Eugene Cho

‘i don’t dislike white people’

interesting title for a post, huh?  you’ll need to read on… 

i’m prepping to teach the next two sundays at quest church on the issues of faith and race.  each year, several quest members host a faith and race depth class.  i was unable to attend this class over the past summer as my wife wanted to participate this year. we had an incredible turnout and response.  so, over the next couple weeks, i’ll do my part to add to the conversation while teaching about stuff like race, racism, racialization, systemic evil, white privilege, prejudice, reconciliation, power and exploitation, intentionality, inclusion, and of course, the good news of Jesus.

i do have another agenda.  i hope to clearly communicate that i don’t dislike white people.  with quest becoming a little more prominent, i’ve gotten my share of interesting emails, blog posts, and mail.  couple weeks ago (just in time for these sermons), i received an email from a local Seattlite (who i’ll obviously keep anonymous) who was investigating our church via the web.  here’s an excerpt of his email (which i honestly appreciated receiving):

The point: while making great strides to reach out to the ethnic community, what about the white folks who make up the vast majority of this community (I won’t pretend to know actual %). Pastor Cho, your dislike for white people is really disturbing. You talk about “white privilege” and conferences being “so damn white”. DUH!!! You live in AMERICA! We are a predominately white country. If I were to go to Korea or China or Africa or anywhere else where the majority of the population isn’t white, would it make sense for me to complain about there being so many asians or africans everywhere? Anywhere else in the world I would EXPECT to be treated differently also (hopefully not poorly, but differently). I would’ve loved to come visit your church, but I’m a white male, who grew up in a white community, who has mostly white friends and co-workers. I just don’t feel like I’d be accepted at Quest, or at least not by you.

ouch.  there’s tons of stuff to unpack in that email but first of all,  i’m bummed that he would think he’d be unwelcomed at quest, particularly by the founding pastor of the church.  but if he reads this before this upcoming sunday, the next two sundays will be very helpful for ‘you’ and others to understand some of the issues of racism, racilization, white privilege, and why these conversations must happen in the church.   faith must engage the larger culture and the last time i checked, racism still provokes intense thoughts and conversation.   i promise i won’t ever say ‘damn white’ again!  although i’m pretty certain he and others may leave a little uncomfortable with the myth of  ‘America [being] predominantly a white country.’   i write this blog entry not to get folks to jump on the person that sent this email but rather to share the conviction that ‘we have much to talk about still…’  as we speak of the issues of racialization and prejudice, i speak as one who desperately needs to experience the redemptive and transformative love of jesus in my own heart, so that i may be a deeper voice of ‘reconciliation.’

but meanwhile, let me set the record straight.  share it with your spouses, children, grandparents, dentists, baristas, churches, neighbors, the IRS, and bloggers:  let it be known to the world once and for all, i don’t dislike white people. 🙂

Filed under: asian-american, emerging church, quest church

13 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. ragin says:

    pastor eugene, first of all, i want to let you know how much i appreciate all that you do to serve not only quest church but the community at large. i feel compelled to respond to this blog entry because of the nature of the initial email that, i suppose, inspired it. i’m not white. like you, i’m korean (although i was born and raised here in the states). i’ve never been accused of disliking white people. on the contrary, i’ve often been described as “the whitest korean person” that someone has ever met. i still don’t know if that was supposed to indicate that somehow i “belonged.” comments like that have perplexed me to some degree in my life, and i suppose that is one of the reasons i decided to attend this year’s faith and race depth study. i applaud quest for addressing an issue that simply can’t be brushed under the rug. in attending F&R 2006, i became keenly aware of the fact that although to some extent i might not experience privilege to the extent of “white privilege”, i benefit quite a bit from being part of what American society has deemed the “model minority,” and as such, i am in a better position to help those who are marginalized. i’m struck more and more by how easy it is to be comfortable in our society while so many near and far from us suffer (as demonstrated so clearly in your post regarding the congo). anyway, i’m rambling, but my point is that the issue in bringing up white privilege and systemic racism is not to point the finger at white people, but rather injustice. it’s about hating the sin and not the sinner. it’s about actively loving the way that jesus commanded us to, and not passively waiting for someone else to make the problem go away. god bless you, pastor eugene… and by the way, happy birthday.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I feel sorry for the person who wrote the email, because as a “white person” at Quest, I have never felt anything but welcomed. There have been several instances where I have been out to lunch or at a function with Quest people and have suddenly realized that I was the only white person there. But instead of feeling threatened or discriminated against, I have enjoyed the richness that the diversity at Quest has brought to my life, and everything that I have learned over the past year. I’ve made so many friends of differing backgrounds and cultures, and that has just made me appreciate the beauty that God has made in this world. Some of my best friends at Quest are people of differing racial backgrounds, and while I don’t focus on that in my day to day conversations with them, I value their varied perspectives on life. I wish this person would give Quest a chance-I am celebrating my one year anniversary at Quest in a week, and I and thanking God for bringing me here.

  3. Jesse says:

    I had the privilege of attending Quest church this Sunday for only the second time and had an opportunity to listen to Pastor Eugene preach on racism. I think pastor Eugene has noble intentions as to preach on a very touchy and political subject, but I felt like he did throw “White People” under the bus to a certain extent with his sermon. I think he made it very clear at the beginning of the sermon that he isn’t racist against white people, and I truly don’t believe that he is, but I take issue, with the way in which many of the issues were presented. Racism is something that I think permeates our entire world. It is all around us, and is not something that is limited necessarily to white versus everyone else here in North America or in Europe. The examples primarily used in the sermon were what the Whites did to the blacks through slavery, how the Whites in Europe treat their black soccer players, and how Whites in the U.S. stereotype Asians in general. His points are clearly taught to us in all our history classes, but I feel like if we are going to look at the problem of racism as a whole we cannot single out one certain people group in our community as being the biggest offenders. Take Indian Americans for example, they can be way more racist than any white person. They meet another Indian from a different part of India and they won’t even talk to them simply because they are from that part. Look at how the Koreans treat the Japanese. You mentioned this briefly at the very end, but they truly seem to despise the Japanese. Look at what is going on right now in Darfur. Look at what happened in Rwanda with the Tootsies and the Hootoos. Look at what is happening right now in Iraq between the Shiites and the Sunnis, or how the Kurds in Northen Iraq were treated. To me racism is everywhere and it is something that needs to be addressed and I think everyone is racist to a certain extent. I think it is good that Pastor Eugene is engaging this topic because I think it needs to be discussed. I agree that there is a thing as White privilege in this country and that racism still happens, but you cannot simply throw one people group under the bus like that and say they are living in sin through their racism, when we are all living in sin. I also feel like these people groups that have been discriminated against, never want to let anything go. Whites these days seem very careful not to offend anyone, to the point where they are afraid to label anyone, but the blacks keep bringing up the past and saying “look what you did to us”. Same with the Koreans toward the Japanese. Japan’s military is entirely for defensive purposes now. They couldn’t invade someone if they wanted to, and you can see that they realize they made a mistake and know that they can no longer be a militaristic country. The Koreans and the Chinese, however, are not going to let them forget the past, and don’t seem like they will truly forgive them for what was done in World War II. To conclude, I think this is a great topic for discussion and something that we as Christians must deal with. But in the end we are all, or have all been racist to a certain extent, we have all sinned, not just Whites, and we all need the grace of God to forgive us for our racism, and to help us to love everyone, and treat everyone with the same respect regardless of the color of their skin or where they are from. I think that next time, or possibly next week in your sermon, I wish you would use examples from across the board, that don’t single out one people group as being the biggest offenders, thereby alienating a certain group in your church. I also think that next sermon, we should look more at what Scripture has to say about these things and dive into that a little more, rather than looking mostly at examples from our history. These are simply my thoughts, I thought that your sermon had some very valid and good points, and I appreciate the discussion that your church can now have about this topic.

  4. TN says:

    Wow! The post-church sermon discussion was pretty powerful. The oppressed were grateful to hear the issue addressed in church.

    Thanks for having the courage of conviction.

  5. matthew says:

    Jesse,

    No offense, but what sermon were you listening to? I’m white and no way Pastor Eugene put the ‘white people under the bus.’ Pastor Eugene: thanks for the message.

  6. david says:

    i love that we’re able to engage in healthy dialogue on this topic in a church setting because the church has lagged behind the broader culture for so long, or worse, perpetuated systemic racism with reinforced segregation (e.g. emerson’s ‘divided by faith’).

    in response to jesse, i think your comments reflect a comment sentiment that often comes up at the faith & race class we have each year at quest- the question of “isn’t everyone a little bit racist?”

    some clarification on our definitions would be helpful. we’ve stuck with dr. beverly tatum’s “why are all the black kids sitting together…” because it is succinct and accessible while also presenting a (according to my brief conversations with those far more educated than i) middle-of-the-road perspective on race, racialization, and basic ethnic studies in america. basically she does a good job framing the conversation and unpacking terminology.

    according to tatum (who merely represents a broader academic consensus), racism- very simply- is A SYSTEM OF ADVANTAGE BASED ON RACE, or even more simply, PREJUDICE PLUS POWER. what this definition does is attempt to back away from the oft implied individual connotations of racism- the idea that racism occurs on an individual basis alone. too often our preconceptions about racism are associated with negative feelings about individuals- i.e. “you’re a bad person because you are prejudiced against ___.”

    but what the SYSTEMIC element of the definition implies is that it’s not so much about individual prejudices (which we ALL hold) as much as it IS ABOUT the SYSTEM which is already imbalanced to a degree. so although we may all hold prejudices, the real issue is the broader context in which these prejudices play out- the society we live in that is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “level playing field” (a simple statistical query in socioeconomic demographics or income stratification in america should reveal this plain fact).

    and this is why much of the emphasis on white privilege (see whiteprivilege.com) tends to dominate the conversation- NOT because whites are ESPECIALLY prejudiced or “bad people”- of course not. but simply because whites happen to hold much of the wealth, power, political base, social capital, etc. in this country. it’s just the way it is. whether or not this majority holding of the nation’s assets was justifiably acquired is a discussion that would take a very long time (though, depending on who you ask- say, the native/indigenous people who americans genocidally exterminated- the discussion may be shorter).

    all that’s to say- if you’re white, please don’t feel like anyone is saying that whites are bad people or are “more racist.” the fact is that we live in a (using the aforementioned definitions) racist (unequal) society in which whites hold most of the power to either wield with justice and equity, or abuse with discrimination and oppression. both have happened (and i suspect would happen just the same if another group of people were in the same position- which explains systems of racism in other countries as well where another ethnic group is dominant).

    am i making any sense here? back me up, faith and race friends!

    david (wordful.wordpress.com)

  7. anonymous says:

    Hi Pastor Eugene,
    I just have to tell you that I loved your sermon today! It was so good. I think everything you showed us, read to us, and shared with us was pertinent and real and truthful. Please don’t be discouraged by people who were offended. Remember that when we feel rejected for speaking truth, it is Christ they are rejecting, not us, and not you. It is your responsibility to teach us the truth and say what God wants you to say. It is not your responsibility to make us all feel good about ourselves and warm and fuzzy inside. I appreciated the emotion and beauty of today’s sermon. It touched me to hear the Japanese translation, because my brother’s wife is Japanese, and I pray for her and him, that they will receive Christ someday. Her family lives in Japan, and barely speak any English, and it just reminded me, that Jesus speaks everyone’s language and can speak to each human being personally.
    Please be encouraged today.

  8. Karl says:

    Just a quick note to piggyback on David’s post to those who might have had the same questions, concerns, etc. as Jesse. I’m really grateful to be part of a faith community that values these issues and that has leadership willing to bring them to the pulpit. it definitely is a difficult subject to talk about, especially in the confines of a 45 minute sermon. more difficult to talk about however, is the fact that for people of colour, this issue can’t separated as a ‘subject to discuss’ and is so engrained in life that it’s not a luxury to choose to talk about once in awhile, like it is for people like me who are white (i’m no expert, this is just info i’ve gleaned from readings, trainings and discussions with others who experience this reality). so maybe talking about it isn’t comfortable, but living it daily can only be exponentially more uncomfortable. pastor eugene got at it when he used the ‘backpack’ analogy, how white americans have a bag of goodies that include keys to access lots of things in our society (ie education, power, decision making, freedom from having to speak on behalf of your people group and to make choices as an ‘individual’ that aren’t judged as representative of your race, to name a few). these are unearned privileges that white americans are born with. it doesn’t make us bad people. the issue isn’t really good/bad, but acknowledging that there is a sytem in place that gives multiple privilges to people in this country who are white. i’m glad david brought in tatum’s definition of racism, because the difference with the examples jesse brought up (indian americans and so forth) is that those are instances of discrimination, prejudice, stereotypes, etc., while the system of racism in this country has been set up with that addition of power. so for 2 people of colour to discriminate against each other, throw racial slurs, be prejudiced is of course wrong, hurtful and demeaning. but,they don’t have the sytemic power in society to stand on. while in interactions between white people and people of colour, there is a power differential and imbalance that exists. over generations this has become part of the fabric of our society and influences every major institution in this country, from the educational, to criminal justice, financial, corporate…
    like it’s already been said, the issue being brought up is not to try and make people feel bad about being white, or that we are the only group of people that ever make prejudiced comments, actions, etc.
    it is important to come to a place of acknowledgement though, that privilege does exist and it affects those who have it and those who don’t. now the question becomes, since i have access to these goodies, do i pretend i don’t and that everybody has equal opportunity/access to them, or use that privilege to open doors for people without the keys, so to speak, work for justice that benefts everybody in God’s kingdom, and create awareness in my own communities?
    here’s a couple of authors/articles i’m currently reading for class that speak to some of these issues that might be interesting to people out there reading this…
    article by Beverly Tatum titled, “The Complexity of Identity: Who Am I?”
    and one by R. DiAngelo titled, “My class didn’t trump my race: Using oppression to face privilege.”

    this ended up not exactly being the ‘quick note’ i had planned, and somewhat more jumbled…sorry if it’s confusing, great discussion though, keep the comments, questions, and concerns flowing.

    karl

  9. Jeff says:

    hey p.e. — just wanted to let you know that carrie (and i) really loved church on sunday, and was really blessed to witness a churh talk about this kinda stuff. she came away with a big smile on her face, and she talked about wanting to get to know more people in the community, and i think a big reason why is that when we talk about these difficult issues in an honest way, it makes people who struggle with these things everyday, feel welcomed… so thanks for making her feel welcomed.

  10. eugenecho says:

    hey everyone: thanks for the comments, thoughts, affirmations, questions, and stuff…

    JESSE: thanks for your comment. thanks for coming out to quest and for taking the time to write. i’m sorry that you feel like i’ve thrown ‘white people under the bus.’ that certain wasn’t the intent and honestly, don’t feel like i did. i mentioned specficially that racism and our other isms are a symptom of sin and depravity. when people emerge into power (in whatever fashion), we often tend to use it to oppress and exploit others. when i speak of ‘white privilege’ especially in the context of the western world, i feel it is a very relevant issue and conversation. as it was pointed out on couple other comments, when i speak about ‘white privilege,’ i’m not saying that you or individual white people are racist. certainly, we are all prejudiced in some level but was trying to highlight the issue of a systemic or institutional inbalance. if you haven’t already,i’d encourage you to read peggy mcintosh’s essay on white privilege. you can access it here: http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html

    blessings and hope that continue to journey with us at quest.

  11. sunny says:

    It is very interesting article. however, personally I think that we should not judge people just by their race.this is my second year of being in Canada. i’ve met a lot of kind white people, they are considerate, obey time and helpful. but i do met some white people who discrimate color races or ignore their promises to you. i had one teacher who dislike Chinese people very much , she has serious prejudice on some of her students. In addition, some of them even do not respect color races. one time ,I called one guy (form his accent, i guess he is born here)to repair my heat system, he said he would come at4pm, we waited from 4pm until midnight, he even did not give us a call. i called him the second day, he promised that he would come right now.i have been waiting him for the whole day. he disappered .when i called him, he even did not answer me.
    people’quilaty greatly depend on their education, their experience as well as the enviornment they live in.
    i do not mean that people’quality has nothing to do with their race, but i strongly think that people should not judge one just by his race.

  12. […] i have been biting my lips and refraining from addressing rosie o’donnell’s pathetic attempt for humor in a recent episode of ‘the view.’  i was reticent because of a little tired of responding to emails that i hate ‘white people.’  it’s been kind of funny how people google certain words and make their way onto the blog.  if you haven’t seen it, you can see it here. why is it difficult of her or others to see that is offensive, racist, and demeaning? i love it when people play the ignorance card again and again. […]

  13. A broken hearted WHITE says:

    Your words on racism deeply touched my heart because I am white and I am suffering as a white person for my deep love for Asians! My home church in Germany prides itself having missionaries who help poor African people, who are weird as people, strange in behavior and expressions of faith, and so needy and poorly, therefore need to be TAUGHT! However, when I tried to communicate that I LEARNED so much from the Asians I serve, shared about their faith and dedication to the Lord as an example to be FOLLOWED, and that I ADAPTED to their lovely culture (as I live among them), I was ostracized!

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