MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)

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…

HOWEVER

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:)

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6 responses

  1. “i can’t understand you!”

    i didn’t think you were selling out with your last post but thanks for this one… it made me laugh, cry, dance, and sing… well maybe not the last 2 but it was good stuff. thanks for saying bringing words to the conversation… we need it!

    with that i leave you some words: chickity china the chinese chicken!

    November 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm

  2. DK

    anders- thanks for feeling free to laugh, cry, dance and sing.. i never knew all that could be possible within a blog post but it feels good to know that it is!

    November 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm

  3. If this was facebook I would hit the “Like” button

    November 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm

  4. Wow. Awesome post. What bothers me most about this DV thing is that people are saying things like “I can’t believe it has come to this” and “Our culture is so out of control. Political correctness is killing the truth.” People are not making an effort to understand why this is such a big deal. That’s why posts like these are so necessary. I think I’ll need to write my entry of nightmarish racist experiences. I liked also what you said about building bridges. Check out my team’s site (http://bit.ly/4PWeFB) about what one guy who is “really exhausted of many things getting turned into a race conversation” asked. Reading those questions wanted me to scream at the computer, but instead I did my best to communicate a balance of grace and truth. I was blessed to hear this guys response! Anyway, all to say, I think God is going to use this to help all of us be more aware of our cultural blindspots.

    November 21, 2009 at 5:29 pm

  5. Gersom de Koning

    Hey DK!
    I just read this post as I peruse through your blog every once in a while. Just wanted to give you some thoughts of my own. First of all, I’m surprised at how ignorant people can sometimes be, yet on the other hand, sometimes when people make racial comments to me, I accept them as part of my being… Maybe I can give an example.
    Dutch people are often associated with two things: Cheese and Coffee-Shops (Weed). Often times I meet people and once they learn I’m Dutch they’ll ask me what cheeses are best, if I like cheese, if I am a “cheese-head”, if I smoke joints or have space-cake, or they just smile at me with a little “knowing smile” as if I must have experienced drugs. Now, of course I could get angry with some of these things… from a bit angry to pretty darn angry. But instead, I chose to ‘take it in my stride’. If they ask about cheese, I say with pride that “Yes, I KNOW MY CHEESE!” and I go on to explain to them a bit about how it became part of Dutch culture. If they ask about drugs, I go on to tell them about my commitment not to smoke up and how I make a difference in my country by doing that. Then I go on to tell them about God and how He has motivated that choice. I mean, sure, it can be quite annoying at times, but perhaps anger/frustration is not the right response? I am not trying to say that my way of handling this is the “right” way, but perhaps it is a way to be proactive about it rather than reactive.
    I know that in America, racism is a far bigger problem than in Europe. I mean, we experience it here too (the Netherlands has been accused by the UN of being islamophobic for example) but I think it is in a different atmosphere. This is strange to me though as America is supposed to be the land of ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ and a ‘melting pot of cultures’ yet racism still seems so predominant. One thing that I really liked about my college classmates is when they said: “I speak Dutch to everyone I meet initially, regardless of race or colour, I can’t ASSUME that they don’t speak Dutch because they’re not white. That’s ignorant.”
    So, there IS hope on the horizon for change, my friend.

    Also, relating to my studies (I am, after all studying Culture and Society), I can tell you that the ignorance comes from lack of knowledge and education. With education we can change the ignorance of people. Therefore I always tell people that they can also embrace their differences and talk about them openly with each other. Do you understand what I mean by this?

    Hopefully I have not offended you in any way by entertaining my thoughts to you. Would love to hear back from you so we can learn from one another.
    Love in Christ,
    – Gersom

    November 22, 2009 at 3:07 am

  6. DK

    @jeff – hit like anytime!
    @glennis – thanks for stopping by
    @gersom – good to hear from you. I agree with what you’re saying but the pain is different with each culture. A cheesehead assumption is not the same as a sushi pizza comment. You understand? At the same time, I will always be about bridging broken sides and it sounds like you are too. Awesome

    November 25, 2009 at 12:21 am

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