Last night thousands of fans tuned into a boxing match that was an iconic representation of strength, determination, and drive. Floyd Mayweather challenged Manny Pacquiao in one of the most anticipated fights of the decade, defeating him after a unanimous decision and remaining undefeated 48-0. However, examining the relationship Mayweather had with Pacquiao and even Jeremy Lin, bring interesting observations to light. As an African American man, Mayweather’s racial identity has been shaped and molded through a history that is riddled with oppression, struggles, and severe racism. African Americans suffered ever since they were introduced to this country, and according to Claire Jean Kim’s racial triangulation theory, inhabit the lowest rung of the American social ladder. Asian Americans have also experienced struggles of this country, but on different accounts; however, both groups are considered minorities and should connect on the basis of hegemony and European power. Unfortunately, through the case of Mayweather and his behavior toward Manny Pacquiao and Jeremy Lin, there seems to be a divide that fails to create an ability to bond as minorities, and flips the hegemonic control over within the minority subset. Mayweather’s actions seem to imply that because African Americans have suffered through particular struggles, their resilience proves to be an indication of hegemony over Asian Americans.
In 2010, Floyd Mayweather came under fire for posting a ten minute video featuring him talking about Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao in a racist manner. To view the video, please click the link below.
In particular, Mayweather stated the following:
“I’m on vacation for about a year. As soon as we come off vacation, we’re going to cook that little yellow chump. We ain’t worried about that. So they ain’t gotta worry about me fighting the midget. Once I kick the midget ass, I don’t want you all to jump on my d—. So you all better get on the bandwagon now…Once I stop the midget, I’ll make that mother f—– make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.” Excerpt taken from ESPN.
Mayweather’s words about Pacquiao seem to disclose an attempt at appearing in control or superior to Pacquiao, and essentially to all Asian Americans, as he refers to Pacquiao as “yellow chump” who can “make [him] a sushi roll and cook [him] some rice.” His ignorance is blatant in his statement, and evidence of using racist and highly ignorant words intentionally, as Pacquiao is Filipino and sushi is clearly Japanese. The hegemonic playing field changes in this scenario, as Mayweather takes on the role of the controller/superior, which many would consider to be the Europeans in American society. In examining the relationship between Mayweather and Pacquiao, the sense of hegemonic control and superiority seems to stem from an underlying belief that persistence through greater struggle equates to a greater sense of accomplishment and social earning.
This sentiment is carried out in Mayweather’s reaction to Linsanity, the phenomenon encapsulating Asian American basketball player Jeremy Lin after his amazing turn around in the NBA. The documentary, Linsanity, directed by Evan Leong, speaks about the life and rise to fame of basketball sensation Jeremy Lin. In this documentary, Mayweather makes an appearance in yet another condescending, ignorant comment as a part of the racist backlash Lin obtained from his sudden rise to fame. The tweet read: “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”
Mayweather’s tweet brought to light the model minority myth as well as the unsaid acknowledgement that basketball is a sport dominated by black and white men. When an Asian American man enters the court, people feel threatened because that norm is being broken, but also because Asian Americans and athleticism, due to the model minority myth, are never used as examples of one another. Again, we see overturned hegemony. Mayweather made a statement that essentially downplayed the accomplishments of Lin, using the exact same thought process as the model minority myth that Asian American accomplishments are not seen as extraordinary because they are inherently smart or hardworking, but also the idea that what someone deserves is directly proportional to the amount of suffering that person’s ethnic ancestry has undergone. Whether this is true or not is another debate, but there are clear attempts from Mayweather that indicate hegemonic thoughts about Asian Americans.
Although Floyd Mayweather does not represent the sentiment of every single African American in the United States, the role re-establishment in the realm of hegemony creates an even larger divide between the two minority groups that should be looking out for each other rather than knocking the other down.