be easy to dismiss the lines from Rock and Cohen as just being entertainment, and how everyone should lighten up already and stop being so sensitive, as some might suggest.
But that would be feeding the stereotype of Asians being the model minority who would rather not rock the boat. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.
We get it. Comedy can be edgy and critical and offensive. But comedians will also tell you that the key to their craft is timing, and the timing here was all wrong. There wasn't some HBO special where the expectation is anything goes.
The positive takeaway is that Lin spoke up. It was even more encouraging that he was heard. There were lots of reasons why Linsanity mattered. Four years later, we just got another one.
— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) February 29, 2016