More Than Serving Tea


Thanks For Asking. I’m OK.

For those of you who told me to accept the apology, I can’t infer an apology just like people don’t become Christians through osmosis. And to my dear married readers, try saying “I’m sorry if you were hurt but…” and see how that goes.

For those of you who told me to extend grace because Warren’s son committed suicide several months ago, tragedy should be the reason one seeks wise counsel, not the excuse for unwise social media decisions. I live with depression and anxiety. I get it. I really do. But that doesn’t mean I can say what I want at home or publicly and not deal with any consequences.

For those of you who told me I was too sensitive, making this personal, didn’t get the joke, need to learn to laugh at myself, tell that to someone you actually know and love the next time you hurt them. See how that works for you.

For those of you who told me I was being unchristian, ungracious, unforgiving, I am not so sure your comments to me and fellow bloggers reflected your values.

For those of you who pulled out Matthew 18:15-17, read that passage again and then read this. It’s not the application you thought it was because it’s not always about you.

For those of you who told me I was ruining the name of a great leader all I can say is…really? That’s not what this is about. At all.

For those of you who said it wasn’t fair to target such a prominent pastor, why not? Does prominence and power mean a free pass? Does being a pastor mean you get a free pass? Does the person you hope will gently correct you not need gentle correction?

For those of you who told me to be a Christian before an Asian American, please consider how you are putting your White evangelical privilege into textbook use.

No, it’s not the gracious, sweet, calm voice of reason you thought you might hear/read. It’s the gracious, sweet, calm voice of reason from a different vantage point, a different place of power and experience and life.  Facebook isn’t a private conversation. The interwebs are not private offices. Television interviews and magazine articles are not the face of someone hiding from public opinion.

And while I am at it. My family and I are OK. Thanks for asking.

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Dear Pastor Rick Warren, I Think You Don’t Get It

Rick Warren's FB post

I’m not sure how Saddleback Staff start each day like the Red Army Guard. No one has explained that to me so I really do not get it.

***UPDATE: So, as of sometime this afternoon, the original FB post and tweet of this image has been removed, presumably by Rick Warren. That is wonderful news. He has also issued an apology on Dr. Sam Tsang’s blog (linked later in this post) but not on his Facebook page or Twitter because it has all been removed. However, I am leaving up my original post because deleting something doesn’t actually address the issue, and the subsequent commenter by supporters were never addressed. Those supporters may think the post was removed because he got tired of the angry Asians who don’t get it. Right now, it feels like I’ve been silenced. Pastor Warren actually did read many of the comments voicing concern about the post and responded with a rather ungracious response. My kids constantly hear me talk about the consequences of posting something up on social media and the permanence of that.

Also, I have corrected “Army” to “Guard” because in my rush and ignorance I treated them as the same. Both Communists? Yes. The same army? No.  

I guess I don't get Hebrew ironic humor.

I guess I don’t get Hebrew ironic humor.

You know it’s going to be an interesting day when you wake up to FB tags and messages about “something you would blog about.”

My dear readers, you know me too well.

This photo is currently on Rick Warren’s FB page and his Twitter feed. Apparently the image captures “the typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.” Hmmm. I didn’t realize Saddleback was akin to the Red Army Guard.  Warren’s defense (and that of his supporters) is one that  I AM SO SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING! It goes something like this:

  • Don’t you know this is a joke? This is funny. Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.
  • I didn’t mean to offend you. BUT…Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.
  • Why are you attacking “fill in the blank with well-intentioned White person’s name here”? Don’t you know how many people said person’s ministry and life’s work has touched and brought to faith? Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.
  • If you are a Christian, show “fill in the blank with well-intentioned White person’s name here” some grace. Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.
  • Don’t be so politically-correct. Be a Christian first. Don’t make this about race. Get over yourself. Get a sense of humor. Christians can be funny.

I don’t know where to start with this so I will first take a deep, cleansing breath and send you to Dr. Sam Tsang’s blog to get a thoughtful, educational post that for those who are not familiar with the Red Army Guard. This image used by Warren? Propaganda. Because genocide always looks better when it’s smiling & perfectly-coiffed.

But what would’ve happened had he used this image? Would have his supporters still supported him? Because use of this image would be just as offensive to me as the other one. It’s not funny. It’s not about me getting over myself. It’s not about Christians being funny. One thing it is about is White evangelicalism (re)writing the narrative of our faith and our story. The story continues to tell people like me to get over it, to lighten up, to get a sense of humor, to put my faith above my ethnicity and gender. The story continues to tell me that the amount of grace someone deserves is equal to the number of people they have “helped”. The story continues to tell me that people like me have no place in the culture making of Christianity because directly and indirectly we are not welcome as my dear friend Grace Biskie wrote about her experience at a recent conference.

The Red Army. Hitler Youth. Would one be more acceptable than the other?

The Red Army Guard. Hitler Youth. Would one be more acceptable than the other?

Dear Pastor Rick Warren,

I have not helped thousands come to know Jesus. I don’t know that for a fact, but I do know that I don’t have the kind of platform you do, the kind of following you do, the number of eyes watching and listening to you. But that shouldn’t stop us from listening to one another and learning from one another.

The image of the Red Army Guard soldier is offensive. It isn’t funny. And it does have racial implications. I know you are a thoughtful leader, so why not choose an equally funny/not funny image of Hitler Youth who look just as cheerful, focused and determined (and perhaps, dare I say, more like your staff?) Because it was easy to use the Red Army Guard image? Because you didn’t think it was a big deal to connect your Christian staff with the Chinese Red Army? Because you have someone of Chinese descent on your staff and he/she didn’t think it was a big deal? 

Please reconsider your comments that essentially told many of your brothers and sisters in Christ to get over it, to get a sense of humor, to lighten up, etc. Please take a moment to hear us out because you don’t get to tell me to laugh about the Communist Red Army Guard because it isn’t funny. There is no irony. Do not compare me and others to the self-righteous who did not get Jesus’ humor as you did in your FB defense.

Please help me understand how this furthers the kingdom of God because right now it feels like the most important thing is to “get you”.

Sincerely,

Kathy Khang


Another Lesson on White (Christian) Privilege From Cleveland

“I want everyone to know that the acts of the defendant is not a reflection of the Puerto Rican community here and in Puerto Rico.”  Cleveland Chief Assistant Prosecutor Victor Perez, at a press conference announcing initial charges against Ariel Castro.

When you are White, you never have to apologize for what another White person does, especially the really, really, really bad stuff. That is White privilege.

If you are White in America you are assumed to be an American. Not a U.S. citizen. Not naturalized. Not a legal resident of “fill-in-the-blank” descent. Just American. That is White privilege.

If a young White American bombs a federal building killing more than 160 people or guns down 20 elementary school children and 6 adults, no White American, male or female, in fear of retaliation, gets in front of the media and apologizes for White people. No officials during a press conference remind the audience that the acts of the defendant are not a reflection of White America. That is White privilege.

The kidnapping/rape/sick-to-your-stomach case in Cleveland is both unbelievable and hopeful. I desperately want more hopeful. I hope people like Charles Ramsey are in every neighborhood. I hope more missing children are found. I hope for justice and healing.

But I don’t know what to feel after hearing Maria Castro-Montes’ apology on behalf of the entire Castro family. I don’t know what is appropriate after hearing Cleveland’s chief assistant prosecutor address the pall of suspicion that falls over an entire community because of one person’s actions. (BTW, I can’t find a link to Perez’s comment I use at the start. I heard it on NPR this morning.)

Anger? Confusion? Disappointment? Resignation?

Why aren’t law enforcement officers and neighborhood religious leaders in front of the media apologizing for failing these three women, their families, the neighborhood? The women and a child were enslaved in their community. This didn’t happen in Puerto Rico. This happened in Cleveland. In America.

When news of a shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech started poring out, I remember emails and calls from colleagues and friends. We held our breath until the identity of the shooter was confirmed. And then we kept holding our breath. Koreans and Americans of Korean descent apologized. Young Asian American men were told in hushed voices and in knowing looks to lay low for a bit – retaliation  doesn’t necessarily distinguish between Korean American and, say, Chinese American. We felt under suspicion by the way media coverage used words to distinguish, differentiate, and define, reminding us that we were actually the “Others”.

I can’t do this turmoil in my heart justice. I can’t. I can’t believe Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were enslaved and hidden in the middle of a neighborhood. I am amazed at their courage and at the story of their freedom. I am thankful Charles Ramsey didn’t ignore a woman’s scream for help. And I can’t stand that Ramsey’s past became part of the story and his words are becoming a minstrel show. I can’t stand that Perez felt it necessary and then publicly distanced an entire community from one person’s sins.

It’s only in God’s presence I can know deeply in my soul that my Asian-ness, what I often feel is my other-ness, is a reflection of God’s image. It is part of the plan. Just a part of the whole. We are all human, created male and female, in God’s image. Connected. Castro’s sin isn’t mine or Perez’s or anyone in the Puerto Rican community, but we are connected to one another through our humanity and our brokenness. We all sin.

 

In that way, my disappointment lies mostly with Christian leaders who stay silent on the issues of racial and social injustice, claiming those issues are not the gospel. How can what is happening to my brothers and sisters of any race or ethnicity not be a part of me and a part of how Jesus’ Good News changes the broken into wholeness? How can we as believers not come alongside Perez and Castro-Montes and say this isn’t about you being created in God’s image, your ethnicity and your race, but is about a broken majority culture our Church has both ignored and embraced?

That, my friends, is White Christian privilege.

 


White Privilege & Accidentally Playing in a Public Sandbox

Depending on the circles in which you spin around, you may have come across Gavin McInnes’ piece about Asian American privilege. I won’t link to it. You can find it on your own. (Privilege is misspelled in the blogpost title on one of the websites, btw.)

I don’t know the intent behind the piece. Some say it was an attempt at satire. Others say that’s just McInnes’ style. The godfather of hipsterdom wrote a piece using Asian American privilege as the centerpiece. The piece discusses race, and some people thought it though-provoking; others feel provoked.

“Tackling Asian Privilege” on one website has garnered more than 600 comments. It’s been linked several times throughout the day by my some of my Facebook friends. And then there is Twitter.

Yikes.

Yikes.

I have learned that the rules in the social media/interweb/everyone-is-a-writer public sandbox are slightly different for me. And by me I mean a non-White American. McInnes can use Asians (I prefer Asian American.) as a tongue-in-cheek example in his clever, original take on race dynamics in America so long as Asians don’t get upset. We don’t get to be upset. We just get to be the example. And if we get upset, we are told to grow a thicker skin, get a grip, learn to read, etc. We get ALL CAPS AND TOLD THAT WE DON’T GET IT.

Get it?

It’s because McInnes’ audience, his public sandbox if you will, actually didn’t include me and a host of my other non-White American friends because we aren’t his target audience. He would never say that. At least I don’t think he would. We may read his stuff, and we may even appreciate his cleverness and humor until it smells a bit like appropriation. That is what ought to make “us”, the non-target audience, uncomfortable. We are fine in the sandbox until we realize we are being allowed to stay. We weren’t necessarily invited.

This has happened before. Poorly designed t-shirts or advertising campaigns. Poorly written and designed Vacation Bible School curriculum. Poorly written and designed Christian leadership books. Poorly conceived fraternity parties. Poorly conceived team mascots. White privilege means you get to tell me that I don’t get it. That I misunderstood your intentions. That I should be honored that “my culture” is being represented in such a way. That it’s all in good fun. That I’m being politically correct. That I need to stop taking everything so seriously.

No. White privilege may be and mean a lot of things, but it does not get to determine how I respond or feel.

Mr. McInnes, I’m not humorless. I actually find a lot of things funny, and I am told that I am pretty funny. I just didn’t think your writing was particularly funny. And I didn’t get the point you were trying to make, but because a bunch of people seemed to like what you wrote and followed up with some comments I found offensive and racist I guess I didn’t get the inside joke.

It’s ok. ALL CAPS ARE NOT NEEDED.

 

 


A Mother’s Rant About Racism & Reconciliation

Sometimes once is not enough. I had to watch the UCLA student’s video (former UCLA student?) several times because I don’t always want to believe what I see and hear. Did I really see this young woman speak on behalf of me, an American whose mother also taught her manners, and dissed me, an Asian who can speak English, Korean or Konglish (the mix of Korean and English so many of my peers have mastered) on her cellphone in a public place?

Ching chong? Hordes of Asians? American manners?

And no, I am not going to link to it. Like I said/wrote about the Tiger Mother conversation, if you don’t know what I am talking about, please expand your circle of acquaintances, friends and Twitter feeds.

But in the world of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the UCLA racist rant can seem like old news, and in some sad, sad, discouraging, sometimes frustrating-to-the-core-I’m-so-pissed-off-and-tired-of-crap-like-this way it is so old. Alexandra, you aren’t the first. You certainly won’t be the last. It’s just unfortunate that you and others (and unfortunate for you and others) who have a limited understanding/definition/experience of what “American” is believe that you won’t get any push back from Americans just like you when you post crazy videos on YouTube.

Our words and actions matter and last longer than anyone told you or me or our mothers.

So while cooler and more thoughtful heads joined the chatter surrounding this latest racist rant pitting “us” against “them”, I had to think a little longer Ms. Wallace’s rant. She blames/attributes her understanding of American manners on her mother. Friends, when you are an adult, and here in America you are adult enough at 18 to vote, we should learn to stop blaming our mothers. And God help my kids if they ever do something this stupid and get caught by me. Never mind getting a bazillion hits on YouTube. God help me.

One of the gifts Asians cultures bring to American is a deep respect for our elders and a communal worldview. As an Asian American I needed about a month to get used to the idea of calling my bosses by their first names. Yelling out “Diane! Roger! Joanne!” across the newsroom seemed extremely disrespectful and disrespect was not what my mother – an American citizen – taught me. And if I was disrespectful, it would reflect poorly not only on myself but on my family and on my people – which in many cases becomes all of Asian America.

You see, respect isn’t an American value, but how it is shown, communicated, displayed looks different to different Americans. Alexandra’s rant in tone and choice of words was a wonderful example of White privilege – assuming her POV is the majority POV because she is American and the “hordes of Asians” saying, “Ohhh, ching chong, ling long, ting tong, ohhhh” couldn’t possibly be American because they are not her.

So when the hordes of Asians and Asian Americans and Americans responded with a resounding “STOP THIS KIND OF CRAP”, Alexandra and other Americans just like her were genuinely surprised.

Perhaps there is where we can take steps to reconciliation.

Alexandra was speaking her mind. Her individualistic, post-modern Millennial, White American mind. Maybe in her worldview Americans, and maybe even those of us Americans of Asian descent, were supposed to get the joke.

But many of us didn’t think it was funny and responded in a collective voice, granted some angrier than others. As one of my friends puts it, we as in the “royal we” or the communal collective what-you-say-reflects-and-has-an-impact-on-all-of-us voice, we Americans who see things differently than Alexandra responded.

We have a lot to learn from each other. A lot. There were many responses that were mean and ungracious and only added more fuel to the ugly fire of racism. There were many conversations that took place that lacked American manners and so much of this controversy lacked Christian grace. There were videos made in response that made me laugh and then made me wonder how much more difficult and out of reach reconciliation will be when technology is used only to define the differences without helping inform us of how those differences matter and bridge us together.

But I guess that is where technology and even mothers fail. We need Jesus to help us make the leap from recognizing God-given, God-blessed differences from our sinful nature that uses gifts of culture to destroy and bring down others. We need Jesus to help us move from simply demanding justice to seeking reconciliation.

It makes me pray for wisdom because my own three children who may one day publicly do or say something that they mistakenly believe I taught them to do have only known this type of fast-moving technology, communication and connection.

So my gentle correction to Alexandra would be that I, as one of your aunties (because in my America everyone close to me and my family becomes a brother, sister, auntie or uncle), go to one of the Asian American friends you mentioned at the beginning of your video and ask them why your words were so hurtful to so many of us Americans.

That’s why it took me so much time to respond to what seems like old news. I was hurt. I was pissed. I was tired. And, I wanted nothing to do with “those Americans”.

Alexandra, you can’t be one of “those Americans” to me if I am honest and serious about seeking both justice and reconciliation. I’m your auntie, and if you are still confused about what happened, you can e-mail me.

Here is InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Asian American Ministries official response to the UCLA student’s rant inviting us all to consider both justice and reconciliation.

And here is another great post covering White Privilege, Color-blindedness and the Model Minority.