With Asian America weathering heightened anti-Asian sentiment amid the pandemic, and the number of hate attacks rising sharply, Lin, the former NBA star now with the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association, said the environment felt wildly different just a few months ago.
“I felt like there was progress being made and many things that I experienced in my career and things I wanted to stand for — it felt like everything was moving in that direction,” Lin told NBC News on the phone from Beijing. “Now it feels like everything’s back to square one.”
Lin’s trailblazer status in the basketball world made him not only a rarity but also a target of racism himself. In the past interviews, he’s said that he has been called a “chink” or an “oriental” in games by players and coaches alike. But given the current climate, Lin said he felt it necessary to write an essay in the Players’ Tribune about the issues Asian Americans are confronting, stressing the need for positive action, empathy and unity across groups.
As much as Lin stresses the importance of intercommunity support, he’s also cognizant of the uncomfortable situation many across the U.S. are dealing with and how Americans, regardless of race, are still grappling with the mental and physical strain of the virus. And thus, allyship doesn’t require herculean acts of compassion, he said.
“To me, if you are not proactively harming or stereotyping and being racist toward the Asian American community, to me you are an ally. It’s a desperate time,” he noted.