the fact is we are all biased and prejudiced; all depraved [and beautiful] and jacked up. we’re certainly all ‘racialized’ in many ways. long story short, i’ve been following some drama with the folks at Youth Specialties (Zondervan) over a book published by YS called, skits that teach. well, one of the skits is outright racist as it parodies asians. and yes, this is supposed to be educating the youth of america. i re-posted the above video entitled, ‘silent racism’ because it is so appropriate. it was created for an assignment during our church’s 2006 faith and race class. for me, it speaks so much to the systemic racism that exists and how we’re all guilty and must seek to see the beauty and dignity God gave to each person, each tribe, and each ethnicity.
a good friend, soong-chan rah, was providing some leadership with this situation. soong chan is a former pastor in cambridge, professor at north park seminary in chicago, and was my host when i visited the seminary as the pastor in residence in early february.
after i learned about this, i wrote this brief email to the president of YS, mark oestreicher, who i’ve crossed paths with in the small world of the emerging church world.
i read your comment on scrah’s blog. i know that this must be a difficult situation for you and youth specialties.
i can acknowledge that a simple mistake was made by the publishers of YS and this somehow just fell through the crack. some people will be able to move on and others can’t. what i would like to ask you to understand is that for me and pretty much any other minority, this isn’t about one book, one error, one issue–it’s not about one thing – it’s about much much more.
and so, my hope is that you, as one of the main leaders of a major publisher can see how the ‘white view’ dominates anything and everything – including within the church. while it’s good for you to ask people to extend grace, my genuine request from you is courage to see things from a different worldview.
blessings to you mark.
i was very encouraged at the response from mark in their public apology to the asian community which is posted not only on his personal blog but on the homepage of the YS website. there are some other steps that will be taken to ensure that this is a learning experience for all of us – and not merely a one time event. mark wrote:
we at youth specialties really screwed up. big time. i’m ashamed and embarrassed and horrified (and fairly angry, also), and i personally beg the forgiveness of our asian american christian brothers and sisters. i write as an individual christ-follower with responsibility for the systems in our organization which allowed for this offense; and i write as a spokesperson for youth specialties, apologizing on behalf of the whole organization.
in the fall of 2006, we published a book called “skits that teach.” the book contained a skit with a “chinese delivery man” character whose characterization – and, particularly, whose phonetically-spelled accent – was horribly, inexcusably, and unquestionably racist. that this content would appear in a youth specialties book has kept myself and others at ys sleepless this week – not only in our efforts to correct the problem, but in our sorrow over our addition to the prejudice perpetrated against asian americans. if there is ANY place we should expect an exception to the cultural norms on this kind of prejudice, it should be in the church. this kind of racism (intentional or not – that is not at issue here) goes against everything we believe here at ys. [click here to read the full apology]
Mark, thanks for the apology. From this person, it is accepted and I look forward to discussing the couple additional suggestions I made. Soong-Chan, thanks for your leadership in this situation. Quest and I look forward to your visit in the Fall. To my Asian colleagues in ministry: this is not a time to be passive. This is a time we must speak up – not simply for ourselvs but for others as well. To my tribe at Quest: love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly. Let’s learn how we can better walk the walk.
for those interested, here are some other relevant posts on issues of prejudice & racism: