on behalf of MYSELF… i’m sorry… and then I’m not
ok, so i’m not in the business of making apologies but perhaps i should start looking for ways to make money off of them! i’d be rich and i can finally buy that personal basketball gymnasium i always dreamed of!
my last post (please read the comments at the end of it) seems to have brought up a slew of different emotions, mostly from my Asian-American bros and i’m under the impression that i need to re-establish credibility with my next-of-kin. my more-outspoken bros have not said anything i don’t know already… they have merely reminded me of the importance of speaking out when things are wrong or messed up. they also made it a point to let me know that all-encompassing apologies are not cool. point taken.
i’m still a firm believer in working harder to build bridges than in publicly attacking the perpetrator(s) but that’s just me.
so here goes. this post is for everyone to read and learn and for my Asian friends to know that i’m not some idiotic, naive, over-simplistic sell-out! (my words but i know some of you probably thought this in the deep recesses of your soul). i have suffered a great deal of pain and expressed my own share of anger and have asserted (although sometimes over-reactively) actions in the area of racism and race-relations that were deserved but maybe un-constructive at times. my wife will be the first to tell you that i pull the RACE CARD way too often to the point where the card has pretty much been relegated to a piece of lint in my pocket. so for me to write the kind of “apologetic” post that i wrote in my last entry is actually somewhat of a miracle and you’ll see how i came to such a place.
here, i list a few experiences that should make EVERYONE a little angry but i hope that more than the emotions, we can collectively start to care more about this issue and work harder to listen, learn, apologize, fight (healthy style) and ultimately, build bridges (or repair broken, hurt, burnt ones):
one of my earliest fuzzy childhood memories takes place in the early 1980s, Los Angeles, CA where a group of White teenagers nearly drowned me in the apartment swimming pool. If it wasn’t for my mom who came to my rescue, the world would have been minus one Daniel Kim and my wife may still be searching for her one true love… sad to think about, yes? (but also strangely romantic!)
after moving to a pre-dominantly Caucasian suburb 40 minutes east of Los Angeles for the rest of my childhood, the following events took place:
- we were driving home one day, my brother and i were in the back seat playing the Game Boy (TM–nintendo!) or something when this car drives up next to us. for the next 3 blocks or so, the 2 white kids in the back of the car proceed to taunt us senselessly by sticking out their tongues and stretching their eyes as horizontally as their pudgy index fingers would allow. the parents in the front did nothing. i pounded on my window at them in agony and fury, like an innocent and desperate man being carted away to a lifetime prison sentence.
- one time, i was walking out of Blockbuster Video when a skater boy and his friends approach me and ask this incredibly profound question:
“Excuse me? Do you put SUSHI on your pizza?”
I just about killed the kid but instead I gave him a verbal beating and ended my tirade by telling him that he’s the reason there’s violence in this world. he and his friends skated away (probably late to their junior KKK meeting) but from that point on, I resolved to never let Racism slide whenever i came across it.
NOTE: From the start of 8th grade to the end of 9th grade, I entered the all-too-typical Wannabe Gangsta stage. I would tag “KP” (Korean Power) on whatever I could and I tried super hard to invent an original gang sign to no avail. this whole phase was my way of staying “true to my roots” while making sure no one DISSED my Asian homies. Kno’ what i’m sayin!? tru playa fo’ real!
- i was walking along campus one day in High School when this skater-ish dude walks by me and mumbles a sentence that ends with “Chinese Chicken” … i quickly turned around and said, “what’d you say to me?” to which he said, “dude, relax! it’s a song!” … i threatened i was going to find him after school since i was late to my AP English Class but later my friend informed me that the dude was indeed reciting the words to this song by the Bare Naked Ladies… oops. At least I tried to defend my honor.
- one time on a mission trip to China, we met these missionaries from Arkansas. they were excited to meet us, initiated a lunch date but somehow made it a point to tell us that they don’t care for any of that “tofu stuff”. By the way, jerks, did you catch the part about us being from America, just like you?
- on another mission trip, this time to Mexico, my friends and I were at the base camp site where many different youth groups gathered for debriefing and meals. they happened to serve Spanish Rice along with the tacos for lunch that day. when i got to the front of the line, the Caucasian dude serving the rice was like, “let me give you a little more of that since I know how much you love this stuff…” I initially laughed, played it off and walked away when I suddenly realized that dude was straight-up racist. I returned a couple minutes later, pissed, to tell him that what he said was unacceptable. he apologized profusely in the name of Jesus but i’m pretty sure Jesus was pissed too…
More recently (about 4 years ago), i visited a pretty large and well-known church in Southern California with a group of friends. It was a predominantly Caucasian group which was fine… until they got to the announcements and showed a promo video for their new Martial Arts/Self-Defense ministry… can you see where this is going? Needless to say, the main character in the promo was white and he was just a little too excited to display his love for martial arts on this video. So much so that at one point, he slants his baby blues and throws in a few “hi-ya”s for added measure. i was appalled and angered by the laughter and shared amusement throughout the crowd. i went home troubled, confused at what to make of the situation. I emailed the executive pastor and asked for an explanation. He failed to offer any semblance of an apology and instead blamed the video ministry for the mis-step, virtually washing his hands clean of any responsibility. he ignored all of my subsequent emails and to this day, i am utterly disturbed by this…
i think you get the point. lot’s of crap happened and happenS.
this is MY journey. everyone else has theirs. you have yours.
what’s the point of listing all this out?
For one, i do hope that you see the hurt is real and that one can’t make this stuff up.
Two, for all you proponents of being ANGRY when this crap happens, I’m with you… if you call me or any of my friends a racial slur or slap me with an under-handed racial jab, it’s on…
that’s only step one of many.
perhaps i wasn’t as offended as some of you with this last episode because i know Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite.
i also know that because i have a handful of white friends that are like BROTHERS to me–people i would die for and they for me– i can’t stay angry. i love them too much.
my friendships push me towards that bridge and i want to invite more to cross, or at least get on!
so don’t imply that i’m being an Asian Uncle Tom (yikes! i’m actually saying this?), because i too know what it means to be an Asian American in an ignorant and ever-offensive society. i won’t let offensive things slide… if someone asked me today if I put sushi on my pizza, i just might end up in jail on assault charges…
So in conclusion:
WHITE people, you need to apologize for hurts caused and for ignorance, apathy, and straight-up racism. You need to be advocates on behalf of the ASIAN friends you care about. When you’re sitting in a meeting of national influential leaders and it’s a sea of white, this needs to bug you. You need to start hiring non-white people to join your teams and Church Staff. You need to start checking out blogs and myspace pages that feature non-White artists and start “discovering” a whole WORLD that’s out there. You need to start seeing deep value in people not like you.
ASIAN pe0ple, yes let your voice be heard but let it be heard in the context of friendship and trust. It’s ok to be angry but when you’re not in relationship with non-Asians, you have very little credibility… let’s be honest about that. On another note, let’s be INCREDIBLY and UNDENIABLY awesome at the things that we do. Let’s not give anyone a reason to devalue us or dismiss us. Let’s also collaborate with non-Asians and mutually learn from each other.
EVERYONE – my message remains the same. Build bridges through authentic friendship. Express the hurts, disappointments, and anger but then let’s listen, linger, understand and eventually…. love.
(man, this took me a long time to write out… it’s your turn now! your spot below:)