Latest Lin Debacle Points to Importance of Asian American Journalist Guidelines

February 25, 2012; Yahoo! Sports

Last week, Ben and Jerry’s released “Taste the Lin-Sanity,” an ice cream flavor created in honor of rising NBA star Jeremy Lin. In homage to Lin’s Taiwanese roots, the ice cream maker made a main ingredient of the new flavor bits of fortune cookie. This raised an immediate and loud outcry of racism, so Ben and Jerry’s replaced the fortune cookie bits with waffle cone pieces.

“There seemed to be a bit of an initial backlash about it, but we obviously weren’t looking to offend anybody and the majority of the feedback about it has been positive,” said Ryan Midden, the general manager of the Ben & Jerry’s store in Cambridge, Mass.

If Ben and Jerry’s had the Asian American Journalist Association’s (AAJA) new guidelines on how to cover Jeremy Lin, they might have avoided this misstep. The guidelines might be intended for the press, but companies seeking to cash in on the NBA phenom (and even the general public) can benefit from reading and abiding by the guidelines.

AAJA suggests, “Stop to think: Would a similar statement be made about an athlete who is Caucasian, African American or Latino?”

Indeed, one can hardly imagine Ben & Jerry’s using watermelon for a flavor honoring an African American player.

AAJA also advises, “Use caution when discussing Lin’s physical characteristics, particularly those that feminize/emasculate the Asian male (Cinderella-story angles should not place Lin in a dress). Discussion of genetic differences in athletic ability among races should be avoided. In referring to Lin’s height or vision, be mindful of the context and avoid invoking stereotypes about Asians.”

The organization also lists some “danger zones,” among them the “C” word, which NPQ reported has come into play in past coverage of Lin, driving, eye shape, martial arts, and yes, food.

“Is there a compelling reason to draw a connection between Lin and fortune cookies, takeout boxes or similar imagery?” AAJA rhetorically asks.

As Asian Americans gain in number and prominence, hopefully people will become more aware of what is appropriate, and what is not, when referring to fellow Americans who happen to be of Asian descent.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, February 28, 2012.

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