Ferguson: Speaking as an Asian American + Christian

This has been a pensive week for me. Ferguson, MO has been on my mind. But more specifically, the ringing challenge of certain Asian American friends who have called the relative silence of their fellow Asian Americans unacceptable, saying we owe a debt to the Black community because of the freedoms we’ve all gained in their fight for civil rights. And while these calls have unsettled me, I have been mulling on their challenge. After all, wounds from a friend can be trusted, right?

At the same time, as a (recovering) news and political junkie, I’m keenly aware that not only are there many sides to a story, but stories are often used to persuade and politicize. This is not new. This is, in fact, the power of story. In fact, I daresay, there is no such thing as a truly objective story.

But thirdly, as I mentioned in my previous post, I am still testing out my voice in the public conversation on race. This is scary for me because I’m prone to not only be misunderstood, but also maligned. As a learner, my beliefs are still fluid. But not all will read my words this way. But in this spirit, here are some continuing thoughts:

I stand by my belief that the race conversation in America, continues to be irrelevant to Asian Americans. Again, I am not saying that racial reconciliation or racial righteousness is irrelevant to us, but the conversation, as it stands, continues as if we don’t exist or belong. We are, predictably, perpetual foreigners to the conversation. E.g., this great article: 10 Ways White Christians Can Respond to Ferguson is addressed to whom? White Christians, not non-Black Christians, but White Christians (I do understand the sentiment though, because White Christians have a unique responsibility in America because of their privileged race). But I think it goes deeper than that, because as Asian Americans, we don’t quite identify with the Black experience or the White experience. Our experience is Other. I think this is why I took such umbrage to the headline: The Unacceptable Silence of Asian American Christians in Response to Ferguson (I realize now that the title didn’t really reflect the actual blog post). Because I felt like I was being co-opted into a story, on the basis of my race – that never truly included me. And this is why, predictably, you see Asian Americans who sympathize more with Brown, others with Wilson, and many others who are Other: they got other things to do. And lastly, at least for me, when I think of race relations, I almost never think of Blacks or Whites – because both have been among the fastest shrinking populations in the Bay Area, my home base. E.g., I have a Black neighbor now, but before he moved in, the family living there was Ghanaian. The two White neighbors I had: a Lithuanian and a Brit. The rest are Afghan, Indian, Filipino, Guatemalan, Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese. The race conversation, re-ignited by Ferguson, isn’t really about this kind of world. The race conversation that is relevant to me is multi-cultural among equally powered peoples, not bi-cultural between unequally powered ones.

As Asians, we’re slower to speak up in general. You might think that is a stereotype – which of course, it is. But I challenge you to have a Bible Study with a equally mixed group of Whites, Blacks, and Asians. You might have one Asian who is always willing to speak up, but more likely than not, you’ll find that Asians wait longer before speaking, prefer to speak in turn or when they are called on, and may go through the whole study without saying much at all. We are less likely to be external processors, more likely to fear saying something that is wrong. And by the time we’ve figured out something worth saying, the group’s already moved on to the next question! We need time, we need space, we need to be asked for our opinion.

Tensions exist between Asians and Blacks too. Wouldn’t it be great if in times of pain, we could just forget the past and just rally around one another? Yes, but that’s not how things always work out. Reconciliation is a prerequisite to community, and right now, there is still too much crap between Asians and Blacks. For example – and I don’t mean to throw my family under the bus here – but I grew up with a fearful and disparaging view of Blacks. It was rarely taught that explicitly, but when you see your parents lock the car doors enough times, pull you in closer enough times when a Black man walks down the street; you hear enough stories about criminal activity or lazy people – and they tend to always feature someone who is African American; you get told enough times that certain neighborhoods are “bad” because of crime, poverty, schools, and oh, there are a lot of Black people living there — eventually, you get the picture (thankfully, my parents no longer share these views — one of the benefits of actually having Black friends). It’s no secret among Asians that our community harbors deep racist attitudes towards Blacks. On the other hand, as some of my readers have pointed out, the experience Asians have had with Blacks has been disproportionately bad. In 2008, the city of SF found that a stunning 85% of physical assaults were Black-on-Asian. In 1992, Korean-owned stores were disproportionately hit by African-Americans in the LA riots — 45%. And in Ferguson, Asian-owned stores were also disproportionately hit. I pray for White-Black reconciliation. But I also pray for Black-Asian reconciliation.

We do owe a debt. Scott Nakagawa outlines “Three Things Asian Americans Owe to the Civil Rights Movement.” (1) The freedom to marry interracially, which Asian Americans are more likely to do than any other ethnic group. (2) The right to vote, which was won for all races. (3) The Immigration and Nationality Act which ended racist discriminatory laws against Asians. Many of us would literally not be here if it weren’t for the sacrifices made by Black Civil Rights leaders. At the same time, many of us have also benefited from White privilege as well (which again, is why we don’t fit neatly on one side or the other). In fact, those of us who’ve achieved any measure of success have often done so through paths well-worn by our White neighbors.

I still believe the Good Samaritan is the best paradigm for Christian response. Another thing that bothered me about Erna’s post was that, in the end, she appealed to our common humanity: “It’s not a Black problem- It’s a mothers and fathers losing their babies problem…a human problem.” That sounds compelling. But I do think it glosses over a crucial truth, namely that Ferguson is about race. And attempting to de-racialize Ferguson in order to appeal to our common humanity does violence to the reason people are marching on the streets (see more below). Moreover, as I mentioned in my previous post, while I can imagine losing my son and the grief I’d suffer – it’s a whole other thing to see my son in Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin. That is a story and history my family and I have not lived.

But Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan doesn’t try to extinguish difference. It is based on the truth that our experiences and our previous animosities exist. God always begins with the world as it is, not as we wish it were. Jew v. Samaritan, Black v. White, Asian v. Black – it’s all there, it all sucks, but it’s all real. But Jesus teaches that in spite of these differences and past animosities, it’s not about who your neighbor is, but whether or not you are a loving neighbor. If you see your enemy beaten down on the side of the road, you don’t stop to check first who the guy is before you help; you just help! And then, of course, Jesus ate his own medicine on the Cross. Different histories and past animosities do not present a chasm too wide for Jesus’ cruciform love and the new kind of community he died to give birth to. If this is not true, the whole Christian story is not true.

To distinguish my conflicting feelings, I’ve found it helpful to parse Ferguson into three overlapping narratives: the legal narrative, the historical narrative, and the personal narrative.

The legal narrative is about the “facts” of the discrete event between Brown and Wilson, and specifically who was at fault: Why was Brown stopped? What words were exchanged? Did Brown assault Wilson? Why did Wilson shoot, and why six times? And with respect to the legal narrative, there are still too many unanswered questions. I also fear the politicization of this case might make facts harder to come by. This is also why many of my Asian American friends have had little to say. The grand jury investigation is just beginning, and I pray that the facts of the case will make things clear.

The historical narrative is the story of the Black community crying out: AGAIN? In the historical narrative, whether Brown assaulted Wilson isn’t the point. Because his death – as an unarmed young black man – is yet more proof that America is still not a safe place to be Black. And the fact that Brown’s body was left there in the blazing sun in public view for hours on the street, the fact that the local Ferguson police responded with such military-style force to protestors, the fact that facts have been so slow in coming, the fact that a number of voices have been so critical instead of supportive of the Black community’s response of pain – seems to confirm this suspicion. The historical narrative is bigger than the legal narrative. The historical narrative is why Ferguson has become iconic.

And lastly, there is the personal narrative. This is the story most of us overlook (but to which Erna rightful directs us) – which is that beneath the political and social narratives, there is quite simply, a mother who has lost her son; a community has lost one of their own. And the legal facts are completely irrelevant. I have boys of my own, and I can’t imagine how losing a guilty son is any better than losing an innocent one. Loss is loss. Death is death. There is also the story of Officer Wilson. Journalist are trying to dig into his background, but we really have no idea what is going on in his heart and his mind:  fear, anger, guilt, confusion, regret, peace? In any case, I can’t imagine life being very easy for him anytime in the near future. And I hope against revenge.

So how do I think we should respond as Asian American Christians?

  1. Learn. Some other places have suggested books. That’s a steep first step for something that might be new to us. Begin by just reading quality news and blogs.
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  2. Check your latent racism. I’m not suggesting that we haven’t been recipients of racism too in the Black-Asian dynamic. But as Christians who live under the Cross, which is purported to have dismantled the dividing wall of hostility between racial/ethnic enemies, it’s not about what the other community has done, it’s about what Christ has done. That’s not enough for reconciliation, obviously – but it begins there. Otherwise we just perpetuate it.
     .
  3. Mourn with those who mourn. I have a few Asian-American friends who can truly empathize with the Black community. For the rest of us, let’s not be disingenuous and pretend we do. Facebook is full of enough posers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand. Most of my Black brothers and sisters, when it comes down to it, are asking not for more analysis but compassion. Two sources that have helped me:
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    This official statement from the African American leadership of our denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church. It’s not just PR mumbo-jumbo. It’s real-talk with a glimmer of real hope.
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    This video from the Washington Post & The Maynard Institute. Probably the most eye-opening thing I’ve seen that connects Ferguson to the historical narrative.

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    Pray: “Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response;
        though I call for help, there is no justice. ~Job.
     .

  4. Talk. One reason that I’ve been relatively silent is that no one ever bothered to ask me what I thought. This is one reason why I’m blogging out loud. And one reason we spent a huge chunk of time learning and praying about this at our church this past Sunday. And while the fruit has been varied, it’s been good. The most common response is that most people have “heard of” what’s going on, they haven’t had time to really look into it – and now they will. Others have responded with tears. The most meaningful response was from one of our church kid’s ministry workers, who is Ghanaian-American teen; she has two older brothers and came up to thank me for sharing about Ferguson and leading us to pray. Seriously, that made my week.
     .
  5. Advocate with God & Man regarding Ferguson.
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    So much is yet to come, and most of it is beyond our control. A 2-month long grand jury investigation has begun. Let’s pray for truth.
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    While protests are dying down, we should all be distressed by the violence shown by both sides. Many younger demonstrators, in particular – and many outside groups don’t share the enemy- and peace-loving ways of their forefathers. Even the Ferguson authorities have acknowledged that much of the violence is coming from non-Ferguson residents. I’m so thankful for experienced civil rights leaders and the churches in Ferguson who have been doing their best to advocate for peace. Let’s pray for peaceful protest.
     .
    Most – on both sides of the political aisle – believe that the various police authorities have much to repent for in response to this situation. Many are alarmed that local police forces now have hand-me downs from our Afghan military units. But imagine trying to maintain peace and order while fearing for your life. Let’s pray for the policing authorities.
     .
  6. Advocate with God & Man regarding all expressions of injustice. As news cycles work, before long, Ferguson will fade into the past. While I do not share as grim of a view of our nation as some do–e.g., I think most minorities are happier to live in the America of today than the America of 50 years ago–I do believe that sin and injustice are stubborn weeds. God hates sin in all its forms. So with the energy and influence we’ve been given, let’s do what we can to pray, vote, advocate, and rally for a more just and peaceful society. And let’s always remember: our means must always reflect our ends.

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world
as your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected,
and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared,
and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures
live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice,
and justice is guided by love.
Give us the inspiration and courage to build it,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Reflections: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Ch.2

The author Beverly Tatum does something interesting in this chapter.  She dives into the complexity of identity – but not merely to understand ourselves better, but as a possible path to understanding each other across the racial conversation.

Who we are, Tatum suggests, is not so straight-forward.  We are multi-dimensional–e.g., I am a young, Gen X, middle class, Chinese Christian heterosexual male.  But how we view ourselves is also a product of a multi-faceted process.  A la Erikson, how we view ourselves results from this back and forth process between observation and reflection:  All day long, I intuit what you think about me, I observe what is considered normal in the world, I observe what the world thinks about people like me — and I reflect, react, and internalize those things.  So identity isn’t just this innate quality, rooted merely within myself – it is also located within my social context.  How I view myself as a young Chinese man in 2013 America is very different than as a young Chinese man in 1013 China.

One of the biggest components of our self-perception, Tatum says, is our membership in either a dominant or subordinate group.

One of the interesting things she notes is that when she asks people to describe themselves, White people almost never introduce themselves as White, while people of color almost always indicate their color or ethnicity.  The reason is because when we are in a dominant group, we tend to take that element of our identities for granted.  When the external world already privileges this aspect of my identity – the harmony is so great that it falls back into my unconscious.  On the other hand, when we are not in the dominant group – we know it.  And we’ve all been there:  when I walked into a room of all women, all well-dressed people, all tall people, etc.  This experience of being “other” is so pronounced, that it tends to be the part of our identity that we become most aware of.

There are at least seven categories of “otherness” commonly experienced in U.S. society. People are commonly defined as other on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and physical or mental ability. Each of these categories has a form of oppression associated with it: racism, sexism, religious oppression/anti-Semitism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, and ableism, respectively. (p. 22)

The reality, though is that most of us belong to both dominant and subordinate groups.  I am subordinate because I am Chinese, young, and (in our area) Christian (curious, in her area, it’s an advantage).  But I am dominant because I am male, well-educated, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied, and once again, stunningly good-looking.

But to return to the contrast between dominant and subordinate groups – it’s pretty stark.  Because the dominant group, by definition, sets the rules, defines what’s normal.  Everyone else “is labeled as defective or substandard in significant ways” (p.22).  An example that I run across frequently has to do with study habits/value of education.  I’ve heard of people who bemoan how Asian parents for being “too strict” and putting “too much pressure” on their kids.  Meanwhile, it’s insinuated that Blacks are “lazy” or otherwise less intelligent.  Think about what is being said here. The implication is that Whites are neither too strict nor too lazy, they are, as we learned from Goldilocks:  Just right.  In any case, this is an example of the dominant group seeing what is “normal” as merely a reflection of themselves.  (To be fair, my family was quite insistent that I never become as lazy as anyone because in their cultural mindset – their way was not only right, but normative).  Another example is when men complain that women are “too emotional”.  Who defines what is the right amount of emotion?  The dominant group, which is men.

Of course, these are all stereotypes with only degrees of truth.  But when someone in the subordinate group bucks the trend, they are merely seen as anomalies.  That’s why Biden’s compliment to Obama was seen as backhanded:  “The first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” (read:  because normally you guys aren’t!).

But stuff like this shouldn’t surprise us, because most dominants are clueless – most think their experience is normative.  They literally have no idea.  But who can blame them when the culture and media all simply parrot back their views and values ?  Subordinates are familiar with the experience of the dominants because the dominants own the culture and the media, but rarely the other way around.  That’s why if you want to go mainstream, you often have to “whitewash” yourself:  Blacks lighten their skin, Asians change their eyes, Jews change their noses, etc.  You have to suppress your identity.

Of course, this makes many of us want to reject the dominant culture altogether – which leads to ghettoism.  The negative result, Tatum says, though is that it disconnects subordinates from the networks, skills, and resources that would otherwise help improve their plight — all of which are connected to the dominant group.

And so this where even earnest race relations have often fallen apart.  Earnest Whites can easily become discouraged by the charges of still being racist.  Meanwhile, people of color, are still angry by how clueless Whites continue to be.

From here Tatum says that the complexity of our identities can be an asset.  If you are White, she says it might be easier to understand the perspective of minorities by drawing on your own experience of belonging to a subordinate group — as a young person, female, person with disability, growing up poor, etc.  If you are a person of color, you might understand that cluelessness better if you realize you too are a clueless dominant — as a heterosexual, able-bodied person, a man, or some other kind of dominant person.  Tatum says of herself:

If I am impatient with a White woman for not recognizing her White privilege, it may be useful for me to remember how much of my life I spent oblivious to the fact of the daily advantages I receive simply because I am heterosexual, or the ways in which I may take my class privilege for granted. (p. 23)

In other words, perhaps the first step is to realize that both the threads of clueless dominance and helpless subordination run through all of us.  None of us are exempt or immune.

The thesis of this chapter resonates deeply with me as a Christian.  People often say that at the heart of Christianity is love.  Actually, it’s Jesus.  But yes, love is central.  But so is the belief that we are all sinners.  More specifically:  we are all victims of sin, but we are also all perpetrators of it.  I cannot decry the corruption of politicians without also being humble about the greed in my own heart.  I cannot turn my nose at Miley Cyrus without implicating my own pride and insecurities.  I cannot point at the speck in my brother’s eye without bumping into the plank in my own.

There are sinners on both sides of the racial conversation.  As an ethnic minority here in America (but certainly not the world!) – it’s so easy to just shake my head at the majority.  I was recently talking with a friend about Rick Warren and also the Exponential Conference – and he said something that startled me:  Most white people just don’t get it.  That may or may not be true.  But the Cross of Christ reminds me:  I am a clueless sinner too.  This does not negate the sins of the majority.  In fact, I believe the Cross puts the onus on the dominant – not the subordinate; reconciliation and love, in light of Christ crucified, is always the ethical responsibility of the strong, not the weak.  But even so, the Cross still stunningly calls me to humility and patience.  Ponder this long enough and you’ll realize how offensive, yet radical this is.

Personally, I think the Cross takes us much further than Tatum does, but it seems promising that it’s in the same direction.  Because my interest in this topic is not to stoke racial animosity or pride – but in seeking racial righteousness in the Church, and peace in the world.

Reflections: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Ch.1

I’ll admit that race & ethnicity is something that I’ve only thought superficially about.

This might be surprising considering that I was born and raised in a rather diverse neighborhood; my playground friends were Filipino, Chinese, White, Hapa, Indian, Vietnamese, and Japanese (for some reason never became friends with my Latino & Black classmates).  There was racism growing up, but there was also just friendship.  This might also be surprising since I am a son of Chinese immigrant parents.  Which meant that I led a dual life — outside the home:  an assimilated American life (albeit hodge-podge); inside the home:  a HK/Toisan family life.  Sometimes the transitions were seamless; sometimes it was awkward and embarrassing.  And lastly, because I pastor a predominantly Asian American congregation — and I also teach Christian ethics.

I can spend a whole post analyzing why this has been the case.  But it’s enough to say that over the past few years, I’ve been experiencing a shift.  A shift as a Chinese American within this world.  Within the broader circle of the American Church.  And shifts – that I attribute to God’s Spirit and the prompting from friends – within my heart.  My reading of this now classic book is part of catching up to this shift.

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Beverly Tatum, the author (and a psychologist & professor), begins with the provocative title:  Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?  I remember when I first saw this title, I was reminded of a recent time when I was talking with a fellow believer who is White – she not so subtly criticized our church:  Why aren’t you guys more multi-ethnic?  Why do Asians always stick together?  And that question both incensed me, but also made me wonder as well.  It is an honest question.

In the opening chapter, Tatum begins with a question one of her White students once asked her:  “Oh, is there still racism?”  She was startled by the naïveté.  But at the same time, it made her recognize that conversations about race and racial identity cannot begin unless we are able to ask honest questions.  Whites can often feel afraid or defensive.  Peoples of color (her term) can often feel angry, helpless, or also afraid.  So honesty is crucial.

But so is truth and clarity.  And the reality is that racism in our country is real.  Some of us just don’t recognize it because, as Tatum puts it, it:

Cultural racism—the cultural images and messages that affirm the assumed superiority of Whites and the assumed inferiority of people of color—is like smog in the air. Sometimes it is so thick it is visible, other times it is less apparent, but always, day in and day out, we are breathing it in. None of us would introduce ourselves as “smog-breathers” (and most of us don’t want to be described as prejudiced), but if we live in a smoggy place, how can we avoid breathing the air? (Kindle 300-303)

So racism isn’t just “in” the individual – it is embedded into the relational and structural systems of our society.

Tatum begins by defining racism.  From David Wellman, she defines racism as a system of advantage based on race.  Meaning, it’s not just prejudice.  I found this point to be particularly profound.  Because again, racism is not just about how you and I view other people – also the system in which we live.  But also, racism isn’t just about prejudice – it is especially about how these prejudices consistently advantages one race over others.  The most telling example came from an article:  “White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”  The white female author, in the article, rattles off a long list of societal privileges that she has received simple because she is White – privileges she neither asked for nor earned:

Of course she enjoyed greater access to jobs and housing. But she also was able to shop in department stores without being followed by suspicious sales-people and could always find appropriate hair care products and makeup in any drugstore. She could send her child to school confident that the teacher would not discriminate against him on the basis of race. She could also be late for meetings, and talk with her mouth full, fairly confident that these behaviors would not be attributed to the fact that she was White. She could express an opinion in a meeting or in print and not have it labeled the “White” viewpoint. In other words, she was more often than not viewed as an individual, rather than as a member of a racial group. (Kindle  343-348)

Wow.  This immediately drove me to consider all the privileges that I have been unwittingly been afforded because I am male.  Yes, people may have prejudices against me because I am male (he’s such a typical guy) — but the system of our society, on the whole, does not advantage women/disadvantage men on the basis of sexist prejudices, but the opposite — almost every time.

Moreover, I have, for the most part, been unaware of how our society is set up for my advantage as a male (who is also well-educated, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle-class, and of course, stunningly good-looking).  Sexism that benefits me as a male is simply part of the smog-filled-air that I breathe.  Hence, only males can truly be sexist.

And this answers the understandably honest question:  Are only Whites racist?  Because most Whites abhor the image of Klansmen, skinheads, or Archie Bunker.  This question is usually understood as, “Are you saying all Whites are bad people?”  To which she says, of course not.  But she still says, provocatively, that only Whites can be racist.  And the reason goes back to the definition of racism.  Blacks and Latinos and Native Americans and Asians can and are prejudiced (trust me, we are).  But the system of our society does not offer preferential treatment based on those prejudices.  “Despite the current rhetoric about affirmative action and ‘reverse racism,’ every social indicator, from salary to life expectancy, reveals the advantages of being White” (Kindle  338-339).  This is where I plug, once again, comedian Louis CK’s brilliant bit on how he loves being white and even better bit on how great it is for his two White American daughters.  Anyone can be prejudiced.  But only certain prejudices lead to any advantage.  And people of color, instead of Whites, are almost always on the short end of that stick.

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My only quibble with Tatum is that while this is most definitely true nationally and even regionally, I have generally tended to think that our lives are most affected locally.  What is true in one enclave, ghetto, or barrio may not always mirror what’s true nationally.  I’ll just say it:  Blacks won’t do too well in Chinatown.  Latinos might not fair too well in the Hood.  But for the most part, I think her point holds true.  Even where there are areas where the local system consistently disadvantages Whites, it’s hard to imagine that they constitute a majority.  More common are places where Whites, while still comprising the minority, still hold the majority of the power, privilege, and advantage.

In any case, Tatum says this question misses the point.  The point is what will Whites do with racism?  She compares racism with those conveyor belt style walkways at the airport — by default, it moves you forward in a direction towards White advantage (i.e., racism).  So the question isn’t simply are you racist, but will you be actively racist (walk or run forward on the belt), passively racist (just stay on the belt, passively going along with things), or be actively anti-racist (move in the opposite direction)?  While I saw her point about Whites and racism, I found myself wondering where I stood along this continuum.  I think most of us, regardless of color, are just passive, period.  This is not good as a human being.  This is inexcusable as follower of Christ.

Tatum closes with a final distinction between racial identity versus ethnic identity.  Race is a distinction we’ve made up on the basis of physical criteria–usually color; race was also originally created in the service of oppression.  Ethnicity is a distinction based on cultural criteria–e.g., language, customs, food, shared history.  So, for example, our Asian American church (mostly Chinese, but includes Korean, Japanese, Filipino, and Vietnamese, and White) is predominantly mono-racial, but multi-ethnic.  A helpful distinction that I suspect will come up again.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter where she explores the complexity of racial identity.

I’ve been asked if I know Francis Chan. And the answer is: As well as I know Jeremy Lin.

Recently, there’s a been a spate of incidences that have made a number of us Asian American Christians feel…not 100% part of the Body of Christ.  And so in response, this open letter has been circulating (click to view & sign):

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Rachel Held Evans, a prolific Christian blogger, who is white, has posted this letter as well and has been asking Asians to share about their experiences.  Here’s what I wrote:

I’ve been asked if I know Francis Chan. And the answer is: As well as I know Jeremy Lin.

I’ve been asked why “you guys” only hang out with other Asians. Or what’s up with the “Asian invasion”. Which is such an interesting question from my now-enlightened white Christian friends.

I’ve been treated as the “Asian friend” (c.f., the gay friend, the black friend, etc.). It’s a little weird being a relational accessory. Curiously, I get this more often from my enlightened liberal friends.

I’ve had white friends demonstrate their faux-rage at how deeply offended THEY are at bigotry towards Asians. It’s great to have empathetic friends; but at times, it feels like they’re over-compensating.

Occasionally, it’s riled me up. More often, it offends or elicits a quiet eye roll. The reality is that if you are used to being the dominant culture – it’s hard to see the people and the world in any other way. E.g., I am a male, most of the time I am just enjoying my male privilege without a thought. This is why I appreciate Louis C.K.’s bit on how he loves being a white male – so honest and yet provocative.

So while I pray and seek dialogue for the sake of inclusion and righteousness, I realize that we need patience and the Spirit’s power – it’s hard to see past your own experience (especially if you’re used to being in charge).

I support this letter because it is honest, firm, and still loving. I’m not generally convinced it’s particularly Jesus-like to DEMAND justice and mercy; better to DO justice and mercy. And pray that the Spirit will use our Christ-honoring means to bring about a Christ-glorifying end.