MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)

on behalf of my asian kin-folk… i’m sorry

i’ve been meaning to write  a post on this for a very long time and in light of the Deadly Viper controversy, i can’t put this off any longer.

at the risk of sounding like a complete sell-out, I want to apologize on behalf of the Asian-American community for the following:

  • for being ultra-sensitive to anything remotely, potentially, and inadvertently racist
  • for criticizing mono-cultural organizations, churches and conferences without offering practical solutions and room for common ground to be reached.
  • for being passive-aggressive (can’t help that as much)
  • for stinky food (kimchi is actually really good considering it’s another word for “strangely edible rotten cabbage”)
  • for choosing to operate in our own silos and enclaves without much of an effort to integrate, collaborate and procreate (actually, this last bit is definitely taking place so scratch that).

These things being said, i do want to ask the non-Asian (particularly my white brothers and sisters) community for a few essential pieces in our on-going social dialogue:

  • please continue to make efforts to make diversity in your life an ongoing discipline and priority.  in other words, befriend more people who are not like you (easier said than done, i know and this goes for all of us!)
  • if you are going to tread into potentially race-sensitive territory, make sure there is credibility behind your methods and motives.  (In fact, it may just be easier to NEVER use a non-white reference until you establish the same credibility that, say, Eminem has… bad example?  perhaps…)  It is the truth that since the Caucasian population is still viewed as the majority culture in America, there is a higher standard (double standard?) that you are held to in actions and speech.  Not fair, but true.

So where do we go from here?

What do we need?

we need BRIDGE PEOPLE.  not activists, angry [insert race here] men, or our respective versions of Malcolm X.  we need people who will help unify and bring understanding between cultures that will continually misunderstand and hurt each other.  some of us are just better at functioning in many diverse settings and your network of friends and partners is often compared to that of the United Nations.  if this is you, you are a bridge person and you need to step into the gaps of friendship.

we need to use our INFLUENCE to promote COLLABORATION.  some of us function in incredible spheres of influence and the tendency is to bring the “proven” commodities (aka, people like us) into these platforms.  however, we need to intentionally search out the “hidden jewels” deep inside the ‘hoods, ghettos, barrios and specialty kimchi stores (these don’t actually exist).  For instance, if you are a high-level record-exec, please stop operating under the notion that only a certain race can play a certain type of music and do it well… (ahem…)

Finally, we need lot’s and lot’s and lot’s of FORGIVENESS.  It’s hard to give the benefit-of-the-doubt to people we don’t know so that’s why it’s important that the aforementioned BRIDGE and INFLUENCE people need to lead the charge in this regard.  I love what my brother @davegibbons tweeted earlier today in light of the many jabs being thrown at my Deadly Viper bros:

[Mike and Jud] I stand by you guys. I know your hearts. I know you would never intentionally hurt the AA (asian-american) community. Much love to you.

How about that now?

Ironically, I had met with Jud Wilhite and Mike Foster yesterday in a creative planning meeting for an upcoming conference, and we had discussed at length the need for diversity in large, influential gatherings.  I respect these guys a lot and my feeling is that they would never seek to offend anyone…

It’s a cliche but it’s timely and appropriate to say, “You’re either a part of the solution or a part of the problem.” So pick a side.  I’m gonna TRY to be a BRIDGE-person that uses my INFLUENCE to FORGIVE and understand… of course this doesn’t mean i’ll stop being angry at offensive things but at least i’ve resolved to unite what’s split apart.

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28 responses

  1. This is lovely, DK, although honestly, I’m white and I’m still very angry at these guys. 🙂 But I really appreciate your perspective and your words. Thanks.

    November 4, 2009 at 5:35 pm

  2. DK

    hey amy. thanks for your response. totally get the anger part… thanks for being a BRIDGE person!

    November 4, 2009 at 5:44 pm

  3. Yes, bridge people…yes, I agree!

    But dont you think part of the problem is that there is no voice for Asian-Americans? Thus, there are no bridge people, no people of influence. When you’ve been given no voice, you can have no influence. That’s why record-execs don’t look for Asians…no pull, no voice…yet.

    Being offensive isn’t the same as being malicious. I don’t think they were being malicious, but that doesn’t mean a lack of offensiveness.

    November 4, 2009 at 8:07 pm

  4. DK

    kevin – good thoughts. there definitely is a lack of influential asian voices in america but there are a growing number in the Christian realm… Francis Chan, Dave Gibbons, Eugene Cho, to name a few… I feel that these guys have credibility and influence in the Asian and Caucasian arena and i definitely see them as bridge-people.
    I guess the challenge would be for our influential white brothers to really step up and take a risk by elevating lesser-known minority voices unto their platforms and for our Asian brothers to stop the alienating and revolting spirit… the answer is not to create Asian pathways but rather to look for ways to join and form streams that allow many voices to participate.
    You and I… let’s be bridge people.

    November 4, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  5. Really glad to hear this.
    As cliche as this sounds, lets build a bridge to healing. (ya this is really cheesy, but you know what I mean).
    Good thoughts and glad you wrote about it and are willing to speak up.

    November 4, 2009 at 9:44 pm

  6. John Kwon

    I agree with hour9 and Dave. They may not have intended to be malicious but it certainly was offensive.

    On another note, yes, let’s be bridge people! If all those people who expressed their opinions so passionately, were bridge people; the things that could be done!

    November 4, 2009 at 10:31 pm

  7. Good words, DK… I appreciate hearing your voice in this controversy, and your gracious, humble tone of reconciliation. OK, I’ll cautiously venture into this race-sensitive territory too…

    I spent a big chunk of this evening reading up on the “Deadly Viper” issue at hand. Wow. So much can be (and has been) said in both criticism and defense of both “sides”… all of that I will leave to others.

    As for me, I have to acknowledge a great deal of personal ignorance re the racial issues in the AA community. I’m a white boy from the midwest, I’ve spent several years of my life in Japan (and in Japanese churches here in the US, comprised mainly of expat Japanese nationals here for just a few years), and I’ve interacted quite a bit with internationals from many countries and cultures. But being at Newsong is the first time I’ve ever plugged into an Asian *American* community. I see I have much to learn.

    Perhaps as many other white Americans, I’ve generally tended to think of race relations in the US as primarily a black/white issue (maybe cuz that’s the way that racial issues are typically framed in the media???). And since I had many Asian immigrant friends in my childhood, I’ve always thought that Asians were really cool! In my mind, to whatever degree they were “different” from me, it was different in a “good” or even a “better-than-me” way.

    So I must admit that I was initially surprised (and even a bit baffled!) by the strength of the outcry against this book’s marketing. But upon reflection, I can see that not only do non-African minorities also suffer from various injustices and unkind stereotyping… but their struggle has not even been recognized as real and valid. We’re now a half-century on from MLK, and while our African-American brothers and sisters still have a long way to go in their struggle for justice and equality (or, I should say, we Anglo-Americans have a long way to go in offering them equal footing)… at least they are on the path. AAs and other minorities have largely not even had their own struggles acknowledged, and in some ways therefore perhaps feel even more marginalized.

    I also want to be a bridge person. And, to the extent that I can presume to speak for others of my own individualistic (e.g. non-collectivistic) Anglo-American kin-folk… I would like to offer my own apology. That we have allowed ourselves to remain ignorant and apathetic to these issues for so very long. That we have failed to speak up in defense of the marginalized and oppressed. That in the Church, white leaders in positions of power have given lip service to racial equality while being content to comfortably maintain the status quo (i.e. white power) by our passive inaction. And on a personal level, there are certainly times when I have remained silent (or even laughed at) racially hurtful jokes. For these and so many other offenses, I am truly sorry.

    I’m thankful for this week’s eruption, because it has shed light on my own ignorance of the pain doubtless suffered by many of my brothers and sisters surrounding me at Newsong. Ignorance may be an explanation, but it must never be an excuse… once we know, we are accountable. And so this has also challenged me to explore what it means to actively work toward racial reconciliation in practical ways. It seems that I may be in a good place to learn about this! 😉

    DK, I wonder if you and other friends in the Ns community would be willing to serve me by taking some face-time to share your stories with me??? I’ve been so impressed by the welcoming, inclusive spirit that I’ve experienced over these past three months in our community (as reflected in your tone on this blog post)… and I believe that there is MUCH that I can learn from you all. Please help me to better understand, so I can become part of the solution!

    November 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm

  8. Jim

    DK…u the man…solid words

    November 5, 2009 at 12:01 am

  9. I agree with all your bridge building stuff but I’m not going to talk about that… but I definitely agree.

    The main thing that I found offensive was his response; I thought it was pretty insensitive. I also think that this is an issue of “white privilege.” I think Caucasians need to realize that they have it a lot better than all other races in America. A white person never wakes up and thinks about their “whiteness” in the ways a black, latino, asian, etc. person has to. I think Caucasians, especially our Christian brothers, need to be more aware of these issues and work to reconcile them. I also believe that we have a lot of Caucasian brothers that fight greatly for the cause of diversity. With that said… I definitely do not think the authors did any of that with malicious intent… but even the most terrible atrocities were done with the best intentions and they could’ve been more sensitive in their response to the critics.

    I think Eugene Cho said it well when he talked about how other minorities would not have quietly taken these things lightly but the Asian-American community does. I’m not saying that we need to protest this particular situation, but I am saying that we simply don’t stand up for racial issues as Asians in general.

    Another note on diversity. I’ve also been thinking about diversity issues at Newsong. I don’t know how many countless times we have served Asian, mainly Korean, food at our church events without thinking about the subtle implications of what that does to our church’s push for diversity. I also hear a lot of church members speak in Korean or Chinese to create inside jokes and not feel the need to explain to non-Korean or Chinese speakers what was being said; it can really exclude others. and more recently, i’ve taken some issue with Dia de Los Vivos. Though I believe in our cause for Mexico and Human Trafficking, I think there are some insensitive messages being sent with the name, DDLV. From what I can gather, Dia de Los Meurtos (day of the dead) is not a celebration of death and horror (like halloween is) but it is actually a celebration of life. I don’t know if anybody took offense to it, but if you think about the implications of calling our event DDLV… it could’ve been pretty insensitive. i guess what i’m trying to say is that we used to think about diversity issues a lot more at Newsong but it seems to have slowed down a bit in recent years. It could be true or not but it’s worth investigating.

    I don’t necessarily think we have to have solutions to a problem to bring up the problem. If something is racist or culturally insensitive, I think it’s fair for someone to call it what it is without offering a solution. But I do think that if a hand is extended asking for partnership in coming up with a solution, grace should be offered. And ultimately, I agree with you, DK, it’s really easy to point out problems, it’s a lot harder to offer solutions and to build bridges. either way, good post… it got people thinking… and hopefully… it’s got people moving.

    November 5, 2009 at 2:58 am

  10. TheeRoach

    Does anybody know if this was the first attempt to address the issue by Soong-Chan Rah or others in the AA community? To me, an impersonal blog throwing down on a great book (that’s been out for quite a while…why is this comin to light now) without some previous attempt of discussion and reconciliation is a punk move and not the way to handle things. If this is the first move, It makes me lose respect for Rah, and the Evangelical Covenant for that matter.

    It’s responses like that that make people like me (white folks who like to think of themselves as bridge builders) want to bury our heads in the sand and avoid things because we’ll never understand a culture perfectly. Kung Fu was a part of their upbrining; it stinks that they can’t use that to relate the truth of character and intetgity.

    Maybe I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I find it very hard to believe Mike and Jud didn’t consult people within the AA community before publishing this book.

    Curious – Were people offended when Mike spoke at Newsong?

    Let’s use this though as an opportunity to get back to our roots of reconciliation. (Kevin’s idea) Lets gain understanding. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s create avenues for people to enter the conversation too. Don’t let the moment pass to be the Church and be angents of healing and growth.

    November 5, 2009 at 1:34 pm

  11. hey dk, good post, good intentions, but i have to say this without at all trying to be malicious, i’m not sorry and you don’t speak on my behalf.

    i feel like if we didn’t say something, particularly in regards to the deadly viper thing but largely as a message to christian publishing companies, we would be doing a huge disservice to our white christian brothers and sisters to acquire a sensitivity, not only to asians, but whomever we may encounter in the world. we, as christians, are in a global marketplace where that type of ignorance (not malicious, i grant) and insensitivity are all it takes to limit our collective witness to the gospel. by not speaking out, we reinforce the notion that to be a christian is to be a sellout. so you may think that asians are being ultra-sensitive to racism, but i assure you it has larger ramifications than that.

    in fact, i made it a point to say that BECAUSE i respect mike foster and the work that he does is why i would admonish him on that promotional video. i want his ministry to flourish and would love to see his platform grow and that is precisely why i don’t want this to be a stumbling block for him.

    secondly, i don’t care if our food stinks, i’m not apologizing for it. 🙂

    as for the ethnic silos and enclaves, we might perpetuate them, but not more than others do, and to be more true to the point, we didn’t create them. we are still unpacking the racist/imperialistic history of this country, and the amount of reconciliation we are capable of in real terms, is directly correlated to the repentance and realization of the church’s abdication in that prophetic role. so i would push you further on your “being a bridge person” rhetoric. it’s true, we should be bridge people, but we would be ignorant if we don’t realize bridges have been burned in the past, which is precisely why building bridges is so hard now in the present. that doesn’t absolve us of the duty, but demands on us to not be so simplistic in our approach. just as much as bonhoeffer talked about a “cheap grace”, i believe we do a similar disservice if we offer others a “cheap reconciliation”. it must be costly, and we must act as though we are aware of the values and costs that people are making to reach across the divide.

    so we’re cool. i’m not being passive-aggressive. i’m telling you straight up. i’m not sorry. we’re brothers. i got nothing but respect for you and your calling and your ministry, but you don’t have to apologize for me. don’t get me wrong, i’m not perfect, but on this issue, on this matter, i don’t think we should apologize for asking for justice and equality, particularly if it will help our witness together moving forward before the world.

    November 6, 2009 at 2:09 am

  12. DK

    @kyle, john, kevin s., andres, d roach — thanks for stopping by and for also bringing up some of the realities of this issue within the newsong community. thanks you for your willingness to learn and grow and to point out ways that we (the AA community) can also display ignorance toward other groups.

    @david park – really appreciate your thoughts and believe it or not, i’ve been waiting for a response like yours. I don’t title my post “on behalf of my asian brothers…” without expecting some response from peeps who don’t feel the way that i do. I must say that the title is secondary to what i’m trying to say– the apology was merely my “bridge” to conversation so that my post doesn’t sound like another angry post that non-asians may just dismiss (especially, since i’m just a “nobody” in the blogosphere).

    i’ve actually been wanting to write a follow-up blog post to this because it is an issue that’s been burning on my heart ever since i could remember. yes, this last entry may have seemed simplistic and naive but i’ve played the angry asian man role before and I don’t know that it’s gotten me anywhere. i agree on the whole “cheap reconciliation” bit but in order for us to enter the messy, difficult, and even bloody conversation, we need to build the bridge of trust first. that’s all i’m saying.

    building a bridge doesn’t mean we sweep things under the rug and ignore the hurt that’s been caused. i’m glad that things are being said to Mike and Jud and the non-Asian community at large but i believe the methods and terminology could use a little work.

    my question to you is, what does a healthy conversation look like outside of the public outcry approach that has taken place? i want to be a part of that…

    appreciate you being straight up and for calling me brother. appreciate your thoughts and look forward to more dialogue in the future. keep at it!

    November 6, 2009 at 8:32 am

  13. DK — I’m thankful for the dialogue you and David just had here. I feel very much like David does, so I’m glad to see your willingness to engage this.

    Actually, I was thinking that you have a very unique voice in all of this — the fact that you’re regularly involved in things like Catalyst planning meetings gives you a very important platform to speak into non-Asian American Christian culture in ways that most of us cannot.

    Part of what seems to be emerging here is our need, as Asian American followers of Christ, to tell our stories more effectively — and not only in response to moments like these. We’d love to hear your story, especially as an artist. I’d like to contact you via email for a monthly feature we’re trying to start up at Next Gener.Asian Church about this. What do you think?

    November 6, 2009 at 11:40 am

  14. DK

    daniel so- thanks for the follow-up to david’s comments. let’s connect soon!

    November 6, 2009 at 12:14 pm

  15. yo.
    cho here.

    thanks for sharing your post.

    i echo dave’s sentiments.
    asians are not monolitic so we need to be careful about the i apologize on behalf of the asian-community. you are welcome bro to apologize for yourself. while there’s certainly some validity to the things you shared, writing what you shared (indirectly) minimizes the hurt of many and places the focus (err blame) back on Asian-Americans.

    i have much respect for mike and jud. brothers. co-laborers. for sure.

    but when you see genuine pain for some of the a-a community, it stings.

    someday, when you beautiful son is called a chink, a gook, or asked to go home, be angry and turn tables.

    i’m trying but if someone punches me, i’ll try to turn the other cheek. you hurt my wife or kids, oh snap… it’s on.

    bridge people = good stuff. but every now and then, we have to examine the structures of those bridges.

    i forgive you for thailand. 🙂

    November 6, 2009 at 10:32 pm

  16. Pingback: my last post (i think) on deadly vipers: asian cultural exegesis, grown men crying, and turning the other cheek « eugene cho

  17. DK

    eugene! thanks for stopping by and offering your thoughts. good points for sure! again, i reiterate the fact that the “apology” is secondary to my message of bridge-building but i see why my post has struck a chord.

    i have many “turn the tables over” type of moments that I’ll share in my next post…. just to give you a sample, I was coming out of blockbuster a few years ago and a skater kid walked up to me and asked “excuse me… do you put SUSHI on your PIZZA?” What would you do in that instance? Kill him? I certainly wanted to… but instead I broke his arm. Just kidding, but i’m gonna save my response for when i write the next post.

    my fire is burning right now and the beast has been awakened. i’m still a bridge builder for sure but i’m feeling like i have to charge a fee for those who want to cross it… mmmm, that’s deep and i just thought of it right now!

    if anything, I’m glad this post has opened the door to forgiveness for Thailand. 😉 Thanks, E! hahaha

    November 8, 2009 at 12:38 am

  18. daniwao

    DK, know your intentions and I do agree that all people need to be bridge people. At the same time we can’t ignore other people’s pains and hurts to accomplish building bridges.

    di

    November 9, 2009 at 11:43 pm

  19. Hey DK,

    read your post and everything everyone else said. While I might agree with you, the reality is that you and I cannot (although I wish I could) control what people are offended by. The standards people carry are different and I don’t think it is my place to tell them that they should or shouldn’t be stumbled.

    With that said, I think it is ironic that the people above told you not to speak on behalf of the Asian them, because they also spoke on my behalf and your behalf as Asian Americans when they began this angry ordeal. Just as you and I shouldn’t speak on behalf of others they should not speak on behalf of me.

    I love you bro. And if anyone calls your son a chink, love them as Christ would too.

    November 10, 2009 at 1:10 am

  20. DK

    hey dan and steve –

    thanks for the notes. you both bring up some really good points! the thing i’m learning constantly is that you can’t impose the “right” answer on anybody… you can merely share what you think is right and allow people to say their piece. yes, we can get offended with things but you can’t get pissed at me for not having the same amount of hurt and anger in my heart! good points, my newsong torrance bros! Newsong for life, right? (New HOPE is so yesterday)

    November 10, 2009 at 1:23 am

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  24. Ironically, it would have been better for Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite if they had been objectified in the Deadly Viper controversy, but it appears they were mistakenly made the subject of the discussion.

    If I understand all this correctly (and for the record, I am an ancillary vested person in this story, click here to read my own post re: all this), they touched a very sensitive nerve that (not only) the Asian American community has experienced in a “white captivity” culture—one that they have been grappling to put words to.

    The tragedy is that rather than making the subject a conversation around cultivating sensitivity to humanizing all people regardless of race, culture or ethnicity, the tone and the target of these wounds were aimed at two guys who were actually contributing to a conversation towards integrity, character and the affirmation of human dignity for all persons.

    I am a huge fan of Prof Rah and think his message needs to get out further to provoke a more grounded sense of our Christian identity as it relates to the shifting (actually, shifted) demographic in the mosaic of who actually makes up our Christian majority. But I am also a huge fan of what the Deadly Viper project was advocating for, not only in its content, but how the message of integrity, character and grace was embodied in the lives of Mike and Jud. It is sad how two important messages collided and the fallout that has been an unintended consequence of this collision.

    Let’s hope that everyone who made hurtful or accusatory statements about Mike and Jud, reconsider the content and tone of those unfair allegations. Much of the content I’ve read in the comment sections on blogs regarding all this has been unhelpful assumptions. These assumptions have only aggravated a sensitive conversation that needs to be played out. However, this important conversation should be held around more harmful eruptions of cultural insensitivity (i.e. the “Rickshaw Rally”) that somehow are left immune to the controversy Deadly Vipers unintentionally invited.

    Let’s also remember that Mike and Jud should not be the targets of this dialogue. If people want to pick fights here, there are plenty of other legitimate instances of racial insensitivity that are more important and appropriate instances that can be focused on.

    A positive outcome from all this would be an overwhelming level of support for Mike and Jud as the move away from the packaging of Deadly Vipers to their People of a Second Chance movement. A platform they have created for others that now needs to be extended to them, especially by those who have been so accusatory in the ways they’ve dismantled an important voice of renewal for our shared humanity.

    The essence of how I hope all this comes across speaks to the crucial need to humanize all people—the Asian American community and Mike and Jud. I think there’s a way that Prof Rah’s (and other’s) concerns can be, and need to be validated, but not at the expense of Mike and Jud—otherwise, the same thing that Deadly Vipers has been accused of will be done to them by those who are most concerned.

    Overall, I believe this has been a sad eruption of anger around an important issue that seems to have been misdirected at two guys who have given themselves to a much-needed message of hope. I think resistance to “white captivity,” or the imposition of any dominant consciousness of our Christian expression needs to be fought against, but not at the expense of the reputation and content of men whose message resonates with this struggle from a different perspective.

    *If you’d like to discuss this or comment on these thoughts please leave them here (http://www.chrisheuertz.com/post/257436160/further-reflections-on-the-deadly-viper-controvery)*

    November 25, 2009 at 4:04 pm

  25. As perhaps a minority myself, an easy target of comments, racism, etc, I just wanted to say how I appreciate you bro. How I appreciate how “simplistic was your approach” or “idealistic” as others might see.

    I feel like the way to stop the long and devastating cycle on racism it will be actually to act differently. It will be actually trying seeing us all as equal even when others don’t. To see differences only as a good thing, that will add to our own self.

    I love the calling: us being bridges.
    I really want to work on that mission.

    Allow me to just say that I believe the world needs more idealistic and simplistic visions, hearts and actions.

    December 8, 2009 at 10:16 pm

  26. DK

    Hey Taty– you guys are my bro and sis. thanks for the comment and thanks for seeing the heart behind what may otherwise be viewed as naive and “idealistic”. i think we can strive for the simple while acknowledging the complexity of such issues. appreciate you too!

    December 8, 2009 at 10:29 pm

  27. Pingback: INVICTUS – you convict us… « DKdanielkim.com

  28. Stephen

    You know you have hit Francis Chan pretty hard… but I want to say something about RACE….. GET OVER IT….. if you come from China and then become an American… you are Chinese-American….. IF you are born in Africa and then become an American… you are African-American……… IF YOU ARE BORN IN THIS COUNTRY THEN YOU ARE AN AMERICAN!!!!! Now… there…. all race issues are now solved…. I have spent time in China and not once did I meet an American-Chinese!!
    “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” ~William Shakespeare

    February 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm

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