Yesterday during lunch I was "privileged" to overhear a conversation between two folks who were sitting at the table next to me.
person 1, How was class today?
person 2, It sucked. The Chinese people in my class don't even speak English; they're so retarded.
my inside voice , Um, hello, over here! Chinese person sitting RIGHT next to you.
Yes, even here in 30% Asian San Francisco, it happens: people say racist things, here, there, pretty much everywhere. This is not the first time, not even the worst thing that has been said around or to me because of my Asian-ness: my features, perceived language, driving skills, athletic abilities, my name, "bruce," or my ability to kick the crap out of someone because I must know martial arts. and so on, and so on. And don't get me started on the reality of being married to a White woman and parenting three hapa kids.
Now I know some people reading this will say,
- "Just ignore them."
- "Don't give them power?"
- "They are just one couple, not all people feel this way."
- "Stop being so sensitive."
- "Everyone is excluded somewhere, so get over it."
- "Don't complain, you have it pretty good."
- "You should be grateful, at least it's not like . . ."
- "Um, if you would STOP talking about race, maybe we would get over racism."
- And if I get mad, "Don't be so angry."
- And if I don't do anything, "You should have said something."
I have heard these all before and usually from well-meaning White "allies" who I believe yearn for a genuine place of peace and reconciliation in terms of race. But, to be honest, it seems that most of the conversations about race that I have in my predominantly White denominational context only seek to suppress or justify the reality of an American culture that is still driven by the idea that White -however folks will define that culture - is the norm . . . reminding people of color EVERY DAY, not of the blessed complexity that is brought to the larger human family, but just the opposite: after all you have done, after all these years, after all that we've done for you . . . you are still the "other."
This reality of "otherness" that shows up in church, school, media, politics, etc. and is not something to be ignored. It is played out in subtly in amorphous institutions as well as straight up physical violence. Yes, we have come a long way, but in many ways, the issues of race and results of racism remain the same.
We must keep talking about race and how we engage the conversation because how we live impacts the ability for people of color to, in my tradition, fully live into who God intends them to be. I am reminded of this reality every morning as my babies wake up to the day. conversations on race matter because we are raising three girls in a very male centered, hyper-sexualized world that will exoticizes and make assumptions about them because of their gender and race. It also matters because the legacy we help to create about important things: race, class, sexuality faith, politics, the environment, etc. will impact the lives of our children and future generations.
So, like it or not . . . I will continue to push, prod and celebrate our conversations and actions about race. Some of the issues and questions I'll try tackle:
- The nature of self determined labels and who gets to decide and define?
- Can White people know what it's like not to be White?
- What do you do with those "angry" one?
- Class, gender and sexuality in the conversations on race?
- Race, religion and the church?
- Brown people and homosexuality.
- Helping children develop a wise perspective on race.
- The impact of Social Media and technology on race.
- Generational shifts in understanding of, vernacular about and approaches towards race.
- The Complexities of Ethnic humor.
- Race and Immigration.
- Anti-miscegenation and interracial marriage;
- Multiracial realities.
- Race and the media, sports and entertainment.
These are just a few of the topics that I plan on covering over the next few months. These may be changed added, deleted, etc. so if you have any good ones to add or ways to reword them, please feel free to offer up some suggestions. I would also love to see if any of these topics spark some musings from you. Let me know if you plan on posting anything and maybe we can riff off one another.
I hope you will join in on the conversations. It will never be easy and will often be awkward, but in the end I trust that graciousness and transformation will rule the day.
PS: If you're bored, here are three posts that I have written on race in the past for your reading pleasure ;-)
- 2008, Musings on a post-racial America
- 2007, [Bleep that Chinaman](http://www.reyes-chow.com/2007/03/bleepthatchin.html)
- 2006, [Does race matter when pastoring?](http://www.reyes-chow.com/2006/06/doesracematte.html)
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