Eugene Cho

i am more than a stereotype

asian american stereotypesWelcome to the month of June.  Did you know that May is considered Asian Pacific Heritage Month. Don’t worry: most folks don’t know or care either. Honestly, I don’t like the idea of designating a month but I understand the motivation behind the month of May since it has historical important to Asian American history.  I wasn’t going to share anything until I saw these two commercials in less than 10 minutes this weekend and I nearly puked. My point:

I am more than a stereotype.

To begin with, there aren’t that many healthy images of Asians on visible expressions of culture including TV and Hollywood. But why do folks have to keep perpetuating these stereotypes?  I’m tempted to swear but I’ve already met my quota for the year.

Don’t understand where I’m coming from? Watch these three videos. They are only 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 2:27 minutes.  Prejudice and stereotypes are everywhere.  And Asians aren’t the only ones and I may be biased but seriously?

#1 – Wendy’s Commerical.  The bowlcut? Huh? What is the point?

#2 – KFC. If this was showing in Japan, I get it.  Here in the States?  Why?  What is the point?

#3 – Watch this because it speaks to this issue of ‘silent racism.’ It was created by a group during Quest Church’s Faith & Race class several years ago but remains one of my favorite home made videos:

There’s 15.2 million Asian Americans living in the United States.  While these stereotypes are nonsensical, you have to wonder what Asian Americans are doing to engage the larger culture beyond their own bubbles, success, and enclaves.  My point to Asian Americans: Speak up!

The nation’s Asian American population increased by 434,000 to surpass 15.2 million, or 5 percent of the estimated total U.S. population of 301.6 million, according to Census statistics released today.

Asians were the second fastest-growing minority group after Hispanics, with a 2.9 percent, or 434,000, population increase between 2006 and 2007.

Five million Asians live in California, which had the largest Asian population, as well as the largest numerical increase, of 106,000, during the 2006 to 2007 period. New York (1.4 million) and Texas (915,000) followed in population. Texas (44,000) and New York (33,000) followed in numerical increase.

In Hawaii, Asians made up the highest proportion of the total population (55 percent), with California (14 percent), and New Jersey and Washington (8 percent each) next. Asians were the largest minority group in Hawaii and Vermont.

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48 Responses

  1. gracex2 says:

    I’m so glad you posted this! The Wendy’s commercials are beyond irritating to me. MC and I were talking about them last weekend– a company like Wendy’s should really know better. I really liked the Quest video! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. diane says:

    e.. most of America does not understand this 3rd culture world we live in(as Dave Gibbons describes it). It is my hope that God uses the 60 out of 100 Asians in our current world global village to redeem Honor as a core human value!..It is challenging to harness anger over these things that seem so obvious.. I guess I can only confess,at one point,I didn’t “get it” either & am more aware of my human blindness…luvd the Q video,too.

  3. Sandy Dobbins says:

    Eugene you do challenge us to rise above the mess. Thanks.

  4. Joe says:

    Pixar’s UP is a great example in my opinion of moving towards portraying Asians Americans as Asian and American! Though some people were able to tell instantly that the beloved character of Russell was Asian, I did not see it right away. Why?

    Because Russell spoke with no discernable accent other than that of a cute little kid! I am so used to Asians being portrayed in the stereotypical way by the media that I was not even aware! Even some of my friends did not know Russell was Asian American (though if there are any doubts the last scene with his mother should be a dead give away). Or perhaps his eyes were not quite “chinky” enough as one of my friends tried to argue that he was the product of an Asian/Caucasian relationship.

  5. Joe says:

    And yes, even after 30+ years in this country (born and raised) I still get asked in LOS ANGELES when I came to this country. Or what my NATIONALITY (U.S.), but of course what they mean is ethnicity. :)

  6. [...] by mattrundio I would like to direct you to read Eugene Cho’s short but important “i am more than a stereotype” blog post.  Be sure to watch all three (short) videos.  It is powerful [...]

  7. The KFC commercial has two asian guys speaking weird accents with Kamikaze headbands fighting over chicken. That one I see pretty clearly. But can somebody explain the Wendy’s commercial to me? Eugene mentioned the bowlcut but the guy on the right has hideous hair as well. I guess there’s something in this commercial that Asian Americans may recognize as a pattern but I’m not familiar enough to see the connection.

  8. I was googling for an explanation of the two asian dudes in the KFC commercial (wondering if they’re a pop comedy duo or something – they’re not) when I found this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5DiZVNlndM

    Apparently racism is KFC’s default marketing approach.

  9. Tony Lin says:

    I always do wonder what Asian Americans are doing beyond their ethnic enclaves. You remember how the dinning hall at PTS used to be and probably still is… Just anecdotally, every single Asian American’s couple wedding I’ve been to in my life, the entire wedding party was 100% Asian Americans. I think there’s something wrong when Asian Americans growing up in ethnically diverse cities and going to diverse schools and colleges have ONLY Asian American close friends (which is what your wedding party symbolizes). There are many reasons for these racist stereotypes to persist. One of them (probably not the main one) is the self-segregation and ethnocentricity of Asian Americans.

  10. Jin says:

    just to make a clarification on Danger’s video, the commercial is not KFC but a Korean-specific chicken fast-food chain called Kyochon (man, i love their bbq wings). And i agree, although the KFC commercial was totally out of control, i wasn’t sure how the Wendy’s one was being stereotypical.

  11. Andy Chang says:

    Tony brings up a major point.

    Growing up in a midwest suburb, I ended up hanging out with mostly non-Asian classmates. It was nothing personal – I just didn’t share the same interests as most Asians in my school. The other Asian Americans labeled me “whitewashed” and frequently joked how playing football, dating outside my ethnicity, driving a Ford, and other meaningless/nonsensical things showed how I had no pride in my heritage. They effectively shut me away.

    How are we expected to be understood and respected by a culture if we’re not willing to engage it?

  12. gar says:

    Thanks Pastor Eugene for giving me more weird encounters of strangers coming up to me and saying… “I know you from somewhere… were in a video?” j/k ;)

    On an unrelated note, UP is a great movie and I love the way Pixar handled the character of Russell – even though he’s Asian American, he has no accent and *gasp* he’s portrayed as a kind-hearted boy with a heart of gold. He’s even voiced by an Asian American kid (Jordan Nagai).

    My only small quibble with the movie is while Russell talks about both his parents in the movie, we only meet his mother… hrmmmm.

  13. Jeff Lam says:

    I’m frustrated that Asian Americans feel the need to be apologetic for having mostly close Asian American friends. When people of other races primarily spend their time in similar ethnic-specific communities, they’re rarely identified as being “ethnocentric,” and part of the reason is due to the fact that many Asian American cultures stress accommodating to the needs of others. While the point is well-taken that APIA’s should be more intentional about mixing with folks of other races, I don’t think there’s “something wrong” when that happens any more than when I see groups of majority-whites or majority-blacks around the neighborhoood.

    As a personal anecdote, I intentionally joined InterVarsity in college specifically because it was a multi-ethnic fellowship. I felt some guilt about going to a Chinese church growing up and wanted to expand my social circles. I think I made some wonderful, life-long cross-cultural friendships that are tremendously important t ome. But at the end of the day, my wedding party was made up of all Asian Americans from IV. The fact that my best friends from college are APIA’s is not for lack of trying, it’s just that for me at least, on an unconscious level, I find myself most at home and most understood by other APIA’s. I’ve finally come to a place where I am completely unapologetic about that.

  14. gar says:

    Tony, Andy>”There are many reasons for these racist stereotypes to persist. One of them (probably not the main one) is the self-segregation and ethnocentricity of Asian Americans.”

    “How are we expected to be understood and respected by a culture if we’re not willing to engage it?”

    These are very real issues with the Asian American community, but to be honest, I have trouble with notion that it is the burden of the community to always be the one to initiate and reach out. Yes, we need to educate others and create positive relationships with non-Asian American communities… but when stereotypes and ugly racism happen, does the blame fall on us?

    To me, that’s another instance of majority privilege playing itself out. “Oh, the reason we have stereotypes about your accented voices, chinky eyes, and karate chops is because YOU haven’t educated us enough about your culture.”

    Case in point: many colleges offer ethnic studies classes in African American, Latin American, Asian American, Native American, etc. It’s a sad stereotype, but you can usually count the number of white students on one hand, if any (at least when I was going to school at UW, back in ’97 – ’02).

  15. me says:

    @tony @andy chang – i agree

    but wow, i also agree with @jeff lam’s comment:

    “I’m frustrated that Asian Americans feel the need to be apologetic for having mostly close Asian American friends. When people of other races primarily spend their time in similar ethnic-specific communities, they’re rarely identified as being “ethnocentric,” and part of the reason is due to the fact that many Asian American cultures stress accommodating to the needs of others. While the point is well-taken that APIA’s should be more intentional about mixing with folks of other races, I don’t think there’s “something wrong” when that happens any more than when I see groups of majority-whites or majority-blacks around the neighborhoood.”

  16. @Jin: thanks for the clarification – I totally misunderstood the brand on that video.

    Jeff brings up an excellent point with a bitter history. Google “kyutaro abiko” for an example of one man spending much of his life trying to fit in to American society and have his Japanese countrymen accepted by whites (it didn’t work). No matter how fracture the asian community makes itself, no matter how many generations an asian family lives among whites they’re still considered outsiders based on looks alone.

    I think there’s a powerful connection to Christ that can be gained by leaving one’s cultural enclave and deliberately becoming a minority among strangers. But that’s not a prerequisite for being treated with respect.

  17. Brian Kim says:

    wat erk me about May being Asian American Heritage Month is that there is very little visibility especially for students. During May students are too busy w/ finals and just getting out of school, that there is little time devoted for events to promote the month. I remember @ Michigan we did most of our events in the month of April.

  18. me says:

    @gar – my purpose in life is to make you a YouTube sensation…

    i’m surprised that video doesn’t have more views.

  19. channing says:

    I disagree with Jeff’s comments. I do see something fundamentally wrong when we divide ourselves upon race, economic status, education, age, etc. We damage our ability to see the world through different lenses and to experience other people’s lives and in the end we end miss out on the beauty of our creator. Can we force it on people? Absolutely not. But we should encourage it.

  20. James says:

    My point has already been made. While I agree that there are stereotypes, your Asian enclaves only undermine your integration into mainstream society. You can’t have it both ways.

  21. Tony Lin says:

    Just for the record, I only singled out Asian Americans because that was the content of the blog. But I do believe there is something wrong when a person of any race who lives in a multi-ethnic world has friends only of their own ethnicity. So white people can and are ethnocentric too, and it’s wrong. What I say applies to all ethnicities, not just Asian Americans. And like I pointed out, the ethnocentricity of EVERY race is part of the reason, but NOT the main reason, why stereotypes persist. I think we would all agree that if tomorrow every single Asian American broke out of their ethnic enclaves the stereotypes would still persist, racism would still be there. After all, ethnic minority only self-segregate because of the racism that was already there. (For a psycho-sociological view of self-segregation read “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” Interesting read though I don’t fully agree)

    That said, I still do believe that for Christians especially, there is something wrong when we as Christians say that we can only be good friends with people of our own ethnicity. That only people of our own ethnicity can truly understand us. If the Gospel is supposed to bring about a new community and new culture, if Christians are to find our identity in Christ alone (which is why I don’t fully agree with the “self” centered psychological view in the book I mentioned above), then we have to admit that there is something wrong with ethnocentricity(no matter whose “fault” it is). I think most people agree with that.

    The attitude of “It might be wrong but they do it so we have to do it too” has no place among Christians. That’s just saying that it was broke when we found it and we are not going to initiate the repair until someone else does. That’s how the world stays broke…

  22. > “Asian enclaves only undermine your integration into mainstream society. You can’t have it both ways.”

    @James: It’s not a matter of integration but of respect. There are no african americans integrated into my small all-white circle of friends but that doesn’t give me the right to reduce them to generalizations. Just because someone hasn’t done the work of meeting me on my ground and participating in my activities (salmon BBQ’s, electronic music, and yuppie coffee shops) doesn’t mean I get to make any assumptions about them.

    What you’re saying is good advice but it only works in the first person. I.e.: it’s advice that’s true when you give it to yourself but demeaning when you give it to others.

    @Tony Lin:

    I agree with much of what you’re saying but you’re talking about step 34 of a problem when we’re at step 8. Integration is good but there’s much work to be done in identifying privilege, acknowledging our own guilt at our abuse and anger at our victimhood, learning to appreciate the beauty of our own culture (and accepting that we’re permanently bound to it) and making decisions about how hard we’re actually willing to work to cross boundaries.

    So I completely agree with you that it’s a sin to bind ourselves up into tribal units and pretend that’s all God asks of us. But I’ve found that telling someone that they need to leave their comfortable cultural circles is a sure-fire way to get them to just hold more tightly onto that comfort. If you want to change people’s hearts you can influence them by living out the example.

  23. Erik H says:

    Could someone explain to me what’s wrong with the Wendy’s commercial? Am I blind or ignorant because I don’t see anything wrong with that?

  24. Steven Kim says:

    In 1995, Senator D’Amato of NY (Syracuse College of Law Alumus) was invited to speak at our law school commencement. His son was in the graduating class. The commencement was preceded by the notorious O.J. Simpson trial with Judge Ito on the bench that Spring.

    Several months before the commencement Sen. D’Amato came on the Don Imus radio show (a famous NY radio host/dj) and made fun of Judge Ito by mimicking him with a stereotypical Asian accent – they both proceeded to laugh throughout the segment in front of a very large NY Tri-State audience.

    The day after the incident my Korean law school friend literally came up to my face, totally incensed and indignant, and urged me and other Asian law students that we must do something about this. I, for one, wasn’t readily offended by the situation. I admit that I had developed a rather thick skin while growing up in a racist American society weathering and being subject to a slew of racist remarks. I recall getting into many “fights” and realized that if I react to every racist situation I might just end up hurt, or even dead. I learned to let it roll off my thick skin and bite my tongue.

    But, not this time! I would not be a silent law student – that would be quite ironic. The APALSA (Asian Pacific American Law Students Association) met with the Dean and urged him to “disinvite” the U.S. Senator. He heard us loud and clear and convened a forum for the law student body to discuss and debate over the issue. Over 100 students gathered to voice both sides. In the end, the Dean decided that it was the right thing to rescind the invitation to Sen. D’Amato! Yes, we DID something about it in a civil manner, and the rest of the student body noticed and praised the law school’s action.

    Afterwards, Sen. D’Amato went on the Senate floor to make a formal apology to the Asians at large and to the Syraucse College of Law community.

    From this experience, I was awakened from my own slumber of indifference to the overt and not so overt racism around me – it’ll never go away, but we need to face and address it in a manner that’s above reproach of our own.

    P.S. That Summer while interning in D.C. I met one of Sen. D’Amato’s interns. He told me that Sen. D’Amato was really upset at the law school for the “disinvitation”; that he was not really apologetic :) Oh, well.

  25. joelbrady says:

    I haven’t the time nor patience to read through all of the comments so i apologize before hand if i reiterate anything said previously.

    as i think south park has demonstrated quite well, stereotypes exist because they’re true to some degree. in the kfc commercial why does the nerdy, clueless, greasy haired guy have to be white; because that’s an image that most people associate with. is it correct? probably yes and no. i had a friend in boston who was violently attacked by a black male between the ages of 17 and 30…i remember another black friend of mine simply stating, ‘great, way to perpetuate the stereotype.’

    my point, the responsibility is twofold: we as individuals must learn to look beyond the stereotypes in everyone, acknowledging the fact that most everyone is far deeper than that; and that yes, each individual community has the responsibility to cultivate the image they wish the world to see them as.

    we expect this much for our own church community. why would we expect something different in our racial communities?

    as i white male, am i allowed to be offended when a black comedian mocks white males as having super-proper grammar, with an extra stiff demeanor? i don’t. i think it’s funny no matter how true or untrue it is.

    i wonder if some of our offense at stereotypes is that we’re really upset at how true they are to some degree while obviously never truly able to convey accurately an individuals complexity within.

  26. joelbrady says:

    “I’m tempted to swear but I’ve already met my quota for the year.”

    seriously? i get that this is most likely tongue-n-cheek, but this sits up there with pastors who don’t drink beer in public because they’re afraid of the perception. it’s just lame and inauthentic. again, sorry if this seems a bit off base, but it touches the idea that perception for Christians is more important than authenticity — yes, sometimes we cuss, get over it! at least, that’s what i want to yell.

  27. Steven Kim says:

    There is a huge difference between individual racism that exists in all of us and the expression of racism that is carefully and intentionally crafted to reach and influence the critical mass such as the Wendy’s commercials and the like in the media.

  28. joelbrady says:

    sorry, not kfc, wendy’s commercial.

    steven, are you sure that commercial was intentional, or did that guy actually have that haircut?

    don’t blanket assumptions based on past transgressions pose another problem that disallows reconciliation? sensitivity is most certainly key, but we can read insensitivity into almost everything…

  29. Steven Kim says:

    No, I don’t know for sure whether the hair-do, the tie or the words he used were all his – but, that’s not the point of my post. And, if you read my prior post I do advocate civility as the mode of operandi for dealing with racism that would hopefully lead to understanding and “reconciliation.”

  30. me says:

    @james: why not? why can we enjoy both communities?

    @erik h: what’s wrong w/ the wendy’s commercial? i guess you are right in indicating that there’s nothing directly or overtly racist or wrong w/ the commercials? but it perpetuates stereotypes because asians have been caricatured as “nerdy.”

    I will also add that if you only have x amount of asians in cultural expressions and this kind of characters comprise the majority, what does that say?

    what would it be like if the majority of the women you see on TV are portrayed as sex objects?

    @joelbrady: you’re actually asking if that guy actually had that haircut? that it wasn’t a character but he was playing himself? really?

  31. elderj says:

    You know I never really thought anything about bowl haircuts and Asians being associated, but that might just be my own obtuseness. And I think its funny that he says “awww snap.” Am I wrong for that? Maybe… I just was unaware of the stereotype.

    I think Asians will only get “respect” when they cease apologizing for being Asian, hanging out with Asians, enjoying Asian things, and creating rather than emulating the cultural forms of others. They will also need to stop being overly embarrassed about the things upon which stereotypes are based. As you know, there is no pure “L” sound in the Korean language which means native Korean speakers often have difficulty pronouncing English words with that sound properly. Is it right for white folks to make stereotypes based on it? No. Is it worse that 2nd generation Korean kids roll their eyes in embarrassment at their thoroughly “dumb” parents because they can’t speak English well? No. It is what it is.

    I have to deal with the stereotypes associated with Black people, and the fact is they are unfortunately based on reality, realities that I wish were not true. But I won’t apologize for being Black, I don’t need White friends to feel validated or appropriately “Christian” and I frankly don’t give a rip about how Whites view me. This is how most Blacks act and because of this, Whites respect Blacks much more than they do Asians.

  32. Bo says:

    @ tom lin: I’m puzzled why you find Jeff’s comments objectionable. He stepped out of his own “asian enclave” to befriend people of other backgrounds and carries these relationships with him to this very day. Is he living out the gospel less b/c his close friends are Asian? According to your logic then every Christian in America who chooses to marry within his/her race or culture has compromised the gospel b/c we all purportedly live in a multicultural society. According to this logic all ethnic churches also ought to close shop immediately. Perhaps I am distorting your views, but to assume having close Asian friends somehow makes one ethnocentric I believe is unfair.

    Yes the gospel offers a third culture but it doesn’t obliterate one’s first culture nor does it call us to. Early Jewish Christians continued to practice Jewish dietary laws, purification practices, and offer sacrifices at the temple post Easter. Even the apostle Paul does so. In Acts 15 Jewish Christians are not commanded to get out of their Jewish enclaves, they are ordered not to impose it onto Gentiles. Yes there is Ephesians, the magna carta of a new humanity of Jew and Gentile, but the canon also contains James, a decidedly Jewish epistle written to a Jewish church.

    Lastly (disclaimer: I attend Quest so I am of course decidedly biased) for those of you who know Eugene personally you know him to be incredibly ethnic. He fully engages in Korean culture unashamedly and publicly. Yet he pastors a multi-ethnic and inter-generational church and probably has the most diverse set of friends of anyone I know. All to say I see no reason why one cannot be bi-cultural. One can be ethnic w/o being ethnocentric.

  33. Jeff Lam says:

    like bo, i’m wondering if folks reading this believe there’s no room for ethnic-specific churches.

    @tony lin, @andy chang, i don’t think i necessarily disagree with a lot of what you guys are saying, especially since i think you guys are advocating for a truly “multicultural” church and cross cultural relationships. all good things.

    but i believe that leaving the “ethnic enclave” comes at a great cost, because doing so seems to require that you surrender your cultural identity to a significant degree. this is no small deal; one’s spiritual journey is closely tied with their cultural identity — a big theme in Paul’s writings. so it would seem that a broken sense of identity has real consequences on spiritual development. compounding this challenge for asian americans is that an APIA’s identity is often a communal identity rather than an individual one, so leaving the “enclave” prematurely can result in an identity crisis.

    so for me the bigger question is this: which is the “truly” multi cultural community? is it A) a community with a wide racial representation that come together in a big melting pot? or is it B) a bunch of smaller ethnic-specific communities of people who carry a rich and fuller understanding of their cultural identity, who come together to be reconciled with their identities still in tact? I don’t think either is the final, perfect “end” product, but the second option seems to be a step in the right direction.

  34. me says:

    @elderj: well, i don’t give a rip how you view me!

    you respect me now? :)

    @jeff, bo, et al: leaving enclaves. i support this which is why i invite the “white, black, and hispanic church” to leave their enclaves and join the asian churches. why does it always have to be the asians that leave?

    anyone?

  35. Tony Lin says:

    I think my comments are being applied to areas I never intended to comment on… I never intended to comment on marriage, ethnic churches, ethnic pride, melting pot vs salad bowl, etc.

    All I said, which I still believe, is that there is something fundamentally wrong when your world is multi-ethnic but your close friendships are mono-ethnic. So I think you can be extremely ethnic, married to someone of your own ethnicity, maybe even attend an ethnic church, and STILL have close friends of different race and ethnicities. I am all of those things and my best friends are not of my own ethnicity. My wedding party was racially mixed. Just like @Bo pointed out in Eugene. That’s all I’m saying. It’s the ethnic exclusivity in the circle of Christian fellowship that I criticize. I am proud of my ethnicity/culture and believe it to be a gift from God. But I also know that my cultural identity alone cannot help me know the fullness of God. So I fellowship with Christians of other ethnicities, not for some melting pot ideal (most social scientists have found that nothing actually melts) but precisely to learn from the cultural and ethnic perspective of others. We need each other.

    For full disclosure, my background makes me ethnically and culturally confused. I have multiple cultural-personality syndrome. So I’m different from most people reading this.

    But regarding @Jeff Lam comment about leaving our ethnic enclaves. I left my ethnic enclave and I don’t think it cost me my ethnic identity. I attended and pastored ethnic churches most of my life. Now I pastor a majority white church. But I don’t believe I have surrendered my “cultural identity.” Again @Bo singles out our host Eugene who is extremely ethnic but he has also left his ethnic enclave. In fact, I’m very postmodern when it comes to cultural identities less we perpetrate stereotypes upon ourselves. My children are Asian Americans growing up in rural Virginia with less than 1% Asian population in the county. They do not enjoy the “ethnic enclave” Asian Americans in San Francisco and LA do. But would anyone say that my “ethnic enclave deprived” children are any less Asian American than the kids growing up in the Chinatowns of the big cities? I hope not. I believe that however they turn out, that’s what an Asian American is…

  36. Sara Dein says:

    This is a slightly humorous, other-side to this. I live in China, my friend’s husband is an ABC(his words), American Born Chinese. She is a native of Taiwan. He and I are both 4th generation Californians. People here assume he speaks Chinese and get quite upset when he can’t.

  37. djterasaki says:

    @Tony: We live in such a privileged manner, being exposed in to so many different cultures/ethnicities in America (and in Seattle in particular for me). I think you and I would both agree that we ought to take advantage of that to further the kingdom. But again, it is a privilege, and somewhat of a modern, localized phenomenon. Isn’t it a bit arrogant to say that those living in more mono-ethnic settings who simply never had the chance to form cross-cultural relationships cannot “know the fullness of God?” I don’t think having a diverse group of friends is the crux of getting to heart of God, however noble and kingdom-oriented it may be. Your living in Virginia certainly doesn’t make you any less Asian American, but my circle of Asian American friends doesn’t take away from my personal faith either.

    Just my two cents, no disrespect intended.

  38. elderj says:

    @eugene – yup, I respect you even more, and I’ve left the “black enclave” to join the Asian church, specifically the Korean church, so I guess I’m good on all counts huh? :D

    Speaking of which, my journey into the Asian church and community has been enriching, and I cherish my friendships with Asian folks, but I don’t think that makes me a better Christian. In fact the temptation it raises is that of pride; pride that I have somehow crossed barriers and am ethnically aware in ways that others are not. Pride that I know the difference between samgyupsal, bulgogi, and bibimbap, and what gyochujjang is. (I’m making myself hungry so I’ll stop!)

    This pride is not unique to me though. I observe it often among people who are involved in very multiethnic community/church/relationships. It is a subtle superiority that they (we) have somehow learned something or are experiencing something inherently better than those poor country bumpkins stuck in their ethnic churches ever can. This pride is just as wrong, if not more so, than ethnocentrism.

    This whole discussion seems to me to hit a very sore nerve with many people, though the conversation is exceedingly civil.

  39. Andy M says:

    Not long ago there was a guy that Jon Stewart interviewed on the Daily Show that had written a book about how in America people typically live in communities that are similar to themselves. So we all divide ourselves by either ethnicity, political and/or social views, religious views, etc.

    Now I don’t know if the guy believed that it was a good or bad thing. He didn’t say either way in the interview as far as I remember. But it points out that we all do this. We all segregate ourselves, not even necessarily aware that we are doing it half of the time.

    The problem I see is that most people see the process of desegregating ourselves as conforming and compromising our distinct heritages to create a homogenous society. It is often looked at as an either/or. Either you be like everyone else, or everybody sticks to their own communities or ethnic groups, or whatever. But why does it have to be an either or? As Christians I see our place as the peacemakers between cultures. We learn to live in community with people very different from ourselves. We don’t want everybody to be the same, but we don’t want to be separated from each other. We learn to not just tolerate differences, but celebrate the diversity that God gives us in humanity.

    The last church I was a part of was an incredible mix of people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures. If we would have gone by the historical tendancies of the theological/social/political heritages of all the people in the congregation, we would have had all out war. But we were a close community, learning from each other.

    In a way, if we are limited in who we interact with, I think it could be said that we are not experiencing the fullness of God, only because the fullness of God’s expression on earth is when his people come together. But in another way, I would not want to say that they are not experiencing the fullness of God, because it implies that they are somehow deficient, and I would not believe that that is true just because they are limited in who they interact with. It could be said that we may not experience the complete and absolute fullness of God until Jesus’ second coming. It is a kind of “already, but not yet” way of looking at it.

  40. me says:

    @elderj: i agree. it used to be a source of some subtle pride for me in the past. in recent years, i feel like i’ve gained a more deeper perspective of the whole Church and feel “richer” as a result.

    but i will say that the most painful criticism for me – that i still can’t shake when i hear them even now – is being labeled as an asian pastor who doesn’t love or care much for asian people or the asian church – since i left to plant a multicultural church. it’s not the criticism that stings since i’m used to that but it’s the farthest thing from the truth.

  41. Erik H says:

    Eugene, I honestly always though that bowl cuts were more of a white stereotype. I had no idea that it was associated with Asians. Jim Carrey had a pretty good bowl cut in Dumb and Dumber.

  42. Wayne Park says:

    @eugene and @elderJ
    Here’s the thing; from coast to coast (at least from what I’m hearing) is that those who leave their ethnic (Korean) settings to plant cross-cultural or multi-ethnic churches are commonly labeled as “liberal” by the homogeneous ethnic (Korean) community (not all, but many cases).

    What surprises me however is that the criticism sometimes comes not so much from the 1st gen but actually from 2nd gen pastors of EM’s who label multi-ethnic Korean pastors as liberal.

    Dunno whether that distinction is appreciated or not, but it’s meant in a derogatory fashion, seems to me. It frustrates me that some EM leaders resort to that rhetoric of myopism.

  43. @ Steven Kim–way to go!

    @ all–I am an aspiring screenwriter who hopes to bring more non-stereotyped roles to Hollywood. My hubby is Korean.

    @ Eugene–thank you for speaking out!

  44. Yur says:

    Hi, i’m from amsterdam and i’m writing an essay about stereotypes. Im a japanese-dutch girl and i totally agree with you. It’s not that i’m being discriminated, not at all, in fact. But sometimes i just hate these stupid stereotypes they use in tv-commercials and i also don’t see the point in using them in such a ridiculous way. Well, that was what i wanted to say.

    xx
    (sorry if my english is horrible, can’t help it;p)

  45. Kelsey says:

    I live in Canada, in a predominately Asian neighbourhood. I get made fun of for being white here. People say I’m stupid, suck at Math and I’m lazy just because I’m white. It goes to show you: it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, if you are different from most people there, they’re going to make fun of you…it really can’t be helped.

  46. Chinkzo says:

    fuck a you! whale

  47. [...] his experiences with cousin “Chin-Kee,” a character represented solely by negative stereotypes of Asians and that can be found within American culture in the past.  In this regard, the author does not rely on imagery, and places a greater emphasis [...]

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I'm no fan of prosperity theology, prayer of jabez, or the anointed lure...unless it involves fishing. Then, I'm all about it. 
Bless me, Jesus! #DoublePortion Gone fishing. First monster bass.

Going offline to train for the World Bass Championships. See you all next week. Grateful. Enjoying a moment with my earthly father and my Heavenly Father. Road trip continued.
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my tweets

  • What would Jesus do? Maybe we sometimes 'overcomplexify' situations. Children and Jesus at the border: goo.gl/WRFS8a || 6 hours ago
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