If only Shaquille O’Neal could have announced his retirement during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May. Then we could have really ended the month with a bang!
O’Neal is in all likelihood the biggest perpetrator of an Asian American slur in the history of American pop culture.
Find someone bigger. Rosie O’Donnell isn’t 7-feet-1 inches, 325 pounds.
You’ll recall it was just in 2003 (we are talking pre-historic, as in pre-iPhone, folks), O’Neal gave a radio interview where he engaged in “getting on his Ching-chong.” Ah, so.
It made barely a ripple until a few commentators in the ethnic media made a stink about it. Besides the now defunct Asian Week, https://asianweek.com/2003 01 24/opinion_emil.html, I wrote about it in other outlets: https://articles.sfgate.com/2003-01-14/news/17470622 1 yao-ming-birthday-party-asian-american-studies and https://www.progressive.org/media_1358.
Shaq never gave in to much more than his informal apology, preferring to do the “I’m just a dumb clown” act. And then all the jock broadcasters came to his defense, mostly out of ignorance because Shaq was one of them. They also, like Shaq, couldn’t fathom making a big deal about slurring a whole race of people.
I recall only Bill Walton, the legendary UCLA and NBA basketball great, being a voice of reason during the whole affair. But he’s a Dead head. I’d expect him to be more enlightened.
Eight years later, what’s changed? O’Neal, the oversized pop icon has become the oversized benchwarmer, and decides to hang it up.
And now young kids like Alexandra Wallace think ching-chong talk is kinda cute.
One More Time on Goodwin Liu
Like I said, if O’Neal had announced in May, we could have buried the hatchet with Shaq and maybe arranged for a nice photo-op with Yao Ming for heritage month.
Instead, my final thoughts on May remain the massacre of Goodwin Liu in the Senate the week before Memorial Day.
I had hoped to see the community rally and support Liu to not give up the fight, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, Liu wrote a letter to President Obama preempting a heroic battle. As quoted in Politico: “In light of last week’s unsuccessful cloture vote…I respectfully ask that you withdraw my nomination from further consideration by the United States Senate…With no possibility of an up-or-down vote on the horizon, my family and I have decided that it is time for us to regain the ability to make plans for the future.”
“In addition, the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit has noted the ‘desperate need for judges’ to fill current vacancies, and it is now clear that continuing my nomination will not address that need any time soon.”
The Ninth Circuit’s need for judges is great. But Liu underplayed the need for Asian American judges in the most Asian American region in the U.S. The under-representation of the group on the federal bench is practically a crime.
When someone as qualified as Liu doesn’t get past go in the nomination process, it’s a sad message to Asian Americans, and anyone who believes in the values of diversity and merit.
Were it not for the nastiness of modern politics, Liu could have been a contender. He is probably the best Asian American Supreme Court Justice who never was.
Now he goes down in history as our Lani Guinier. Guinier was President Clinton’s nominee to an Assistant Attorney General post in 1993, who like Liu was incessantly badgered by partisans and forced to withdraw.
I’m concerned for the young legal minds out there who may take l’Affaire Liu as the way not to act. Speaking out on behalf of the generally silent community? Against the nomination of Samuel Alito? Against the nomination of John Roberts? What? And jeopardize my career?
But I’m also concerned for Asian Americans in general, who have trouble enough being what I call “Public Asians.” Voting? You mean taking a stand in a private booth?
It’s too easy for Asian Americans to lay back and do nothing. So when a Goodwin Liu stands up and loses, you’ll inevitably hear someone mention that age old quote about the nail that sticks out. The virtue of docility. You never get hammered.
But you never get to nail anyone either.
Dare to be the nail.