Today I received and accepted Pastor Rick Warren’s apology. Many do not consider it an apology because it lacks “I’m sorry I offended a large part of the population.” Many have emailed me and told me so. Well, as a Christian, I wish to extend grace and assume the best of my brother. I’m not going to get too specific on the semantics. If you wish to see the original event, it’s still on my previous blog. I think it speaks volumes about him. I must admit that I didn’t expect a personal apology stated publicly on my blog. For that reason, I want to leave the blog up for historical record to show that a good man is good not because he is right all the time but because he owns up to this mistakes. I think he’s doing the best he can in his response. Whether Pastor Rick wants to apologize in his public Facebook so that healing can start is up to him. Of course, I’m still a bit confused about the joke in the original post, but that’s another matter that should be put to bed with the sleeping dogs.
I think we can all learn a lesson from this event. I told numerous friends that I’ve lost respect for the pastor until he actually apologized. I think I’ve regained some respect, but the hurt does not go away easily. You see, our corporate memory as Asian-Americans and our disadvantages in this society go well beyond what Pastor Rick said.
As an Asian-American immigrant, I’ve grown up hearing stories (heroic stories) about how my ancestors were warriors and politicians in the Ch’ing Dynasty. As a Christian Asian-American, I’ve fed on the milk of heroic tales from the Cultural Revolution, one of which features my mother who now lives in Northern California. You see? She escaped the rape of Japanese soldiers (my mom was quite attractive) only to be arrested and tortured by the Chinese soldiers (I guess a slightly better alternative). They denied her medical care for her injuries, and made her work in the fields. Yet, someone within the party was gracious enough after seeing her good Christian behavior to care for her on the side. This is my narrative. As for my warrior-aristocratic ancestral land, it has long been confiscated by China to be a tourist spot now (yes, I heard this before my dad passed). I’m proud of my heritage, and I’m almost “white.”
You see? Most of us came to this great country called America, not wanting to make trouble but not without our own painful narrative. Some of us have come from the killing fields of Vietnam and Cambodia. Others of us came from other equally painful places. My wife immigrated to US the day US cut ties with Taiwan in favor of diplomatic relations with China. Just like any immigrant group, whether it is the Irish, Italians, Germans, Jews or now the Mexicans (and the blacks of course, but they really didn’t want to come in the first place), we didn’t come to the US by our own choice. If we would’ve had a better life in the motherland (and if i had my own estate back), we would never come over here to be called “Micks, Wops, Krauts, Kikes, Spics, Chinks etc.” I even had a coach/teacher call me a chink once in high school (let alone the many times my fellow students calling me that name like drinking water). Why else did we immigrate? As we heard about the great melting pot from faraway, we came to participate in an ideal and a great society as well as to make a better future for ourselves and our children. Does anyone realize that most of us Americans are immigrants? Only the Natives are native. Thus, the idea of making fun of one group at the expense of a joke becomes greatly hurtful to us and to all who have their own narratives from their native lands. The hurt goes beyond the joke because the comments themselves defecate on important parts of world history, history that has touched us deeply and personally, stuff that doesn’t even get taught in the US textbooks. Each of us bring part of world history with us. To trivialize such is to spit on the melting pot.
As I see the mess that is our diplomatic relations, I can’t help but see the greater problem of not being able to learn from the narrative of others in this country so that we repeat the same old mistakes. We wonder why other countries hate us. Well, please wonder more about why many minorities feel bitter first before you ponder greater global issues because these issues are tied together hand in glove locally. America can be a great land if we start learning from the deeper and broader world narrative each immigrant brings instead of saying, “If you don’t like it here, go to hell.” This brings me back to why the joke sparked such an outrage. I know Pastor Rick wouldn’t mind me talking about it because it is not about him (well, ok, it’s a little bit about him since he started the ball rolling), it’s about the whole phenomenon of ASIAN rage.
My good friend Dr. Tim Tseng who actually specializes in religion and Asian studies commented that it sure takes a lot to piss off Asians, but when they get pissed, they get PISSED! I chuckled at that. As Asians, most of us just want to come to this country, make a better life for ourselves and blend in, thus giving the false impression that we’re passive and unfeeling (some just want to portray us as passive so that they can say what they want and then add the “just joking” part). As a result, we become the butt of jokes from ALL races (yeah, some blacks and hispanics also like to make Asian jokes, but only if you don’t joke back). We’re easy targets. Just look at the racist stereotypes in Hollywood. It’s like hunting season on Asians all the time whether in the news, in the church or in Hollywood. IF they did the equivalent to other groups (and here, i’m not suggesting that we should or that Hollywood doesn’t do its own racist stereotyping of other groups either), we may have a march on our hands.
Back to the false stereotype of Asian passivity. This is the funny part. IF we all of sudden speak up, we’d be damned. I’ve been told by some (not all) of my white brothers that I’m “opinionated” (So what? Don’t like it? Switch channel, man!), but when they throw their opinions around, they’re just “stating facts.” I guess our opinions are judgmental. As in the case of Pastor Rick’s post, all these people tell us to lighten up. Why? Would they tell black people to lighten up? NO! How about telling the Jews similar things? Oh no, they expect Asians to lighten up. That’s what Asians do! We lighten up. They’re surprised because we actually have backbone and speak up. Our opinions threaten because we don’t fit your docile Hollywood stereotype. So, we now sound judgmental (per Pastor Rick’s original wording)? What if we’re more outspoken as a race? I suppose we would be considered whiners who should “get the hell out of here and go back to China”. I’ve been considered that kind of opinionated Asian many times over. You see? Being a model minority is not all that you imagine it to be. If you speak up on an issue that bothers you, you’d be put back in your place (i.e. your big house and your big Mercedes … note: sarcastic remark not to be taken literally!) and if you don’t, they’d say that Asians are more passive and have no backbone. You can’t win. THAT is our narrative.
So, pardon our swag as we speak up. If you don’t like it, we won’t grow thicker skin, but you can certainly go back to where you came from whether that is Ireland, England, Germany or wherever. Go spit somewhere else! The Natives can stay! I kid! (only slightly)
And thank you, Pastor Rick, for allowing me to indulge myself on this occasion. We aren’t trying to unseat you. After all, we’re just the little people. We only need to be heard. God bless your work. May you achieve what our melting pot can’t in Saddleback … for Jesus’ sake because that’s what God’s kingdom looks like in my Bible. Grace and peace, sir!