A Reflection of "Five Commandments to Live as Neighbors ..." by Soyeon Choi

Soyeon Choi: A wife, a mother of two children, and a Regional Planner Assistant at Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, Soyeon came to the US at the age of 15. She grew up in Maryland, and moved to Southern California 13 years ago and continues to learn about the way Christianity shapes personal as well as public life.  

Soyeon Choi: A wife, a mother of two children, and a Regional Planner Assistant at Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, Soyeon came to the US at the age of 15. She grew up in Maryland, and moved to Southern California 13 years ago and continues to learn about the way Christianity shapes personal as well as public life.

 

I attended the workshop, "Five Commandments to Live as Neighbors in a Multi-ethnic Community" held by ReconsiliAsian and LA CEM.  I appreciated the five suggested practices that Taehoo Lee, Sue Park-Hur, and Daniel Choe discussed through the panel. These practices were hands-on, real-life advice that we could actually implement in our everyday lives.  During the panel discussion and Q&A, I reflected my own experiences as a 1.5 generation Korean American, as well as my parents' and my children's experiences in a culturally diverse society.

Speakers Sue Park-Hur and Taehoo Lee share practical steps to be good neighbors in different cultural contexts.

Speakers Sue Park-Hur and Taehoo Lee share practical steps to be good neighbors in different cultural contexts.


How to be a good neighbors with African Americans
By Taehoo Lee

1. Make a friend with someone who is African American.
2. Visit their home, church, community, and invite them to come to your home, church, and community
3. Know the history of suffering of African Americans
4. Understand the culture through blues, jazz, hip hop, poetry, and art
5. Expect discomfort and embrace awkwardness in the process of getting to know each other and finding common ground

The First Generation

For the first generation population, especially the working class like my parents, making  friends from a different culture would be a great step. The first generation suffers from the burden of familial survival in a foreign country while grappling with a different language and culture.  For sure, they need a community for comfort, fellowship, and companionship. An effort to see and take a step behind the enclave boundary is, to me, such a significant challenge and achievement. In fostering such efforts, however, I am skeptical about creating new programs or ministry in churches as they will have their own 'goals and objectives' rather than encouraging 'genuine friendship' (and of course, many churches already have more than enough programs and ministries for the congregation to handle).  Instead, I think the church's role would be to provide a platform to learn and discuss the nexus between such genuine, friendly actions and our belief in Christ.  I think that helping our parents realize their internalized racism and double standards which are on the far opposite from the Kingdom values, through the Bible scriptures and self-reflection, would be a very significant task that churches can do.  


How to be a good neighbor with Asian Americans
by Sue Park-Hur

1. Don’t ask “Where are you from?” the first time you meet them.
2. Recognize the common Asian American identity
3. Avoid stereotyping other Asian groups
The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
4. Learn the stories of other Asian Americans
Through movies, books, music, online, rallies, and of course food
5. Tell them you are Korean!
Unique time in history when there is high interest in Korean culture
Share food, stories, movies, drama, language

The 1.5 Generation

The 1.5 generation probably can find opportunities more easily to live out the teaching of "love your neighbor" than our parents.  Also, we can start teaching our young children to be good friends regardless of ethnicity or skin color. I have a six-year old son who was born in Los Angeles. He recently told us that it was 'creepy' to see a friend with blue eyes in his summer camp. He said her eyes were too blue, so he laughed and ran away from her.  I couldn't help myself laughing in front of my son, but had to stop quickly and said to him, "You can't treat your friend like that, just because she has blue eyes and blond hair.  You guys are all same people and good friends."  How ironic that I said this! Back in my high school years, I had said similar things  but after a couple of decades, I am telling them about equity and discrimination of people of color. I think this incident also has a couple of other implications, especially for the 2nd generation growing up in Southern California as the demographics are changing. The world they will be living in would be quite different from what we have experienced in the 20th century.  And it is our responsibility to tell them why it is important to be good neighbors and friends to our diverse neighbors, especially from the perspective of Christian faith, and also to live out with our children the way we say and believe.

Michael Oh of LACEM facilitates the panelists.                Photos by Dona Park

Michael Oh of LACEM facilitates the panelists.                Photos by Dona Park

Christianity and Co-Existence

'Christian talk' is often about personal redemption, religious discipline, and reaching out to the 'lost soul.’  And I hope to have more conversations about the corporate part of the gospel that we all should incarnate.  I also hope to have more discussion among ourselves about our endeavor to maintain a balance between personal piety and peaceful coexistence with others based on what we believe as truth.  This seminar really encouraged me to continue struggling with the given text and my daily context, to make conscious and faithful efforts to be a good neighbor to 'Others,' and to share what I can with my community of faith.