Year of the Monkey, my father’s birthday, & Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins’ ignorance
Oakland Raiders quarterback great Kenny Stabler getting elected into the Pro
Football Hall of Fame made my Super Bowl Weekend. For me, that overshadowed the
corporate juggernaut known as the Super Bowl, with its 100 million-plus viewers
worldwide. And considering there are 1.4 billion people in China, and another
50 million overseas, there’s only one super bowl left that matters, and it
better be filled with bananas.
Happy Year of the Monkey everyone!On Monday, Feb. 8, may your life be a red
envelope filled with good fortune as the Lunar New Year officially begins. Every
12 years, monkeys rule. But looking back, 2004 seems like a mixed bag dud:
Facebook launched, Google released G-mail, and George W. Bush beat John Kerry.
2016? As an Asian American of Filipino descent, I take this as a special year.
The Lunar New Year begins on the birthday of my father, who came to the U.S.
from the colonial Philippines as a “national,” a special status that made him
neither fish nor fowl. To come here in the ’20s, he didn’t need any papers. He
wasn’t a Philippine national. And he definitely was not a U.S. citizen. He was a
second-class colonized American “national.”
Filipinos–so special because they weren’t.In San Francisco, Filipinos like my
dad found comfort on the edge of Chinatown on Kearny Street, where they formed
Manilatown. Their Asian-ness gave them common ground with the Chinese,
particularly when it came to eating, drinking, and gambling.But the mostly male
population of Filipinos often ventured out into the city and the rest of the
state. Not only did they take jobs few whites would take, they started taking
their women too.That was the thrust of a white-led Filipino exclusion movement
that came complete with violence and drove down the numbers of Filipinos
entering the country from a high of around 11,000 in 1929 to 1,300 in 1932.
During that time, the epithet of choice was clear. They called us “monkey.”
Through my father, I know what it’s like to be not good enough because we
weren’t white. We were sub-human.But when I hear that it’s the monkey year, and
it starts on my dad’s birthday, well, that bit of karmic coincidence is just
cause for celebration. I’m looking forward to a good year.And If I can have a
good year, maybe DeMarcus Cousins, with all his monkey baggage, can too.
Although truthfully, playing for the lowly Sacramento Kings makes it highly
unlikely._COUSINS’ MONKEY TALE_Last week, Cousins, a high schooler from Mobile,
Alabama who went to Kentucky, played one year, and then jumped to the NBA for $7
million, showed why it’s not a bad idea to finish up four years of college.He
might have been able to take an Asian American history course.Cousins objected
to the Kings having a T-shirt giveaway featuring a monkey in the team’s purple
colors on the day that kicked off Black History Month.
Cousins found it offensive. Surprisingly, some people agreed.TIME
reported: “DeMarcus voices his displeasure and to the Kings credit they pull the
Monkey T Shirts,” Marques Johnson, who is now a Milwaukee TV analyst, wrote on
“Good move Kings. Year of Monkey Tees on 1st day of Black History Month not a
good look. Thanks DeMarcus,” he also tweeted.This kind of thing shows how
ignorance can spread on social media. But what do you know, the Kings front
office folded. The team removed the T-shirts to placate King DeMarcus.The Kings
should have sat down with Cousins and explained that the Year of the Monkey is
important to the largest Asian minority in the state, the second largest
minority group after Latinos (African Americans are third), and a big part of
the fan base in Northern California.The Kings then should have explained the
monkey is no slur, not in the Lunar New Year context. And that even Asian
Americans like Filipinos, who know the general term as an epithet, still
consider Year of the Monkey not as a source of ire, but as reason for
celebration. Instead, the Kings were bullied by a star of their own making.
Since the $7 million paid to Cousins in 2009 to go pro, the Kings are into the
player for a whopping $15.8 million for this year alone.That tends to cloud
judgment.The big loser? Diversity, the truth, and anyone who wants a purple
I thought I may have been the only one
offended by Cousins’ display of ignorance. But there was Comedy Central’s The Daily Show chiming in with comic Ronny Chieng,
suggesting that Cousins’ objection could be avoided if Black History Month were
moved to May.Uh, that’s Asian American History month. I’ll excuse the
Malaysian-born, Australian-educated Chieng.But the best takedown was by New
York’s Charlamagne on WWPR in New York:
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Nothing in the world is more
dangerous than sincere ignorance than conscious stupidity.” DeMarcus, you sound
stupid as hell. You sound as stupid as white people who thought Cam Newton
dabbing had something to do with gangs, OK? DeMarcus Cousins, we aren’t the
only culture in the world. You need to apologize to Asian Americans, let the
Kings do their T-shirt giveaway, and then go eat some dim sum and some duck
sliders with your Asian American fan base.
An apology would be nice. But the Kings need to do some apologizing too. Its
shallow pandering to the Asian community was exposed when team officials
couldn’t even deal with Cousins on a rational basis.
By placating him, they rewarded his lack of knowledge, made a mockery of
diversity, and spoiled a nice cultural celebration for Asian American fans of
the Kings.Fortunately, most fans have gone down the road to root for the
world-beating Golden State Warriors, who never lose a game and know what
diversity means. The Warriors, who have had lunar new year shirts for some time,
featured a Chinese New Year beanie for Saturday’s game. And just last week, star
guard Klay Thompson met with Chinese youth in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Chinese New Year during Black History Month in the NBA? It can happen.
Especially when we aren’t cowed by ignorance. But I’m willing to give Cousins a
break.If he really wants to do something for Black History Month, how about
challenging all the top rappers who insist that their sexist and racist lyrics
are a celebration of African American culture?That would be worth a dab, and
make up for his bogus objection to Year of the Monkey T-shirts.
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page. The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.