Not always black and white

By Lynn Hur

The classroom is silent, apart from the ticking of the clock and the shifting of a chair. My English teacher looks at us pensively as my classmates awkwardly look around, waiting for someone to speak up. We had been beginning to read To Kill a Mockingbird, and the inevitable subject of race had been brought up again. My friend tells the teacher that she cried watching the assigned documentary following the Scottsboro Trials, and how she couldn’t believe the injustice of it all. Heads nod in agreement. I respond, commenting that this isn’t just something that happened, but is happening today as well. My teacher nods once again, agreeing. I try to continue, but get cut off. “Moving on,” he says. “You guys can talk more about that in a history class. We don’t have time to get too deep into the details.”

 I look around in disbelief. In history class? This stuff is happening now! And freshmen don’t even take history! This topic is so relevant in this class, but discussing the symbolism of a copper coin is more of a priority? I turn around to look at my friend, but she is already turning to the next page. The class continues, and the discussion turns to the theme of maturity or something. My ears ring and my cheeks flush with frustration for the rest of the day.

My school is predominantly Asian-American and it is a bit of a privilege to be able to grow up in an environment where I’m not teased because of my small eyes or praised for my surprisingly “good English.” However, the stereotype of Asians staying quiet is frustratingly fulfilled. Talking about religion, politics, or racism in general is a bit of a taboo at school.

During PE, I rant to a couple of my friends about this as we shoot some baskets. “Why are we so afraid to talk about what’s happening outside of school?” Swish. “We only talk about what happened in the book. We ignore the racism around us. And we even have Trump to talk about, but we don’t.” A friend looks a bit uncomfortable. “I get what you’re saying, but no need to bring him into this.” Airball. I turn around as she continues. “I mean, you’re totally worked up about this!” She laughs stiffly. I look away. Swish.

Is it weird because I’m not black and that I get “worked up about this”?

Why are we so quiet about it? Maybe it’s because Asians are just never in the picture? These questions swirl around my head for the next couple months.  I almost forget the racism that Asian-Americans go through. So does everyone else.

One problem with attending a mostly Asian high school is the blindness of the racism that we will face in the real world. Not everyone is accepted so quickly, and many of us are unaware that we even face racism. We don’t get shot at or brutally killed as frequently as black or brown bodies. We aren’t called rapists or drug dealers or gangsters or trouble. But we have our own names. We are the perpetual foreigners. Our women are “exotic” so they’re sexy, and our men aren’t at all. We are called Oriental (are we rugs?). We are told to go back to our countries, even if we were born here. We all look the same. We all have the same culture anyways. We are ninjas. We put chopsticks in our hair. We aren’t expected to know English. We are submissive. We are weak. We are not athletic. We aren’t rebellious, cool or fashionable. We aren’t here to take away jobs. We are the shopkeepers and immigrants, the rude ones or the quiet ones. We want to be white. We should learn the language. We are the lame nerds in TV shows, the smart ones (by the way, it doesn’t matter if it’s a “good stereotype”), the sidekicks, that person that gets three seconds of screen time so people can call it “diverse.” In fact, we can make any group “diverse.” We are the invisible minority.

As a high schooler in the current public school system, I can say with confidence that the education system is not preparing the next generation for the real world. Rather than learning how to face racism, break gender stereotypes, or even how to pay taxes and learn proper manners, we learn how to fill in bubbles and stay quiet in class. We learn that the teacher’s word is law. We strip ourselves of our own voices and individuality to fit in at school. We don’t bother to talk about what will really matter later on.

As the daughter of two pastors and a follower of Christ, I expect to learn from church.

I expect to grow spiritually, not to color in pictures or discuss Noah’s Ark for the five hundredth time. I expect to use my voice as a Mennonite youth and tackle things that I don’t at school. If these issues aren’t brought up, the church is not fulfilling its duty to the people and to God.

As a child of the next generation, I want all people to know a couple things. Number one: racism is not just a black and white situation. Racism isn’t always blatant and immediately offensive. It is not colorless. Racism encompasses the entirety of our colorful and complicated world. Number two: no one is completely innocent. Asians have their own assumptions and stereotypes of others, despite our experiences. Number three: I want us to look at racism in the eye, name it, and undo it. 

Lynn Hur is a ninth grader living in Pasadena, California. When she is not writing, you will find her in the kitchen reading her favorite cookbooks and perfecting her chocolate chip cookie recipe.

A Public Call to Protect All People

ReconciliAsian is proud to support "A Public Call to Protect all People". The call encourages congregations to deeply engage in the health of their local communities. The four points of the call are:

1. We will protect and support the worth and rights of all people, including marginalized persons who are targeted, discriminated against or singled out by hate crimes or state-sponsored/sanctioned violence;

2. We will oppose the aspirations of those who seek U.S. global domination through the use of propaganda, inciting terror, military threats, regime change and war. We will support instead the practices of diplomacy and negotiation, which lead to peace.

3. We will support a just economic order—one that is sustainable as a servant of the people amid the changes in climate that have already begun.

4. To keep these promises, we will reach across lines of creed, class, ethnicity, race and party preference in a spirit of empathy and learning, seeking relationships of solidarity with other groups.

For an Implementation Guide and other supportive information, visit one of the following:

  • http://tinyurl.com/znrde62 (Baptist Peace Fellowship)
  • http://tinyurl.com/zhno2b8 (Peace & Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA)
  • www.forusa.org (Fellowship of Reconciliation)
  • http://tinyurl.com/gwho4vb (If Not Empire, What? A Survey of the Bible)
  • www.1040forpeace.org ($10.40 for Peace) 

 

More information about why ReconciliAsian along with other Mennonite leaders signed the petition is written in The Mennonite:

https://themennonite.org/daily-news/mennonite-leaders-partner-issue-public-call-protect-people/

Your Giving Matters!

What a year 2016 has been! We have witnessed not only our nation becoming increasingly polarized, but we also saw the chasm within the church during this election cycle. During this time of division and fear, we need to be committed to the work of truth, mercy, justice and peace in our local faith communities as people of the kingdom. We at ReconciliAsian are, in our own way, striving to contribute to the healing work towards shalom.

First of all, we want to thank you for your faithfulness to the ministry of ReconciliAsian. With your prayers and financial support, ReconciliAsian has had many amazing opportunities to be a witness for peace among Asian communities from Los Angeles to Northeast Asia.

Top left: Interracial family retreat in Tuscon, AZ; Top right: Youth peace camp; Middle left: Peace spirituality seminar; Middle right: Reconciliation cross designed by Sunghwan Kim; Bottom left: Trauma and resilience seminar at Disciples Seminary Foundation; Bottom right: STAR training at Mt. View Mennonite Church

Top left: Interracial family retreat in Tuscon, AZ; Top right: Youth peace camp; Middle left: Peace spirituality seminar; Middle right: Reconciliation cross designed by Sunghwan Kim; Bottom left: Trauma and resilience seminar at Disciples Seminary Foundation; Bottom right: STAR training at Mt. View Mennonite Church

Here are some comments that we have heard from ReconciliAsian participants:

As a summer intern, I witnessed how ReconciliAsian contributes in building a bridge across deepening divisions between different communities by reminding people that there are more similarities than differences amongst our heritage and cultural identities.

-Dona Park, Goshen College

The [youth peace] camp, although only three days, brought me back to the gospel. The amazing speakers really poured their hearts out to teach us young people. Their testimonies have really changed my view of the world.

-Ian Lee, 9th grade Youth Peace Camp participant 

I learned that my [interracial] marriage has been preparing me to be a peacemaker.

-Yong Meyer, Sierra Vista Servant of Christ Church

 [From the seminar] I saw the cycle [of violence] in my own life. And to learn that it can be passed on to our children made me determined to stop this vicious cycle.   

-Christine Chang, Red Thread International

These transformative encounters would not have been possible without your support over the past year. You have helped us to minister in many ways including: 

  • Organizing our first High School Youth Peace Camp focusing on race and identity in collaboration with a Goshen College intern and Youth Venture volunteers
  • Offering a five-week Journey Towards Reconciliation program on the topic of listening to stories from our local multi-ethnic communities to be true neighbors
  • Hosting Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) training in California in collaboration with West Coast Mennonite Central Committee, Eastern Mennonite University, and Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference Anabaptist Resource Center
  • Partnering with Disciples Seminary Foundation to equip seminary students with tools for trauma awareness and resilience work
  • Leading an extensive five-week study on North Korea—this time in English
  • Making an important trip to North Korea that has opened up possibilities of a Reconciliation Forum and a bike ride from Pyongyang to the DMZ in the next few years         

The year ahead also looks to be full of ministry opportunities! Already, we are making plans for 2017 and beyond. Next year will include: 

  • Organizing a 2nd Youth Peace Camp to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the LA Riots
  • Offering a Conflict Transformation Project for immigrant churches
  • Hosting a Racial Reconciliation Forum to address the racial tension in our churches and communities
  • Coordinating an Intergenerational Family Retreat to talk about cultural and generational conflict in immigrant families
  • Consulting in North Korea for a Reconciliation Forum and a bike ride from Pyongyang to the DMZ 

We believe that Jesus’ call to peacemaking is at the heart of the gospel, and ReconciliAsian is committed to spreading this message far and wide. But we cannot continue this ministry without support from our donors and friends like you.

For 2017, our projected budget is $47,000. We invite you to prayerfully consider supporting and joining us to spread the message and be a witness of peace in Asian communities. Every donation—large or small—makes a difference in allowing us to continue this work in our churches and communities. If you would like to donate to a specific ministry opportunity mentioned above, you can also designate your donation. Thank you so much for your generous consideration.

 Peace be with you,

Hyun and Sue Hur on behalf of ReconciliAsian

There are TWO ways you can make a tax-deductible donation: 

1. Send a check payable to ReconciliAsian

Mail To: PO Box 70466, Pasadena, CA  91117


2. Make a PayPal donation via www.reconciliasian.com/donate/