The following Facebook post is reposted here with permission.
When Rickshaw Rally came out in 2003, I was a freshman in college and had done very little thinking about race, ethnicity and stereotypes as it related to my faith. I had done (what I thought) was a great job of assimilating into white culture in both school and church contexts.
When freshman Andy heard about the VBS curriculum and the subsequent outcry, my first reaction is why are those Asians being so angry and outspoken? In other words, I didn’t want people to rock the boat and let’s keep the peace at all costs.
Since then, I’ve grown in understanding of my own family, my culture and my journey as a Korean American. During the journey, I’ve discovered old wounds I didn’t know I had, products of stereotypes, years of racism I experienced as a child and subtle ways I accepted how the media portrayed Asians and Asian men in particular.
I’ve learned in small steps how to use my voice to speak out when I felt offended, and also how to use my voice to speak out on behalf others as well. I’ve learned that in a real community, in a real family, God doesn’t want us to sweep things under the rug, but to deal with tough issues, even if it means rocking the boat. I’ve even rocked the boat myself a few times. Heck, I’m in a job now where boat-rocking is essentially in the job description.
And though I’ve grown so much, there is so much about my culture and background that I’m still wrestling with. I feel an inner tension about my Asianness and my Koreanness that leads me to both love and judge other Asian Americans. To aspire to be accepted by them and to keep them at arms length. There are still days where I hate that I’m so indirect, conflict avoidant, passive and I fit the mold of “typical asian guy” (whatever that means). There are also days, where I’m SO grateful that God made me exactly how he did. And other days there’s just ambiguity.
I felt all these thoughts watching this short video clip. But into the swirls of confusion and unanswered questions, I also felt an inexplicable sense of calm. I think that’s what an unqualified, sincere apology can do. It can bring calm into the inner storms that we don’t realize were there. A calm that is really hope creeping into the dark crevices of cynicism. A calm that gives way to possibility and dreaming about what the Church could be in this country and in our world.
It was a short video, a seemingly insignificant act. But it mattered to me. Thanks, Thom S. Rainer.