Saturday, January 11, 2003

Shaq Daddy, a racist?

Not sure who the original author of this is, however, it's interesting and I have to admit that I've been having similar thoughts as I've watched Sportscenter and anything regarding Yao Ming lately.

Call Shaquille O'Neal the Big Racist.

In his most recent racial taunt of Yao Ming, Shaquille O Neal told a reporter, "Tell Yao Ming, 'ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh.'" No, the superstar center of the LA Lakers was not trying to speak Chinese. Shaq was, in a most derisive tone, aiming a racist barb at the rookie center for the Houston Rockets.

Ironically, just days before this racial taunt was aired nationally, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had honored O Neal with their Young Leaders Award. We can only hope that the NAACP had no knowledge of Shaq s previous racial taunt of Yao Ming and LA Clippers center Wang Zhi Zhi, broadcast on June 28 on Fox Television s Best Damn Sports Show Period. When Yao Ming was brought up, Shaquille O Neal spoke with a mock Chin! ese accent and made mock kung fu m oves.

Also in June, Shaq announced that he would test Yao s toughness by taking an elbow to Yao s face. This comment, combined with Shaq s racist taunts are particularly disturbing, as Asian Americans often suffer racial taunts while being assaulted or physically intimidated.

But Shaquille O Neal is not a stupid brute. That is, he may be a brute, but he s not a stupid one. He knows the media is on his side. National and local news organizations have consciously ignored Shaq s racist comment. I know, because I called the LA Times, Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press, and other news organizations and offered them information about this story. They did not want to write about it.

The only reason anyone knows about Shaq s latest taunt is because Fox Sports Radio s Tony Bruno Morning Extravaganza played a recording of the taunt several times to its nationwide audience on December 16 and 17. On the latter day, Bruno commented that Shaq s comment was "n! ot racist," and then invited liste ners and radio commentators to call in jokes making racist fun of Chinese. For hours, people cracked jokes, such as offering free bike parking to increase Chinese attendance at basketball games.

On Christmas Day, while calling the Celtics-Nets game for ABC, veteran sportscaster Brent Musburger s lamented that "the hordes of China" might stuff the All-Star ballot box and vote Yao Ming in as the Western Conference s starting center, rather than Shaquille O Neal.

How Kafkaesque, and how familiar, it is that the interests of the American media and those of Asian America are diametrically opposed. The media has betrayed their own dedication to controversy by making nothing out of something that deserves much ado. Rather than slam celebrity racism, as it has in the past, some media organizations obviously wish to reserve the right to revel in their own racism.

Will the NBA punish racist speech, as it has in the past? The Association is too busy passing out ! fortune cookies. In "honor" of Yao s first game in Miami, the Miami Heat on December 16 passed out 8000 fortune cookies to spectators. Yao found the promotion amusing but pointed out that fortune cookies have nothing to do with him. He said that he was not angry because he was not familiar with American stereotypes of Chinese.

Let s not beat around the bush. If a white player had, for instance, made monkey sounds to taunt a black player, it would have been a national controversy. But Yao is Chinese. And Asians are fair game. For evidence, watch TV for a couple of hours.

Asian America cannot, or will not, demand as much respect as other minority groups. What do sports commentator Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder, NBA Head Coach Dan Issell, and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Trent Lott have in common? They all lost their jobs due to comments offensive to blacks or Hispanics. Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, baseball pitcher John Rocker, and basketball star Isaiah Thomas were all forced to apo! logize for racially insensitive co mments.

Spit on me once, shame on you. Spit on me twice, shame on me. What will our Asian American leaders do about this potentially explosive issue? In the past, our national leaders have tended to shy away from the harsh lights of TV cameras, nicely fitting our stereotype as quiet, obedient people. As media-hound lawyer Johnny Cochran single-handedly forces the NFL to consider more black head coaches, what will our Asian American leaders do about Shaq s offensive taunt? Write a letter?

Forgive my bitterness. I grew up in Texas, facing those "ching-chong" taunts daily while teachers averted their ears. I love basketball, and when Yao was drafted by Houston, I had to suppress my excitement, lest he turn out a complete flop. I went to see the Rockets play the LA Clippers on December 12. Yao is a huge young man with huge skills. But he s also a kid in a foreign land. You can tell by the way he carries himself when the ball is not in play. My heart goes out to Y! ao Ming.

Yao Ming is our Asian Jackie Robinson, though he does not face the intensity of animosity Robinson faced. Unfortunately Shaquille O Neal is the modern-day Ty Cobb, the rough-playing baseball superstar who used the n-word on Robinson.

"I look forward to breaking down that mother------- s body," Shaq said of Yao Ming. "He said my name three times, two in Chinese and one in American. You don t ever call me out. I m from LSU." Yao has never "called" Shaq out.

But I am calling Shaq out. Come on down to Chinatown, Shaq. You disrespect Asian America, and we will break you down. Perhaps when you and the Lakers come to Houston on January 17 to play Yao Ming and the Rockets, the Asian American community will have a press conference waiting for you. Perhaps there, before a national audience, you can apologize to Yao Ming, forfeit your NAACP award, and implore young people not to follow your example.

Or perhaps nothing will happen. Another racial slur will be left to sink slowly ! into the Asian American collective unconscious and ferment as self-loathing. And then we ll only have ourselves to call out.