If you read my blog, you know the situation that brewed this past week regarding the marketing of a book entitled Deadly Vipers. This past week, a few of us including Soong Chan Rah and Kathy Khang shared a conference call with both authors of the book and on a separate day, w/ some of the executives of Zondervan Publishing.
I’m always surprised (even now) how people respond to these sort of circumstances. Honestly, I wished people can see that we’re not trying to stir trouble, seek attention, or get extra blog traffic – because we have nothing else to do. There is genuine need to address these situations. The fact that people have NO CLUE that something can be offensive or hurtful is proof in itself that we still have a long way to go despite a caustic email I received this week:
“…But we have a black President.”
Right… (rolling my beautiful Asian eyes…)
Anyway, thought I’d share some portions from one correspondence and two comments I left on other blogs to give you something to chew on.
I’ve been really encouraged by our correspondence with Mike and Jud. It’s only re-affirmed the positive feelings I have had of them and their ministry. They are good people and I’m looking forward to growing our relationship from an acquaintance to a friendship. In a post-conference letter, I shared this with them:
…If you haven’t discerned this already, Asians and Asian-Americans are not monolithic. This is why you have acquaintances and friends that had absolutely no concerns over the books and it’s marketing. But I think it was also made clear over this past week that there are many people – both Asians and the larger Christian (and secular) community that found the motif, marketing, and images offensive.
I’m not writing to be repetitious. But I do want to share this aspect that concerns me most:
While I don’t question “the good” in your intent, you have to be mindful of how others process, exegete, and reproduce what you produced. (For example) While I know that the 2007 Catalyst video (music entrance) wasn’t your idea, I was pretty floored to see the Catalyst band usher you guys in with the “classic Oriental music jingle.” You might not be aware of this but that jingle represents for many Asian-Americans a jingle of mockery and oppression. I’m a fan of Catalyst and have a quasi-invitation (I think) to speak in some capacity at the Catalyst West conference in 2010 but had I been there in 2007, I would have walked out (not quietly) and turned tables. You may not have been responsible for the choice of that jingle but that’s how someone processed, exegeted, and subsequently re-produced (re-interpreted) your book. This is why I think “a sincere apology” is not sufficient. It may be sufficient on a personal level but not on a systemic level.
Last thing, I promise and this whole email are my thoughts and my thoughts only. I don’t speak on behalf of the others in this thread nor do I speak for couple billion people. In the larger mainstream evangelical stream: we really don’t have many faces, visibility, expressions, etc. Couple seasons ago: there were only 2 (if I’m not mistaken) Asian male actors on major television – 1 was a sword wielding English bumbling Hiro (Heroes) and the other was a native Korean, unable to speak English, had a past with abusing his wife character from LOST named Jin. (Don’t even let me get into the female Asian characters.)
My point: I’m not oversensitive but rather, I’m trying to be protective of (the beauty) of my Asian sisters and brothers…
As I shared above, I’ve been very encouraged by Mike & Jud and their posture in listening and while their desire is not to aimlessly react, I’m encouraging by some of the things they shared they’ll be doing in the coming weeks.
I pushed back a little on DJ’s blogpost entitled How a Conflict Played out on Social Media about Asians being more sensitive because of our shame based culture. Read the section about an older adult Asian dude calling me this past week and balling. No joke.
DJ: you are right that we have a strong shame-based aspect in our culture.
there’s good and bad things. one of the bad IMO is that we’re inculturated to keep things inside; not rock the boat; don’t bring attention; don’t dishonor yourself, family, country, etc.
IMO, we’re learning how to better express ourselves; not be passive aggressive; not be circuitous in our communications, expressions, convictions; etc.
because people in general (incl. asians) don’t like to stand out or stand alone, folks are feeling a little more empowered because there are actually faces and visible figures to stand with. let’s be honest…it can be a lonely place especially for asian-american christians.
someone called me and cried this week. this dude that i’ve never really met. asked for my number and he just wept. he had been filling “uneasy” with the marketing materials but couldn’t quite peg it and didn’t want to rock the boat. it was after sensing that there were others (incl “visible” leaders) that he realized he wasn’t crazy, insensitive, etc.
it was pretty emotional.
And another comment on DK’s blogpost entitled, On Behalf of my Asian kin-folk, I’m sorry. I know DK. Good musician and Good-er guy. I know what he’s trying to say and appreciate his post encouraging people to be ‘Bridge People” but I let him know that he doesn’t need to apologize for me:
asians are not monolitic so we need to be careful about the ‘i apologize on behalf of the asian-community’ speech. you are welcome bro to apologize for yourself. while there’s certainly some validity to the things you shared, writing what you shared (indirectly) minimizes the hurt of many and places the focus (err blame) back on Asian-Americans.
i have much respect for mike and jud. brothers. co-laborers. for sure.
but when you see genuine pain for some of the a-a community, it stings.
someday, when your beautiful son is called a chink, a gook, or asked to go home, be angry and turn tables.
(i can’t promise but i’ll try) but if someone punches me, i’ll try to turn the other cheek. you hurt my wife or kids, oh snap… it’s on. (i refuse to turn their other cheek.)
bridge people = good stuff. but every now and then, we have to examine the structures of those bridges.