Asian-American & Evangelicals: What we as Asian-American Christians must do first

Let me be very clear. There is no question that forms of racism are alive and well. Although this pains me to write, I must affirm that such racism continues to exist even within the ranks of our brothers and sisters in Christ. To neglect this fact would be both foolish and naive. While visiting a church this year, my wife painfully recounted an event to me where an individual walked up towards the group where she was having a conversation. This individual then acknowledged everyone else in the group and then proceed to speak to everyone except for my wife. While I can understand that to many this may not appear to be overtly racist. However with the experiences of a minority, I must state that to be treated as invisible triggers deep pains in many of us. As a child, I personally remember multiple instances of being bullied and beaten because of my ethnicity. My wife remembers having trash thrown at her from cars while walking on the sidewalk multiple times.

As adults, when we moved to the Northeast several years ago, such experiences did not cease. My wife had an individual follow her through a grocery store and continually ask her if she was adopted. I myself experienced similar instances, however this post is not about our experiences as second generation Asian-Americans. In many ways, I have written about the above experiences because I feel as though I need to establish my credibility as a minority here in the United States.

There is no question that racism exists, however the question that must be asked is how we as an Christian Asian-American community should address these issues. The general sentiment is that these portrayals have gone on for far too long and without sufficient acknowledgement by those who create them that these characterizations are both hurtful and harmful. Without a question, this sentiment is legitimate. There is a laundry list of stereotypical and offensive characterizations of Asians in the media. However in my experience, reactions that are predominately based upon anger and frustration, when allowed to run unchecked for far too long, breed deep resentment and bitterness.

3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5, ESV)

This is absolutely a legitimate point for us to begin. By acknowledging our failures we do not forfeit our voice or strength. As it says in scripture, a careful and honest introspective look at our own sins enables us to more clearly and rightfully address the sins in others.

When the Reuters published their findings regarding their recent poll surrounding friendship, their header read:

About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race, according to an ongoing Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Dunsmuir, L. (2013, August 8). Many Americans have no friends of another race: Poll. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/08/us-usa-poll-race-idUSBRE97704320130808

Many Asian-Americans posted variants of this article, with some including snide remarks about white Americans. However the statistics do not look in our favor regarding social integration:

There is some variance across U.S. Asian groups in the composition of their social networks. Korean Americans are especially likely to have all or most of their friends from the same heritage (58%); by contrast, just a fifth (21%) of Japanese Americans—a majority of whom are native born—say that all or most of their friends share the same heritage. Chinese Americans fall in the middle, with 45% having all or most of their friends of Chinese heritage. There are large differences between native- and foreign-born Chinese Americans, however. Among the native born, 14% say that all or most of their friends are Chinese American; this compares with 55% among Chinese immigrants. The same pattern occurs for native- and foreign-born Filipino Americans and to a lesser degree among native- and foreign-born Japanese Americans. Other U.S. Asian groups do not have a large enough sample of native-born respondents for analysis.

Pew Research Center (2012). The Rise of Asian Americans. p. 89

While we can attempt to separate first generation and second generation Asian-Americans, there are some studies have shown this to not be the case:

However some evidence suggests that SGKAPs are generally more insular in their ethnic/racial religious networks and in their racial/ethnic preferences for marital partners. Finally, among married SGKAPs, we also see greater religious network homogamy relative to other groups. In short, their religious and ethnic ties do not vary a great deal from their peers who are experiencing analogous social contexts and pressures to conform; however their behaviors that stem from those ties are more consistently homophilous and endogamous. This suggests that perhaps the second-generation Korean-American Protestant case is somewhat exceptional in our diversifying environment. While their congregations may cater to an English-fluent audience, their congregations are noticeably uniform in racial and ethnic terms. Tentatively, I suggest that religion serves to sacralize ethnic/racial preference for second-generation Korean Americans more so than other groups.

Park, J. (2013). Ethnic Insularity Among 1.5 and Second-Generation Korean American Christians. Development and Soceity, 42(1), 113-136.

In the face of institutionalized racism we must acknowledge that ethnic insularity is our enemy. In our absence, we allow for the propagation of stereotypes that are far from the truth. Simultaneously, we also implicitly allow for stereotypes that we hold of other ethnicities to take root in our communities. The solution is not for us to become more and more Asian, and neither is it for us to advocate complete assimilation. However it should be known that as we interact with people of other ethnic groups, we will be forever changed. We will be infused with new perspectives and different methodologies to problem solving. We will be more apt to see the similarities in our different cultures and just maybe we can acknowledge that the rift between us rendered by sin and already bridged by the blood of Christ is greater than any rift between us rendered by culture.

Author: Richard

I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea what I'm doing.

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