I’m not usually so aware of how long it’s been since my last public post (in this case, on Instagram), but each day of the past three weeks has ticked by with a distinct beginning and end while I’ve tried to sort through a teeming flock of thoughts.
On the first day of the first week, a batch of news landed in my little corner of the world. None of it was local, but each item evoked a personal response of grief. I read about corruption in the leadership of a city church and the renouncement of faith by a much loved artist; I listened to a talk from someone who had suffered from depression in a restrictive institution and a dismissive podcast about a film whose cultural background I knew well. By the end of the week I was nearly bankrupt in spirit. That Thursday, I found a well of mercy in a passage from Mark 6 that helped me make room for prayer and peace — but those details can wait for another time.
The second week brought an explosion of pain and stories that I hadn’t expected and didn’t have to seek out to hear. I had heard of the 2-year-old and 6-year-old who were attacked with a knife at Sam’s Club last March (along with their father, Bawi Cung) because the assailant thought they were Chinese, and the Japanese jazz pianist (Tadataka Unno) who was beaten in New York in September to the point that he was unable to use one of his hands, and the 75-year-old grandmother (Xiao Zhen Xie) who was struck in the face so hard last week that she has two black eyes. I hadn’t heard the details of the 3,800 other incidents that took place over the course of the past year, but I read the accounts of people I knew as they shared their grief.
In my non-authoritative experience, discussions about racism are always complicated because the posture and the background of every single participant are different, and ultimately each of us must deal with obstacles specific to our own hearts to be able to genuinely share or listen or be in community with others. This is probably why such conversations work best in the context of friendship, and why it’s taken me so long to get my bearings in the current climate.
Last week during our tea time, Lucy and I laughed over a dear, gregarious character in Anne of the Island named Philippa Gordon, a girl who is so eager to room with Anne and another friend that she falls on her knees to accentuate her plea. “If you won’t let me cast in my lot with you I’ll die of the disappointment and then I’ll come back and haunt you,” she declares. “I’ll camp on the very doorstep of Patty’s Place and you won’t be able to go out or come in without falling over my spook.” Oh, how we laughed! But for me there was, in fact, a question I glimpsed in many places that camped on the doorstep of all my writing last week, one whose phantasm shadowed every line I tried to pen.
“Have you witnessed racism against Asian-Americans in workplaces, schools, creative spaces, or between Christians? Are there really things you’ve had to do differently because you’re a racial minority?”
To answer briefly, yes and yes. The relative silence of a person regarding a problem — any problem — doesn’t prove that the problem is nonexistent. To use one minor example in our lives, Y and I know from both instinct and individual experience that we need to be careful in choosing our destinations for family trips. Are the residents and fellow tourists comfortable being around people who look like us? I suppose anyone can put up with curious stares, though I’d rather not have an entire line of cars in a drive-thru roll down their windows to get a good look at me again. What we are mainly trying to avoid is the likelihood of running into the type of person who, emboldened by rhetoric or current events, decides it won’t cost him anything to hurl an epithet or a far worse form of harm. Especially when we are with our children.
Most of the race-related encounters we’ve had in the past ten years have been based in ignorance, not hostility. But even our experiences are not representative of all Asian-American stories, and there are many who are suffering more deeply at this particular moment than we are. One pattern in Scripture that I’ve noticed of late, and one which I want to keep in mind, is that when someone weeps — be it Hannah in her barrenness, Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus, Rachel over the loss of her children, the parents of the talitha at her bedside, or even Peter over his betrayal of Christ — the Word of God stills to listen. May His followers do the same in all the places they live. (For us, in the current week of further sorrow… this has also meant remembering all of the people who were at the Boulder King Soopers on Monday afternoon.)
This post is rather out of character for the writing on this blog, but jotting it has been the only step that has enabled me to find words again, and I thank you for taking the time to listen, friends. Part of the work for me as a Christ-follower, a third-culture adult, a woman, a Korean American, a wife, a mother, a home educator — and any of the other distinctions that are drawn from time to time — is to live a whole life, I think: one that can give flesh and blood and laughter and depth and grace to someone else’s stereotypical understanding of an unfamiliar group. Overarching all, this life belongs to Christ. That central truth doesn’t exclude the other aspects of my background or history, but it is the identity that holds all of them together.
This remains a space devoted to considering what it means to live Homeward, with all the beauty, mercy, foibles, and failures involved, and the change that occurs through the love of Christ. It’s a joy and a high honor to cross paths with you here.