Eugene Cho

in defense of the ‘nice white lady’

0I really hope no one gets offended – especially some of my ‘nice white lady’ readers. I certainly appreciate you and showing this video isn’t intended to be offensive but it’s just too funny not to share.

It’s funny because this is the plot of most Hollywood films in this feel good genre. Check it out and tell me you didn’t laugh just a little:

And while the video is funny, there are some important points to elevate:

  • In the big picture, it’s not about the nice white lady…it’s about those with power, privilege, and opportunities and how we share them with others to empower…  Many of us who are reading this likely fall under “the have’s” rather than the “have not’s”
  • Go ahead and make fun but there’s something very beautiful, compelling, and biblical – about leaving comfort and familiarity to enter into the stories of others.  And in our world of hyper info, data, and social networking, more and more people are falling in love with the idea of loving and serving our neighbors…than actually loving and serving our neighbors.

Other thoughts to ponder:

  • It’s not just about the nice white teacher. It’s about the students. Young women and men that need opportunities; need to be lovingly challenged and encouraged; need folks to believe and invest in them.
  • The frustration is when we exclusively elevate the nice white lady when we should be praising so many of our educators in our society. Remember this post I shared earlier about the power of stories and in that case, Lindsay’s story from Deidox Films:
  • But let’s be real…No need to knock on the nice white lady. There were a few nice white ladies that were great teachers and influences in my life: Ms. Romano and Ms. K come quickly to mind. But there were also many other teachers that shaped and influenced my life and so if anything, I want to thank all you teachers and educators who invest in the lives of our young women and men.

Some that come to my mind from our church community: Jeff Lam, Carrie Sekijima Lam, Garrett Chan (honorary member via this blog), Lenora Lee, Cyra Mangan Benedict, David Leong, Bo Lim, Kim Schultz, Rebekah Kim, LaVerne Chen, Erica Anderson, Michael Ko, Ralph and Marilyn H., Eric Long, Baine Craft, Karen Quek, Matt & Roxy H., Samuel Song, Lorna R.Follstad, etc. (and all of our youth & children’s ministry teachers).  Who am I missing?

You and others all deserve a raise, a good summer vacation, and your own Hollywood film…or skit.

So, in honor of teachers and educators, I invite you to share about someone who positively influenced you.

Who and why?

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16 Responses

  1. Eugene, thanks so much for posting this. I am re-entering education after six years in ministry and freelance writing. I hope to get a job in a lower-income district where I can really see the difference I’m making. Being a teacher is really hard, and I got discouraged too easily my first go-round. Pray that I can stay the course.

    And yes, I could give a shout out to so many teachers, but I especially want to honor Dennis Wachter, my 7th grade math teacher, who made me believe in myself during a very difficult time, and Rebecca Miller, my college voice teacher, who believed in my ability to sing when I was plagued by performance anxiety.

  2. Also, it took me a while to download the HD video of the real teacher, but it was well worth it. Very inspiring. I am waiting to hear back on a teaching job today and on pins and needles.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I laughed at the first video. It exaggerates the stereotype to make a point, and it’s funny. But I wish Jessica was here (Jess, are you reading from Rome?) because I remember her talking about how its offensive to laugh at racial stereotypes that are trying to be funny. I’m really trying to understand that point of view because I don’t want to laugh if it means standing with those who promote a subtle racism…and yet, this video, full of racial stereotypes, is funny.

    My fav line: I am a white lady. I can do anything.

  4. la v says:

    this video was pretty funny to me. satires all the michele pfeiffer/hilary swank/meryl streep movies which are all inspirational, but i’m sure all only show half the battle. one of my most inspirational teachers was mr. yang, in 5th grade. my first male teacher, and first chinese-american teacher at that. he broke so many stereotypes for me- not just of the nice white lady teacher thing (all of my teachers previous had been nice white ladies)and not because he was a great teacher- funny, smart, really cared about his flock. but he also showed me a different kind of older, asian male that seemed to thrive in a setting where you don’t normally see 50 year old chinese guys. even as a 10 year old, i found that pretty empowering.

  5. gar says:

    Thanks for the shoutout. ;)

    “look at you, in your sweater vest and adorable pattern blouse…”

    Funny stuff, but I like your comments, Pastor E. There are a lot of “nice white lady” teachers that have my respect, both people that were my teachers as a kid, and people that I work with. Anybody who steps out of their place of privilege and power to genuinely care and invest in kids is to be admired…

  6. Pam says:

    Eugene, thank you for this post. Yes, the first video was funny, but it also made me think. Thank you.

    For me, the teacher that made a difference was Connie Jones. I suppose she would been called a Special Needs teacher or a Reading Specialist, but in the 70’s, when schools were just figuring out how to integrate those of us with learning disabilities, she was called a Tutor. Connie taught me how to read, write and spell, but much more than that she taught me that I was smart, capable and special, when other voices (including other teachers) were telling me that I was stupid and lazy. It was because of Connie that I graduated from college and intend to pursue my Masters. After 25 years, I was recently able to tell her thank you. Her response? “I can’t wait to hear what you will do next!” Thank you, Lord, for real teachers.

  7. I know none of you know me, but….I am very sad because I was not selected for that teaching job. I really feel I could have made a difference. I am heartbroken.

  8. Eugene Cho says:

    @elena: i’m sorry to hear the news. it’s obvious this was something that meant a lot to you.

    you are in my prayers today.

  9. [...] saw a couple of people link to the “Nice White Lady” video. Here’s Eugene Cho’s take. I found it pretty amusing! I’m also a fan of Nicole Parker and have fond memories of our day [...]

  10. eliseanne says:

    oh man. that video…left me with a tangle of responses.

    1. Eugene, you say the frustration is with not lifting up educators. I agree, but…. I think my frustration is that we see the teacher as some amazing person, to reach down and pull up the teens, when we don’t see the teens as amazing people until they interact with that teacher. Troubled inner-city teens are fully capable of excelling, but are not given opportunities because of underpaid, overstressed teachers, overcrowded classrooms, lack of books and other resources, troubles at home, life crises, poor nutrition, etc. In this satire video and in the real ones, it is always as if the amazingness of the teacher rubs off on to the students in the classroom – not that they are amazing to begin with, and are not just having the venue and opportunity to let it shine and grow.

    2. I still definitely agree that we need to praise those teachers who do go the extra mile, fight to be motivated and inspire, etc. Because it sure is easy to quit on teens or anyone with issues. But most teachers aren’t trained well enough to work in an urban or low-income setting and to handle the unique stresses.

    3. The phrase “benevolent oppressor” comes to my mind also, or “white savior complex.” So yes we need to thank the nice white ladies, but what are their subconscious motives? You brought up the power differential which I think is key in this discussion. Do the teachers realize that they need the students, not just the students need them?

    I definitely am going to mull over this one some more. Thanks!!

  11. czarthoughts says:

    HHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!! That was hilarious! “I’m a white lady, I can do anything!” HHHAAA!!!!

    For me, it was Michael J. Cuba – my Chem teacher in 10th grade and Quantitative Analysis teacher in 11th grade. He inspired me to excell because he never wrote “excellent” on a paper if you got 100%, he wrote “satisfactory” because in his mind you learned everything on the test so to be able to answer them all correctly was not remarkable – it was satisfactory. Then he’d give you an additional 5% points for the test.

  12. elderj says:

    I had several teachers that made an impact but none were in the “nice white lady” mold. In fact those teachers were the ones I most resented and who were least helpful to me. I cannot make judgments about others here, but I was one of those “inner city minorities” about whom such movies are made, and I can assure you, it is no kind thing to be treated as a special project, though I in no way fit the stereotype.

    That “leaving comfort and familiarity to enter the stories of others” sounds nice except that it implies condescension, and that is often exactly how it is experienced on the other end. I cannot tell you how many times teachers tried to give my siblings “enlightening” experiences by exposing us to things that they supposed were new to us, as if we lived in some deep dark cave without access to the outside world. Or how many teachers assumed (without inquiry) that my family was impoverished, or without a father in the home, or abusive, or any number of other contrived stereotypes, which ultimately led their treating us and others as less responsible for our behavior and academic performance.

    Underneath every (usually) white middle class suburbanite teacher (usually female) that taught in our neighborhood schools was an unconscious racist who allowed her assumptions about us, and about herself to overly influence her expectations, teaching style, and activities.

    The best teachers I had were those for whom my race and zip code were incidental. They didn’t give pep talks and they didn’t grade on a curve. They treated us like individuals and saw nothing especially noble in teaching (it isn’t particularly noble… its a job, one that pays decently for the amount of education required and which comes with good benefits and nearly ironclad job security), but saw that their responsibility was to teach well, to make us learn. Incidentally, the teachers that did this the most consistently and best happened to be Black, though I knew quite a few crappy Black teachers too.

  13. dmowen says:

    Funny video. And convicting. “more people are falling in love with the idea of loving and serving our neighbors…than actually loving and serving our neighbors” I definitely struggle with the “white man’s burden”. I think it mostly comes from a place of good will but our inability to see things from others perspective leads to misunderstanding on both sides and harm. (the Iraq war comes to mind). Paternalism and benevolent empire are tempting concepts for me. The challenge I guess is to balance sense of duty to God with respect for others’ autonomy.

  14. One of my favorite teachers growing up was my 5th grade teacher Ed Hootstein, who also was the 5th grade basketball coach. I played on the team that year, and I remember at the end of the year he gave out a bunch of awards to the students in the class, and I had just assumed the awards would be connected to basketball (quite a few of us on the team were in his class) or some other athletic achievements… there were several of those, but there were also awards that highlighted things about us that maybe our other classmates would not have known or cared about. I still remember the award that I got, the Traveling Man Award (looking back, I’m wondering if I traveled with the ball too much!) because my family was known, among other things, for taking car trips. The award consisted of a desk-sized Winnebago. =)

    I too laughed at the video, and I’ve seen the movies that it parodies… it’s actually one of the reasons why I’m working on my own screenplay about a teacher (though it, like many of my projects, is on the way-back burner).

    But I can attest to the power of nice white ladies… I married one, and I can tell you first hand… when she puts her mind to it, she CAN do anything. =)

  15. diane says:

    lots of thought, e.. i have spent my life pouring into others as a nice white lady.. what else is there to do in the American homogeneous evangelical top-down-oriented church?.. Pray & model lateral empowering community as God brings redemption & reformation..Soon-Chan Rah’s book has me wondering the future of nice white ladies!..My Choice: Mr.Wolf, h.s.shop teacher/encourager – which not many nice white girls did in the 70s be4 title 9…

  16. Eric Blauer says:

    gar says: “Anybody who steps out of their place of privilege and power to genuinely care and invest in kids is to be admired…”

    That sums it up for me too.

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One Day’s Wages

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Today is the last day of my 3 month sabbatical. That went by so fast... On the first day, our family went to Santa, Cruz, California. The first thing we did after we arrived at the San Jose airport was to go straight to In-N-Out. If these kids grow up and feel like they need counseling because their Dad didn't show them love, I'm gonna show them this picture as well and say, "I'VE GOT PROOF. I TOOK YOU TO THE BEST BURGER JOINT WITH NICE CHRISTIAN VERSES UNDER THE DRINK CUP." My prayer life always becomes a little more active when I go fishing. #NameItAndClaimIt #ComeOnSalmon Seattle. Home, sweet home. And home of the Super Bowl champions. Thank you, New York and NJ. You're beautiful. Appreciate your warmth & hospitality. Morning hike. My features over at @miir are hosting a book.giveaway + their world.class  tumblers. "Hot off the press! Eugene Cho, founder of @onedayswages, has a new book titled Overrated that will challenge you to actually change the world. We've got two signed copies to give away. Like this post AND tag a friend for your chance to win both copies and #MiiR tumblers."

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