Eugene Cho

was my blogpost racist?

Hey folks, I have a favor to ask. I’d like to ask for your honest (and gentle) feedback. As you know, I care deeply about issues of race, injustice, sexism, etc. But like others, I have blind spots and may miss the mark on certain things but I was honestly surprised at the several emails I received and the stuff I read via FB when my post was cross-posted on Sojourners.

Couple days ago, I sat down and wrote a quality blog post for the first time in a long time. Truthfully, I felt good about my convergence of thoughts that came together for a post entitled, “Why I’m Not Quitting Christianity” – in response to Anne Rice’s announcement to leave Christianity (not Christ).

In my attempt to be witty, humorous and adorable, I wrote this sentence:

First of all, I am a fan of Anne Rice. In fact, I don’t know of many people that dislike her. She’s a phenomenal writer and additionally, she’s gotta have some Asian genes in her. She’s 68 and ages like no other.

Again, my humor… Clearly, not intended to be racist (or sexist)  but since I do acknowledge that I have blind spots, here’s my question:

Was this racist or sexist?

I don’t think so…which is why I wrote it. Duh. But maybe I’m just stupid.

I’m open to learning…

What do you think?

Here’s some of the emails/comments I’ve received:

This is an honest question, and I hope either I can understand better … or if I’m pointing something real out, well I pray I’ve taken logs out of my own eyes. You wrote:

“…she’s gotta have some Asian genes in her. She’s 68 and ages like no other”

Is this different than suggesting Steve Nash (or whoever) must have some black genes in him, cause he’s amazing at basketball…

CPL wrote:

“She’s gotta have some Asian genes in her?” And this is one of her ‘attributes,’ according to the author . . . she doesn’t ‘age?’ Holy fifties, Batman. You lost me at the chauvinism and vaguely racist statements, dude. Not helping your case.

Another one:

I expect better of Sojourners than the “she’s gotta have some Asian genes in her” remark.

And I have to include one encouraging comment.🙂

Too bad so many fixated on the Asian comment and decided to engage in bashing. Eugene Cho is Asian, folks. It’s hardly a slur that he complimented Anne Rice on her youthful visage. He’s also a gifted thinker, writer, pastor and philanthropist. I know because I attended Quest Church when I lived in Seattle. He’s also got a sense of humor. Too bad you missed it.

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88 Responses

  1. dmbaldwin says:

    Okay now I’m not Asian. I’m 100% English so don’t tell me a joke on Friday night because I’ll start laughing about it in church on Sunday morning. You know how thick-headed us Englishmen are! Oops was that racist!?! Or just poking fun?
    I think we have to have some levity when we talk about our ethnicity. It does seem you guys do age better than us Englishmen. We may not get jokes as well as you guys. But we do like our tea and coffee!
    I think we need to lighten up a bit. Let’s celebrate and poke fun at our ethnicities! We can handle it. We’re big kids!
    Seriously I love your sensitivity Eugene, but this time I believe you’re in the clear.
    Blessings,
    Dave

    • Tucker FitzGerald says:

      Eugene/Dave,

      If I get a vote on this Eugene, my vote is that yes, your comment functions as both racist and sexist for me. Perhaps more specifically, it was ageist.

      Regarding Dave’s input: I think that humor has a massive place in exploration of race and gender (and age). Humor is a powerful, powerful tool, disarming and extremely prophetic.

      When humor gets used to shine light in dark places and speak out loud truths that we are all terrified to say, it’s a force for justice and growth. Irony and subversion are important here, and censorship of topics or vantage points only hinders the work.

      But humor can also get used to shield the speaker from criticism of the idea being shared (Hey, its just a joke). The specific term “lighten up” (used very kindly here by Dave, with a ‘we’ in it), is very often the specific phrase used to shame those wounded by humor. ‘Its just a joke’, and ‘lighten up’ both seem to be used almost exclusively to cement power to the dominant group / view point, and to alienate dissent.

      What we’re often not sensitive to as men is the enormous pressure our culture places on connecting womens’ appearance to their value. I know so many women pained by a lifetime of not measuring up in appearance and having appearance over-weighted in others’ assessment of them period.

      So in that sense, when talking about a woman’s professional giftedness and spiritual journey, almost any comment about her appearance seems to reinforce a painful paradigm.

      The humor that is so powerful for me is the humor that can subvert that paradigm, exposing it for what it is.

  2. mo says:

    I glossed over that completely till you mentioned it now.

    First response is: it would have been if you weren’t Asian.

    But we’re trying to get away from that kind of thinking arent we?

    So, well, yeah I guess it was, in that it was a joke whose punchline depended on an Asian stereotype.

    That said, there is something to be said about ‘lightening up,’ but that guy who wrote the satirical letter to Lincoln last month probably said the same thing.

    If we whitewash every instance of poking fun like that, would we end up living in a very boring world? I’m sure that’s what many people think…

  3. Michele says:

    Eugene~

    I read this original blogpost & do remember reading that particular line twice. Now, did I have a 3 year old who was screaming to the top of her lungs about a missing action figure? Yes. Was my dog simulateneously throwing up in the other room? Honestly, No-no, but he did do that later this week, but I digress…

    After re-reading the line in ?, I do recall thinking
    “Eugene is Asian” & so I do think that that gave it, & subsequently you, some leniency. Either
    way, the comment was not of ill intent & was actually complimentary, IMHO.

    When we look @ the line in context, you are speaking of being a fan of hers & are showing you & many others really like her. Some might argue that you went from talking of her work/statements to the aesthetics of how she physically looked. As a female, the only question I would have is “Would you have made the same comment of Anne was male?” If the answer is, yes: then “Ding dong, the h8rs are wrong!” If it is no, perhaps asking “why not?” would be wise.

    Either way, I appreciate & admire wanting others feedback. You can get feedback from me (a stay at home mom who is barefoot-yes, I am from KY!) & from everyone under the sun ’til the cows come home. As Mother Theresa said, “It is between you & God anyway…”

    Keep up the great work & keep your humor-we need more Christ-followers out there that can be themselves & give others a chance 2 smile.

    Peace to you,
    Michele

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Thanks for the question about asking if I’d raise the point if the person in question was a ‘male.’

      The quick answer would be – “Yes” – but I am trying to take in Tucker’s comment above about the ways that our collective society judges and values women by their outer appearance.

  4. Rick in Tx says:

    I tend to think the thought police are mistaken. I recognized the comment as reflective of your good sense of humor.

  5. Dustin says:

    I appreciate that you are seeking feedback regarding this. To be honest, when I read your original post a few days back, I didn’t even think twice. I considered it a humorous way of giving Ms. Rice a compliment.

  6. EC,
    You do realize the irony involved here right? That you caught flack from “Christians” over a humorous and benign comment in the post dedicated to why Anne was leaving Christianity. “You’re honor… the defense rests!”

    When we can no longer use general, complimentary and ultimately TRUE stereotypes for humor and breaking down walls with each other we take a step in the direction of a watered down and scared cultural-ism! Celebrate Diversity!!!!

    Of course, that is just my $.02!

  7. Justin says:

    I appreciated your humorous compliment–I think it does make a difference that you’re Asian delivering an Asian compliment; it *might* have been a little different were you to deliver the Steve Nash example.

  8. Matt K says:

    I was in a car pool to seminary with my white friend (who was the youngest of the bunch), and older black woman (and i’m asian).

    the young white friend says (paraphrase)… you guys got it good. you guys don’t age at all….when we’re old…so on and so forth.

    same statement, said by a white person, but… both the older black woman and I took it as a compliment…

    I dunno. sensitivity his a little high on this one…

  9. Nate says:

    Ridiculous. You’re statement is fine and was understood for what it was: a joke..

  10. Seems to me that the critics bring to light a serious issue. The big -isms ie racism or sexism that describe actions and motivations that have done so much to oppress, divide, demean and disgrace God’s children have evolved from unacknowledged to unspoken to some of the most powerful tools of rhetoric in society today. And recently, calling something out as sexist or racist had become so powerful that it often was invoked for a much broader meaning than oppression, hatred, exclusion etc.

    We walk on very dangerous ground when jokes whose intention and motivation are so obviously benign while real systems and ideologies of racism and sexism are so pervasive among us.

    If the critics would have said, “I, personally, was hurt by your comments because as someone of Asian descent, reading a stereotype discussed as humor really made me feel …”
    or
    ” I was offended by your comment because I too would like to joke about race but do to my own ethnic origin, society does not allow that and its not fair…”,
    those comments would have been appropriate (in my opinion), but calling out your comment as racist pulls back to curtain on how confused we really are.

  11. matt says:

    It was NOT a racist comment.

  12. mary says:

    First of all, I admire the fact that you’re seeking honest feedback regarding this issue – speaks to your character.

    I’m half Asian. And female. And I get told, quite often to my face, that I look young. When people are familiar with my ethnic background, this is almost always overtly attributed to my Asian-ness. In fact, I can think of several instances over the years when my Amerasian (part Asian themselves) friends have commented on how lucky we are to have those Asian genes for that ageless quality. I have never taken offense.

    Maybe that’s why I read your blog post and did not even notice the passage in question. I think the Steve Nash question one responder poses is interesting and worth thinking about. Maybe I should be more offended at the young-looking Asian stereotype? But the fact is, it’s true. And it’s true for my half-Asian brothers and male friends, so I don’t really see it as a sexist remark. I believe if Anne Rice were male you would have made the same comment.

    As far as the particular context of you discussing her work and then making a comment about her appearance – that remark should have been left out if you were writing a formal piece for a national newspaper, but it was a blog post. I think there should be some leeway for the level of formality. You were, as you said, attempting to be humorous.

    Those are just my initial thoughts. I look forward to hearing what your other readers have to say.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      mary,

      thanks for this.

      off-topic. hope you got the email from KH about the BBQ at our home being cancelled.

      hope to hang with you and your husband at some point. i feel like it’s been nearly a year!

  13. Matt Svoboda says:

    Eugene,

    It would be fair to say that I read your blog “critically.” Whether that is good or bad, I am not sure. But one thing I do know, that was in no way “racist.”

    This, to me, is a classic example of people looking for something to complain about.

  14. Tony Lin says:

    As a 100% Asian, I must say… the first time I read that blog I was like “What does Asian have anything to do with it?” I didn’t think it was racist or sexist (I’m hyper-sensitive to both of those). But I did think it was unnecessary and out of place. It wasn’t racist, but I’m sure you would agree that it was stereotyping, which is usually a good thing for us to stay away from.

  15. Not racist. We use our own cultural cues to process and sometimes those are misconstrued outside of our own circles. We also live in a culture where we have hypersensitivity when something looks like an -ism. Maybe it just stuck out to people because any comment on her physical attributes weren’t necessarily relevant to your response to why she’s leaving Christianity? Who knows. Some people like to pick apart ever little bit so they can call people out. It’s the nature of this medium, sometimes:/ I’ll still continue reading your work🙂

  16. So, I don’t personally have any issue with the comment, but I do think it raises a valid question: who can joke about what? If that makes any sense. I guess what I am saying is, if I (a white male) had made the comment, would it have bothered you? If the answer is yes, than maybe there is some racism in there somewhere, right?
    I think there are some similarities to the use of the ‘N word’ and how, in some circles it is ‘acceptable’ when said both some and not when said by others.
    I guess, I would hope that something either is or isn’t acceptable.
    Personally, I really appreciate all your pushing of the community on the issue of race, etc. because I think it is a huge blind spot for many of us and it is critical that we talk together about these issues.
    Thanks for the honesty and the willingness to admit that you (might have) made a mistake

  17. brambonius says:

    I don’t understand all this ‘political correctness’. Seems like the USA is much worse than belgium where I live anyway at those kind of things… But I fail to see how such a little complimenting joke is racist.

    I know a lot of people have bene hurt by racism, but this kind of witch-hunting will only make it worse… Loosen up people…

  18. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eugene Cho, Christian Ray Flores. Christian Ray Flores said: check this out Hey folks, I have a favor to ask. I’d like to ask for your honest (and gentle) feedbac… http://bit.ly/9hqA4x by Eugene Cho […]

  19. Tyler Mummert says:

    Eugene,

    I guess when we come to Christ and walk with Him, we are expected to check our sense of humor at the door? Your blog post was spot on! Don’t let a few hypersensative folks without a humor gene get you down! Just keep being your God infused self!

    ps. I am of German descent…..wanna grab a beer sometime?🙂

  20. cathysfiddle says:

    I don’t know what Ann Rice looks like or what age she is. Also I’ve heard black friends say “black don’t crack” but had not heard the asian stereotype mentioned before. So I had to pause a second before reading on. I don’t think of it as racism, just an off topic bump in otherwise good writing.

  21. JimC says:

    Trying to connect with and compliment someone are nice things.

  22. Tony Lin says:

    Another way to think about it is by thinking about the people you met in Myanmar:

    How would the 35 year old mother of 9 feel if she was to hear that comment? She’s 100% Asian but but living in a remote village while working the rice fields and fighting for the survival of her family has taken its toll on her body. She looks older than an American writer twice her age… You didn’t mean it that way, but the fact that you complimented her youthfulness implied young-looking = good vs. Old-looking = bad.

    (Not a hater. I’m Eugene’s friend, just trying to give some feedback like he asked for)

  23. Thomas says:

    I don’t think so. Your Asian, your allowed to stereotype jokingly as long as it’s your own race your poking fun at. Im Hispanic and the only types of people that are strictly forbidden from doing racial jokes against people of color are Whites. They have no right to. If your an upwardly mobile, educated Chinese, they are not allowed to poke fun at third world types either🙂 Christians who are decendants of imperialist empires need to tread very carefully

  24. Well, Eugene, being neither Asian myself nor female, it’s obviously not for me to judge – but it does not seem to me as though you were being either derogatory or patronising to Anne Rice at all with your comment; in context, quite the opposite.

    The comment was philosophically speaking a bit essentialist, but a.) that’s reading into it quite a bit and b.) I don’t think anyone who reads your blog seriously could come away with the conclusion that you were serious about it. After all, you have been quite adamant that we should judge choices rather than people, and from what I’ve read and listened to you tend to live that conviction fairly faithfully.

    And Tyler, if that’s an open invitation that beer sounds great to the Austrian in me. Even better with bratwurst and sauerkraut!

  25. Jeff Stewart says:

    When I saw that comment, I smiled. Why? Because it’s a true generalization. I don’t know how many times I’ve wondered why Asians didn’t show age like other nationalities. A very tame quip.

  26. michael mckee says:

    This raises to me what may be an even larger question:

    What has the knee-jerk kind of political correctness we see exhibited in this situation done to the free expression of thought?

    just wonderin’

    It seems like it might be a major disincentive causing thoughtful people to be more and more inhibited in their expression.

    just sayin’

    • Eugene Cho says:

      i get occasionally slammed in various places especially when my posts get cross posted. and honestly, i don’t even read the comments on other sites.

      this time around, SOJO tagged me on FB (which i don’t mind) so i noticed all the comments and in addition, i got couple emails from my regular readers whose opinions i respect because they “know” me and have some relationship with me.

      this is why – although – i don’t think it’s racist or sexist, i want to try to be open and teachable and see if this is a blind spot.

      • michael mckee says:

        Hey now, Eugene,

        When i first started talking with people in public ‘virtual spaces’ i soon realized that humor is tricky because the web is so multi-perspectival.

        Still, you’ve built a level of grace with your readers and if the comments in this thread are a good reflection of the perspectives represented within your blog community then i’d trust their discernment that it was clear you were attempting to add some levity to a charged topic.

        Good for you checking yourself out here, though, that takes lots of courage.

        Anne Rice seems to have allowed the lowest common denominator define ‘Christianity’ for her. Ill advised on my view, i try to encourage people not to do that.

        grays and peas,
        michael

  27. Melissa W. says:

    Hey Eugene,

    great conversation here, thanks for asking I agree with many of the thoughts floated here in the 100% not racist camp; so I am only writing to say this: please, whatever you do, don’t check your sweet sense of humor. Don’t allow your flesh and your enemy to conspire against you the next time you go to write something. Your intent is clear. The problem with the published word is that it can be misconstrued (or at least not easily clarified in an instance like this) and there will always be those who find something real or perceived to upset them. I think those who found it racist/sexist have good hearts and don’t like injustice (now who’s generalizing?🙂 but in your benign comments you can’t own their interpretations or reactions. I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, just wanted to encourage you.

  28. MikeK says:

    Hey, when I read the post, I thought, wonder what the context was for the comment on “Asian genes”? Her writing ability? Her relatively-slow aging process? Or what?

    So, I read it few times, and concluded- and I’ve never heard you speak before- he’s riffing right here as though he was speaking and looking at other Asians or friends of a variety of ethnicities who get this line. (I could be very wrong!) You were probably being humorous and it didn’t occur to me that you could make a racist comment or some kind of back-handed comment toward Asians. And, I left it at that: I wasn’t offended: I’m bi-racial. I’m good with it.

    (And a little naive: I started to wonder, Is Rice of Asian descent?🙂 And then I decided you were being humorous…)

    All of the negative feedback notwithstanding, and your transparency cited above, I don’t get why everyone got steamed.

    Run with what you brought you here. Thanks.

  29. steph says:

    PE, I don’t think you were.

  30. Frank says:

    I do have to admit that I hesitated for a moment after reading that particular line, but it wasn’t because of the mention of race, rather, I was thinking, “huh? what does that have to do with Anne Rice and Christianity?” But I do know you were just injecting a little humor into an otherwise potentially explosive topic. In any case, when Jason Williams first broke out in the NBA and used his flashy, playground style for the Sacramento Kings, everyone in the league and media were calling him “white chocolate” because he played like an African American. When I used to live in California, whenever a girl would throw it down (or whatever term the kids are using these days) on the dance floor at a bar or club, I would often hear an African American person exclaim, “daaaamn, girl, you got some black in you!”

    Of course, no one blinked at either the Jason Williams nickname or the comments on the dance floor. It’s no secret that Asian people tend to age well (hello, Anne Curry vs. everyone else on the Today show) and I didn’t think there was anything wrong in what you said any more than an African American person calling Jason Williams white chocolate.

    But that’s the nature of blogging, the anonymity of the web allows people to throw accusations around quickly and loudly without the benefit of face-to-face consideration. I doubt very few of those people would have the guts to walk into Q Cafe and yell out, “DUDE, Eugene is racist!”

  31. Bruce says:

    Not racist or sexist, imho – I echo the more encouraging response you received. It may well have somehow escaped some folk that you yourself have and are proud of your Asian ancestry (not sure how they could miss that).

    I’ve participated in various online written forums and it’s a medium that seems to have the capacity (more than others) to lead to disagreement and misunderstanding – especially on subjects that readers are particularly sensitive about.

    Like politics, it’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time. And if they don’t get your humour or insight, it’s their loss.

  32. the problem with positive or neutral stereotypes is you open the door to negative ones.

    i think anne rice has asian genes for a different reason. her sexually-explicit earlier novels reveal that deep down, she’s a hypersexual dragon lady.

  33. mo says:

    It would have been interesting to ask people to include their ethimnkcity and age with their response.

    “it was just a joke” is a slipppppery thing to base an argument on; some of the responses sound eeriely like.the arguments for keeping U of It’s Chic Illiniwkk

  34. mo says:

    Good grief that ending got mangled by autocorrect. that was supposed to say U of I’s Chief Illiniwik.

  35. Ben from TIC says:

    Thanks for this post and asking for honest feedback. That takes courage.

    The aforementioned statement didn’t strike me as racist. I’m Dutch. I’m not offended if someone makes a humorous remark about how Dutch people are tall. Yeah, we are tall. I’m average in Dutch terms at 6’1″. My wife is Korean and I didn’t get offended when someone asked me if she was my daughter at the grocery store (even though we’re different races and I’m only 3 years older than she is). It actually made our day.
    We’ve both made comments like “that guy’s tall and he’s a tow head, maybe he’s Dutch.” Or “I know he’s old, but he looks so young. Maybe he’s Korean.”

  36. Ryan says:

    I found it neither racist or sexist. Age-ist? Well, you were kind of giving a compliment there. It was humorous, but if someone did not know of your Asian heritage I could see their cause for concern.

    However, in regard to comments that relate to heritage or ancestry, the mouse Reepicheep from Narnia comes to mind. At the end of the Prince Caspian, Aslan has an exchange with Reepicheep about his tail, and whether or not the mouse’s concern for his tail was based out of pride. Was the Asian quip just an honest attempt at humor, or was your tail showing a bit too much? It’s a question I ask myself rather regularly (usually every time I post something on Facebook!).

  37. Kris says:

    I have not read through all of the comments. I am a women in her 50’s, and the sentence about Anne Rice aging well hit a nerve for me. The point being that in American culture (I won’t speak for other cultures), aging is not supposed to happen for women. Most of the women we see in the media who are “older” have all had plastic surgery, nips and tucks so they look more like a woman in her 20’s.
    So your comment that “she is aging well” hit a nerve. What exactly does “aging well” mean? Does it mean she continues to look youngish??? If so, why is that “aging well?” Aging well includes wrinkles, sagging skin, etc. etc. I don’t even know if the comment is sexist as perhaps men feel this way too???

  38. Kathy Khang says:

    Eugene,
    I don’t think your comment was racist or sexist, but I didn’t think it was necessary or necessarily funny. Age can be a touchy thing, especially from my vantage point as an Asian American woman in ministry circles.

    I’ll be honest. I don’t know you as well as some here do, but I do know from personal experience with you that you understand intent, no matter, how good, can get lost in our choice of words. When we chose to communicate through this medium, that is the risk we run up against and learn from.

    Here are some more thoughts: http://wp.me/pi2on-dc

  39. Cathy says:

    Hey Eugene,
    I didn’t find the commetn racist at all.
    I saw it as a compliment and a joke. Also a little bragging about yourself and your heritage. But didn’t take it as you were being racist or sexist.
    Thank you for taking the time to try to make sure your words and writings are not misunderstood. I truly respect you for that.
    Thank you for what you do.

  40. g says:

    Like others have mentioned Pastor E, I wasn’t personally offended by the comment as an Asian American, so myself and my friend Chong will not be making a sequel to “Silent Racism” focusing on your joke about the stereotype of Asians always looking young (haha). However, for those readers who are women and/or Asian, I don’t deny them their right to be offended. Maybe it cut a little bit too close to the fact that for some Asian American women, they have to put up with crappy treatment and never being taken seriously by others because of their “youthful” appearance.

    (Even though youthful looks are celebrated in American culture, ironically).

  41. gio says:

    Being Asian, I understand the joke. It’s a compliment, not an insult. Maybe people need to understand it through a cultural sense. Are Asians not allowed to make fun of that which makes them Asians?

  42. Not racist, ageist or sexist at all…It was light humor. And a good article.
    Political correctness has become a religion for some people who go out of their way looking for an affront. Not being a pastor, I can freely tell them to GET OVER IT.

  43. E -when I saw the headline about Anne Rice, it absolutely caught my attention because. like you – I am a big fan of hers. That’s why I was equally intrigued by your post and wanted to read it right away (one little click and I go the the center of Eugene’s frontal lobe…)

    I liked your theological comments and yet I am very sympathetic to the heartbeat of Anne Rice’s statement. You reminded me that the Christianity and His church belong to Yahweh and He has not forsaken either one.

    I saw your comment as humor and while I didn’t catch on very quickly – I did chuckle. And no – it was clear to me that you were not trying to reduce anyone with your comment.

    Keep writing E!

  44. Karen says:

    Not what you asked, but what I thought at the time:

    that was a mistake for one of the people who fought Zondervan so hard on that obnoxious Ninja book. Just seems like we have to be extra careful when we take a stand on something (especially if we win, as you did).

    Pax.

  45. your friend says:

    I think it is a problem with all of us having a slight DIFFERENT SENSE OF HUMOR. We are very diverse and so is our humor.

    Knowing you personally makes me appreciate your humor and also UNDERSTAND it the way it was meant to be, and I still laugh my head off, remembering some jokes, which you made years ago.

  46. Kris says:

    I also agree with Karen above re you were one of the people fighting Zondervan on the Ninja book. But unlike Karen, I don’t see it as a win or lose situation, but rather one of education and growth in loving others.) Anyway, the Anne Rice statement just seemed like a rather unfortunate statement given your previous writing about the Ninja incident and keen sensitivities regarding racisim.

  47. elderj says:

    Lots of comments here and my confession; I didn’t read the entirety of the initial post. That said, most folks here have said it isn’t racist or sexist and a few have mentioned that it might be a bit insensitive to womens since it talks about aging. I think another angle to think about this is to substitute the words. Your comment in essence brags on your Asianness using a stereotype. Because you’re Asian, most people are giving you a pass. It wouldn’t likely be as well received though if you were White and boasting about some quality associated with being White, ie, “she must have some White in her since she’s such an intellectual.”. Most people wopuld rightfully say, “what the …?”

    Aside from the fact that yes most people take thing too seriously including this, I think we ought to be careful of hypocrisy. It is easy to complain when others use negative stereotypes about us but then turn around and embrace those stereotypes we like or which make us look good. It dulls the edge of our credibility.

  48. Ann F-R says:

    Eugene, I didn’t read it and mentally object. I think it is harder to give grace when we’re reading others’ words, though. I’d guess that many or most of us have said things that we wished we could unsay, and writing something in cyber-space makes it that much more difficult to undo.

    FWIW, I’d agree that some folks may take offense in ways that we may not anticipate when we’re attempting to convey humor in written media (especially because voice tones, non-verbal facial expressions, & relationship is lacking).

    I do wonder why women’s looks seem to come up with more frequency than their character, decisions, accomplishments and competency in discussions that have no bearing on that subject. I don’t think most men wonder whether someone is going to bring up how their receding hairline makes them look older when they’re talking about reasoned decisions they’ve made.🙂

  49. Ken Harris says:

    I don’t know if someone has already said this, however, after seeing some of the negative comments, I would have to agree with Anne Rice’s decision to quit Christianity. I know so many people that “strain a gnat but swallow a camel” that call themselves believers I have to wonder, “Did you become hyper-sensitive before or after conversion?” The only advice I can give is that you smile, sit back and take comfort that, if they get worked up over something so trivial, they will stroke out and leave this earthly plane.

  50. Nick Pearson says:

    E- anyone who’s ever followed your blog at all knows this was an innocent (and funny) joke. Be affirmed bro. You’d be a less interesting writer without your sense of humor:)

  51. Daniel says:

    Eugene,

    First of all, this was an incredible post. You don’t even know how much this blessed people in so many places. People have been posting this everywhere.

    So, thank you.

    Second, I really think that people are making a wave out of a small drop of water.

  52. Susan Munson says:

    NOT RACIST. Please people. I think we all need a collective time out to take a breathe. I loved your post Eugene. Agree with you completely.
    Rock on!!!

  53. Keren says:

    funny that the thing i notice the most is your use of “that” instead of “who” because i was taught to use “who” when referring to people and “that” for objects…but i hear that’s a grey area in general. you always crack me up (your humor), so i never thought twice about your intentions…just assumed you were paying a complement to rice (no pun intended).

  54. Matt L says:

    100% not racist, but as my wife would argue, stereotypes are not beneficial to anyone whether true or not. Prob better to stay away from them, esp in such a public forum as a blogpost, imo.

    Hope you and the fam are well, pe.

  55. Emily says:

    I never even stopped to think about this comment when I read your post, it never stuck-out to me in any way but funny. I guess it did make me think a little bit, “Hm, Asian people do age well, how lucky of them! Great genes!” Although I guess technically that’s kind of a stereotype, it seems more like an observation of genetics that’s really complimentary, and that doesn’t strike me as racist at all. Sorry you got so much flak.

  56. Bryan says:

    My thoughts go all over on this

    1. I wonder what Anne Rice would think of the comment? How much does the listener’s take impact the conversation?
    2. Can a dude compliment a lady? I haven’t met too many women of any age or race that don’t like being referred to as looking young and looking beautiful (that’s my interpretation of the comment/joke. I mean, if you said that to Kerri, she would take it as a compliment and I would probably need to make a note to myself to keep an eye on you – ha)
    2. I think context and relationship makes a huge difference. Maybe your comments, for some, fell into the “we can use terms that friends/family use, but you wouldn’t say it to/around people you don’t know” category. For example, if you said to me in the back yard that my basketball skills and jumping ability are related to my white genes, I would think it were a whole lot funnier (and untrue) than if you said it around a bunch of people that I don’t know, especially if I were the only white guy.
    3. Would a spectrum of “racial” and “gender” comments be better than the nothing or racist/bigot/chauvinist extremes . There has to be room somewhere for racial/gender based compliments, jokes, conversation, between the extremes. Seems to me like all or nothing approach doesn’t work.
    4. I think people (especially white people) get really confused when people of other races/ethnicities use comments that could be considered offensive if they said them. For example, if I did Chris Rock’s comedy routine, I probably wouldn’t get on HBO. Same jokes, same crowd, but different “rules”. All that to say, I think you are allowed to say “Asian genes” though I suppose it confuses/angers people who don’t get or like the “rules”.
    5. I think it is a very complex and sensitive subject that these types of conversations help bridge.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Thanks B.

      Insightful.

      In fact, asides from the fact that you’re not a good numerical counter, your six items are actually a good outline for a potentially good book. You should look into it.

      You guys are missed…

  57. Eugene, only you know your own intentions, which from your post were not meant to be racist. If they were, it is highly unlikely that you would ask for feedback. What this post shows to me is that you are listening to the how it shows up in those who read your blog.

    Stereotyping to me is used for simplicity but is also lazy. Racism to me is used to control fear and is derogatory, which your original post didn’t seem to show. Your comment was revealing a common trait in the asian culture, one that I was not aware of, and attributing it to her.

  58. Larry says:

    Eugene, I read your post on your blog and read the controversial comment and the thought did briefly cross my mind that had someone else said that in a public forum you probably would have at least questioned the wisdom of making such a statement. However, I recognized it as a compliment to Rice, and as humor, and appreciated the post.

    That said I understand racism as prejudice plus power to make the group stereotyped by prejudice labor under the prejudice and always be judged accordingly. You used a stereotype and a prejudgment; Asians don’t age and white people tend to look old when they age, or something like that. But in terms of Race there was not power dynamic there as far as I see. Though I am also of the opinion that stereotyping in and of itself is not wrong or bad; especially when we recognize that stereotyping is one something we humans simply do and are hardwired to do, and recognize when we are making generalizations and treat them so,thus allowing in our minds and collective understanding for the exceptions to the stereotype. Stereotyping isn’t automatically racist nor even necessarily prejudicial.

    That said I do think the sexist accusation has more weight, because it touches on how especially woman do labor under the need to conform to narrow definitions of beauty that include remaining looking young. In fact your attempted compliment in part depends on this prejudice of our cultures (and many cultures) in which looking old is a defect one is to overcome or work against, especially if a woman. I can very much understand someone being offended because of your remark due to that aspect of youth and expectation of looking young for women.
    That said you intended a compliment, but there is perhaps a question of why such would be a compliment, and why it was something you felt was relevant to remark upon.

    Overall though I think it was fairly innocuous in the prejudice and stereotyping arena. At most a very minor slip up, that I don’t think reflects any intent on your part, but reflects the hypersensitivity of our culture, which has good reason to by hypersensitive about such things, but hypersensitivity isn’t a good in and of itself, but a symptom of other things that are wrong.

    That comment shouldn’t have detracted from the rest of the post, or even undermined your ability to be heard truthfully and fully.

  59. Without reading the post I would have NEVER thought you to be racist. But I did read it. And still know that your not racist nor was your statement.

    There are legitimate differences in races that really are funny. Not racist, but funny. And factual. The reality is that Asians seem to look young forever.

    I’m a while boy. So I’m not bias in that angle.

    I appreciate your racial dialogue. Very few are doing it. It’s needed in our culture.

  60. Rich Tatum says:

    Communication requires abstracting general ideas from specific experiences. When I say something like, “He’s about as level-headed as a two-legged table,” you understand the comparison and the irony because you’ve internalized generalities (stereotypes). Without such generalizations, we have a hard time getting ideas across.

    You utilized a stereotype in your humorous compliment. I cannot discern any malice in it whatsoever.

    It’s also true, according to the US Dept. of Health & Human Services.

    « Asian American women have the highest life expectancy (85.8 years) of any other ethnic group in the U.S. »

    The folks who raise concerns over your comment have subscribed to their own generality and stereotype — one that isn’t always true: Drawing attention to race, gender or age is offensive.

    Relax, there’s nothing wrong in what you said. It may be socially awkward given the current “politically correct” environment, but there’s not crime in awkwardness!

    Just my $0.02 worth.

    Regards,

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  61. Rich Tatum says:

    Nota bene: I meant no offense to two-legged tables when using them for humorous illustrative purposes.

    It’s perfectly fine to be a table with only two legs, and just because you’re not able to maintain a level horizontal plane it doesn’t make you any less of a table.

    I’m just sayin.

    Rich.
    BlogRodent

  62. Rich Tatum says:

    Sorry for the third post in a row, the source for my quote above:

    Asian American/Pacific Islander Profile

  63. Scott says:

    in this country, racism is assumed in most every arena of public discourse. i suppose it’s a healthy bias for a country that is guilty of a great deal of systematic social injustice.

    that being said, i’d venture two comments:
    1) your comment on aging is based on such a widely acknowledged observation that it might as well be considered fact. your only faux pas was not tipping your hat to political correctness–a simply abominable but unfortunately inescapable cultural phenomenon in this country.
    2) people who quickly accuse others of racism either incite rage or prove themselves to be fools. so when people judge you to be racist on such silly grounds, they’re both tactless and stupid–even if they are right.

    Loved you at TG. Will follow your career with great interest!

  64. T. Dalrymple says:

    Personally, I think we all need to extend a little more grace and spend a little less time and effort hunting for hints of racism. There are cases where racism is clear and needs to be pointed out. There are other times

    The reason I don’t find this particular comment upsetting is because it does not pertain to an issue over which there are racial tensions. If you had said, “She must have some Asian genes, because she’s smart!” then I would have thought it racist. As a white person who has lived in Asian-American communities for half of my life, I often do find an Asian (or usually it’s more specific: Chinese, Japanese, etc.) superiority meme. My Chinese-American mother in law likes to say that “Only the Jews are as smart as we are, because only they have suffered as much as we have.” And I saw the same attitude in the Chinese-American youth group I pastored.

    On the one hand, I wanted my youth to have a strong sense of identity and self-esteem, but on the other I didn’t want them to think that they were intrinsically better than others. When a minority group thinks itself superior, it’s problematic; but if (or where and when) that minority group becomes the majority, then it’s very dangerous.

    But Eugene, you know as well as I do the hierarchy of East Asian countries (with China at the top, then Japan, then Korea, then on the way down toward Vietnam and Cambodia), and the attitudes toward blacks one finds in, e.g., China. So there’s work to be done in rectifying Chinese attitudes toward race, just as there is in other communities.

    But no, I did not find it racist. Chinese do age “well”; so do those with African descent, for that matter. I assume it has to do with diet and habits, and perhaps genetic inheritance to some degree. I don’t think it’s racist to acknowledge differences between the races.

  65. Scott says:

    tim dalrymple??? what are you doing here?!!!!

  66. Nancy says:

    People who get offended are people who carry offense within them…your humor came through, and it was benign. I wouldn’t be concerned about that. I think your boldness may prove controversial in some other arena, some other instance, but don’t worry about folks who take themselves so seriously they see planks everywhere. The most you are guilty of is humor that flew over someone’s head! It was a wonderful article.

    • Karen says:

      Nancy, this is a fascinating comment:

      People who get offended are people who carry offense within them

      Do you really believe this? I would love for you to elaborate if you will.

      • msnancyks says:

        Hi Karen,

        It’s been said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Basically, I’m learning to take Matthew 18 to heart…I’ve been forgiven so much, I need to receive that grace and mercy from God, forgive myself and others and even repent for anything I’ve harbored against others. It’s incredibly freeing when I do it.

        I’m not condoning the wrong done to me, but I’m releasing the person from my courtroom and trusting God to take care of things for me. Then, I can breathe a healing sigh of relief. Otherwise, I tend to carry anger and and a bad taste in my mouth for things that happened long ago and things that happen now.

        I don’t want to be an offended person anymore. It opens the door to Satan’s temptations and puts my own neck in his vise. It keeps me from the deep relationship with Christ I long for, and sets me up for ongoing failure in my faith walk.
        ~Nancy

    • reJoyce says:

      I’d be more likely to say that people who get offended are people who carry hurt within them. There are certainly people who are always looking for something to be offended by, but there are also a lot of people who are trying to deal with the hurt of racism, sexism and ageism and react by being offended because they feel there isn’t much else they can do about it (in others). I think it can be a defense mechanism.

  67. […] my last intense post about ‘Death by Ministry‘ and last week’s post about my potentially racist and sexist post, we need to take a break on the blog. I’m pretty sure this won’t offend anyone – […]

  68. Dustin Cross says:

    Hey E…you know I have all kinds of love for you and as such, knowing your heart means I understand your intentions.

    BUT having grown up in an area where anytime anyone did something generous, good, or positive, the usual feedback was, “that’s mighty WHITE of you”, I can definitely see why your comment could be construed as hurtful or racist to some in a public forum as it even took me a second to remove my story from what you were saying.

    Much love bro.

  69. cyborgninja says:

    Racist? No.

    If people don’t know that the presence of some melanin helps to fight aging of the skin, then I don’t know what to say.😐

    When I read that comment, I giggled.

    After all, where I’m from, folks say “black don’t crack.” Is it true in every instance? No. But heck, scientists have found out melanin helps to slow the aging process of the skin. What is offensive about that?

  70. No – not not racist or sexist – just tenderly humourous!

  71. Bill B says:

    I speak as an outsider. I am not affiliated with you or your church. Just an occassional troll. For what it is worth, I am a 46 year old, caucasion male.

    I think people are correct concerning the fact that you are Asian and as such, your use of an Asian stereotype isn’t offensive. Comediens do this all the time and I haven’t heard anyone complain? The fact that you are concerned about the perception of your statement may be an answer to your own question??

    The bottomline is that a wise person chooses their words with care. Saying that, I confess that I do NOT have a corner on the wisdom market and this post is a good reminder of the power of tongue and pen.

  72. maki says:

    Sometimes people tend to be a little serious and criticize everything. Specially those sensitively people… well we all have our sensitive issues to some this is it. Anyway, I hope my blogpost http://evoire.com/members/shockware2/ is as big as yours and I wish I had the time to write as much as you do. Anyway, more power!

  73. […] shortly afterwards, I asked for some honest and gentle feedback about one little line I inserted – not necessarily intentionally but because I’m a […]

  74. David says:

    Eugene,

    I’m late to chime in, but I wanted to mull it over before I replied. I took your comment in the humorous way you intended. And the age thing–I inferred that you were talking about her writing, not her physical appearance.

    Racism and agism, I believe are like other forms of abuse: there isn’t a clear line; it’s up to the “victim” to declare. If I, as a white male had said it (even with your same intent, it probably would have been more readily declared as racist.

    We can’t get through life without offending others in what we say–nor should we, if we follow Jesus’ example. But we must always speak the truth in love. If that’s what we’ve done, then we have no need to worry about others’ criticisms.

  75. Michael says:

    1. It was a wonderful compliment to her…you were saying she is aging gracefully.
    2. It was a compliment to Asians in general because you were saying they age gracefully.
    3. You are Asian so you were referring to your own ethnicity.
    4. It was not a criticism of anyone.

    We need to make much of God and little of ourselves. Some times I think this over-sensitivity is a symptom of a culture that doesn’t have anything better to do.

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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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