Asian Americans don’t look or think alike
Family resemblance. Twins look alike. Siblings look alike. People who have a few similarities can easily confuse others who aren’t familiar to them. You see, the world is really way more complicated than the market-driven society we live in that values simplicity.
The thing is, the Asians you know does not represent all Asian Americans nor the 34+ Asian ethnicities, cultures and languages that are lumped together under the umbrella of “Asian Americans.” Let’s not over-simplify.
The recent incident around the Deadly Viper book has stirred quite the confusion, particularly when the reaction from Asian Americans is very mixed. While some Asian Americans have been vocal about the offensive cultural insensitivities, other Asian Americans did not notice anything wrong. Those who didn’t see anything wrong remarked:
- “While the images may have been offensive to some and uncomfortable to others, I know their intent was to actually try and honor Asians“
- i myself wasn’t offended before… and am not offended now. but apparently, i may be the only chinese person out there that’s not.
- irritated about the whole Deadly Viper thing. irritated. really? ya had to shut them down?
- Hey Zondervan. I just showed my deadly viper book to 3 asians at Starbucks. They LOVED it.
- I’m sorry, but it’s soo dumb that this happened. deadlyviper.org/ My ASIAN WIFE totally agrees, too.
- I’m Hispanic,my son is Asian, @MikeFoster cn wear a sombrero & hold maracas 4 all I care.DeadlyViper chnged MyLife
Some say offensive. Some say not offensive. This suggests there are (at least) 2 very different groups: sensitive and non-sensitive.
Is it good for the non-sensitives and non-Asians to bear with the concerns of the sensitives? From Romans 15:1, “We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this…”
To those without the gift of mercy, without this sensitivity, the stereotypical alpha male, the end of Deadly Viper as we knew it, appears to be censure, along with confusion. And in our haste to move things forward, move on, and get past “it”, I fear the loss of this huge opportunity to address the elephant in the room — why can’t the church talk about its racism, especially the unintentional and systemic ones?
Now there’s a “backlash” of disbelief over the decision, and to say anything is akin to walking on egg shells, like:
- Why can’t the church rise above all this being offended garbage? In Christ I can rise above taking things personally.
- I am at a total loss of words after reading this: deadlyviper.org
- unbelievable, was shocked. Glad that I got to be a part of Deadly Viper just in time. #deadlyviper
- frustrated and confused by #deadlyviper being shut down by @mikefoster and @judwhite.
- I am deeply disturbed w the news of @DeadlyViper website bein shut down. I was just finishin #dvca. I feel robbed.
- Why does it feel like “assassination” of 1 culture trumps character/integrity assassination for all cultures?
- Ticked about the #DeadlyViper controversy & shutdown. I was considering it for group study.
- disappointed that zondervan caved to hyper cultural sensitivity and pulled deadly viper
- You guys did NOTHING wrong.
To those who don’t think it’s a big deal, conversations will not make it a big deal for them. Or, some may think the very valuable content can override smaller issues over form factor. I don’t think the non-sensitives will care enough to use their time to learn more from the sensitives. Sensitivity, or lack thereof, varies for both Asians and non-Asians.
I’m most bummed that the book being pulled, the website’s sudden shutdown, and the sensitivity of the issue prevents us to talking about this more in depth in the open. I feel censured too.
The problem is that your reference to Romans 15:1 is in regard to an action that causes a believer to stumble. None of the complaints from AA Christians voiced an impact to them being more likely to stumble and sin, although the way they went about this publicly with open letters and thinly veiled boycott threats certainly looked like stumbling.
A more appropriate verse in context for the offended is 1 Peter 2:23: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
One of the bloggers that drove traffic on this issue is Phil Yu of angryasianman.com. Phil is Korean yet you visit the site and he’s got a cartoonish karate kick guy on his banner and a japanese action figure that greets you to a homogenous mismash of asian kitsch. Just this week I went to a local restaurant called Koi Japanese Buffet. With the exception of Sushi, most everything is Chinese yet they also have KimChee.
All of this concern of pimping of Asian culture for sales and marketing is regularly done in the Asian and every other community. When I travel to Tokyo and see English and American culture butchered on products to sell to the locals, I just laugh and point out that the English words used are nonsensical. For tons of examples visit engrish.com.
Once we are in Christ, we are no longer Jew or Gentile, so we shouldn’t be offended when people ‘pimp’ our culture to sell a product. We don’t see Italian-Americans outraged at Olive Garden commercials.
great post here, DJ. i appreciate how you’re still keeping the dialogue open for this.
i also see you quoted me twice here in the “non-sensitive” group. while i was very clear about not being offended with the DV marketing, i wouldn’t say i’m not sensitive about it. if i weren’t sensitive, i doubt i would have commented.
i am saddened that so much of the Asian community was offended by this, and was honestly disappointed at how it backlashed so violently on two people who’s intentions weren’t to offend or hurt a whole race. i wish this was all approached differently.
overall, i’m mostly irked (or “irritated” as you have quoted me) that the WHOLE book was pulled off the shelf when plans to change the whole look was already in process. i feel what you feel… sensitive or not… i’m just sad that a really great resource is now banned for all. right, wrong or indifferent… we’re all supposed to be on the same team.
censorship is something we all feel right now… and that’s unfortunate.
DJ… i love what you stand for and truly look forward to meeting you face-to-face one day.
@Randy, thank you for taking the time to comment. You are correct the specific context for Romans 15:1 is about causing another to sin; is it not ok to also apply the verse in a broader context to be sensitive to concerns of others in Christ? Or are you saying it’s okay to offend, whether unintentionally or intentionally, since Christ was insulted and didn’t retaliate?
Thanks for posting this DJ! Reading those tweets from people really make me wish we can have a (Tokbox?) conversation to give everyone the freedom to vent to each other, but also hear each other out. We as the Church need to talk about these issues on race and faith. But yes, everyone needs to know that not all Asians think (or really look) alike…
On Professor Rah’s blog, he writes:
“Recently, I received my copy of the Zondervan catalog. In one of the circulars, there was an advertisement for a book called Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership.
“So the ‘Kung Fu’ part got my attention, as well as the dragon on the cover and the Chinese characters. I guess I was hoping against hope that it was the story of an Asian-American Christian rather than another example of Asian culture being pimped out to sell products.”
My thoughts are this: I think he has too much time on his hands and is looking for something with which to find offense. Did he bother reading the material before begging his crying?
As I’ve said on Facebook and in comments on Prof. Rah’s blog, Kung Fu isn’t even exclusively Asian anymore. In my area, I don’t even know of a martial arts dojo of any sort that has an Asian “Sensei”. Because of the lack of Asians in the dojo, should Asian “characters” be removed? Shall we insist that all martial arts instructors be Asian? Where shall the offense end?
Shall I take offense should Professor Rah ever write a book and illustrate it with an American Football (perhaps something like, “TACKLE Temptations and SCORE TOUCHDOWNS in your Spiritual Life”) or be offended if he wants to write a book on how to “Shoot Down Sinful Desires” should he illustrate said book with an F-16 (after all, we all know the relationship of the American-born Wright brothers and flying). He better not write about how “Not to Strike Out” and put a baseball/bat on the cover! God forbid! I might through a hissy fit with his publisher!
C’mon, people. Give up the right to be so easily offended. Especially if you’re a Christian in a position of leadership. Your skin should be MUCH thicker than that.
Jenni, thank you for elaborating your perspectives on this incident. Calling the 2 (primary) groups as sensitive vs non-sensitive doesn’t quite capture it for me, either. Maybe, offended vs. non-offended? Or, there’s more than 2 groups, as in: protesters, silent minority, concerned, and nothing wrong at all. It really is all so complicated, and we can’t over-simplify. 🙁
In hindsight, how could this have played out differently? What are the better ways to get the attention of authors and publishers for change?
You’re right that “we’re all supposed to be on the same team”, and yet, how does one team member not know the sensitivities of another? How could team members work more closely together instead of drawing a truce?
How can we better address institutional racism, structural racism and systemic racism, in how we do church, when some team members say it doesn’t exist while other team members say we’ve got such a long way to go?
I’ve been beat up, spit on, called nigger, wetback,Almost on a quarterly basis all before 7th grade in Atlanta ga, maybe it’s seeig racism in your face and not accidently or structurally that changed my attitude.
@Los – I’m sorry to hear about these terrible experiences of hostile, overt, purposeful racism. Especially as a kid, these are terrible things to live through. Many Asian Americans share in this experience of receiving outright rage, hatred & violence as well.
I think we can all agree that *both* racist acts of individuals (purposeful or otherwise) and racist structures & systems (purposeful or otherwise) need to be addressed, especially within the church. It’s not only an issue for those who are wronged; the way we pray for, work toward & live out reconciliation says everything about the Gospel.
As DJ points out, unfortunately, the church is often the first one to shut this conversation down. Hoping that this whole DV experience will lead us into becoming a better expression of the redeeming, reconciling love of Christ.
@djchuang – Thanks for the questions of clarification and engaging in convo with me!
Applying Romans 15:1 to a broader interpretation is fine for someone to do, as long as they don’t interpret their broadening as a biblical command. Because then you’re talking about an opinion or personal application, not a direct word from God. Big difference in authority. I know many Christians that take “do not get drunk with wine” and apply a broader interpretation to not drink at all because that’s even “better.” The problem is when they judge other Christians for not taking they’re broader adlib of scripture.
And the point of sharing 1 Peter 2:23 isn’t whether unintentional offense is “OK”, the point is that being offended is not Christ-like. My men’s group leader shared a story the other night saying “applying the same principles as the DV situation, I should be offended every time I see an Olive Garden commercial or a Sopranos episode.” We studying DV last year and my (and other guys in the group) lives were changed dramatically because of the content but also because of the assassin/ninja/kungfu hooks.
Regarding the mishmash of asian culture in the book or the nonsensical use of Chinese characters on the cover, that’s like me being offended of the misuse of the English language for marketing in Asia, hilariously captured on sites like http://www.engrish.com.
Holding one’s culture or heritage in esteem above Christ working through a book in thousands of guy’s lives is at best, self-absorbed, and at worst, idolatry.
The end of my comment didn’t make it so here it is!
Holding one’s culture or heritage in esteem above Christ working through a book in thousands of guy’s lives is at best, self-absorbed, and at worst, idolatry.
If the offended could have first applied 1 Peter 2:23, maybe the first blog post from Prof. Rah wouldn’t have been solely focused on “pimping Asian culture to sell books” but instead been something along the lines of:
“With the exception of the apparently nonsensical Chinese characters on the cover and mishmash of various Asian cultures by a couple of white brothers, here’s a book on character and integrity that men can sink their teeth into. While I must admit I initially cringed at the packaging and hooks, if amateurishly (yet innocently) pimping out my heritage can help men learn these critical issues, so be it. Consider this my book proposal for “Deadly Cowboys-Character Rustlers.”
It all comes down to communication and a DESIRE to dialogue respectfully. In my opinion, this didn’t happen.
I agree that some of the DV material could be seen as offensive, but the PREMISE and PURPOSE of the book was not. Though I don’t personally find it offensive to me, it’s obvious many were. This doesn’t make any of us wrong… OR right.
In hindsight, I believe the offended community could have come out in a less angry tone and IN PRIVATE. Matthew 18 talks us through how to address those who have sinned against us. I’m honestly not seeing how the first steps were taken appropriately. It was as if Jud & Mike were thrown to the wolves without even being aware first. It all turned around quickly within 24 hours, like a unexpected Kung-Fu chop in the neck (*yes… you can laugh there*)
Many who were offended wrote VERY respectful and gracious posts about this subject… but unfortunately, the angry, rude and hurtful ones were the ones that got the most attention.
Do I believe we should just stay silent when we’re offended? Absolutely NOT! But some of us were so busy fighting to be heard, we didn’t stop to think how we could extend love and grace in this situation. We just made it worse, and hurt others deeply in the process.
I wish the DV didn’t get pulled. I wish the Asian-American community didn’t APPEAR so “overly-sensitive” and to be blunt… a bit selfish. But that’s where we are right now and I feel like I’ve got a foot in both camps. This CAN be remedied… but it’s gonna take communication… and some serious hugging 🙂
The ‘Sin’ of Being Offended:
It sounds like you really enjoyed what the authors of DV-CA were doing. I understand why you’d be upset. In reality though, it is the fault of the authors that such material has now been pulled from the internet and booksellers. Since they and/or their graphic designers used a ham-handed collection of Asian stereotypes that their message is now compromised. I mean if I came up with a great presentation of Christian apologetics but then dressed it up as a minstrel show complete with blackface characters it would be my own fault that such a stupid thing was (rightly) denounced – not other people’s sensitivities.
@Randy, there is a big disclaimer with the article titled, “The Sin of Being Offended” — “… As a footnote, if you’re the ‘offending’ party, don’t forward this to the offended. This shouldn’t be your response. But if you’re counseling someone that has been ‘offended’, then this is your next session.”
I believe this means that the offending party, or an unoffended party, should not be forwarding this to an offended person.
This article is for a sympathetic and emphathetic counselor to help bring about healing and freedom. It is not for telling an offended person that s/he is sinful and s/he is being unlike Christ.
Now, if something portrayed in Olive Garden or Sopranos or Engrish is offensive to you, perhaps you should consider speaking up, in accordance with your convictions. As far as I know, none of those 3 examples are Christian organizations nor publications.
@Jenni, thanks for your additional comments. Yes, I am also saddened to see the drastic DV curriculum so abruptly pulled.
From my reading of the reactions of the Asian American leaders who put their names on the open letters and participated in the conference calls, there was a respectful dialogue and desire to find a resolution. I think for that group of leaders, they have acknowledge the premise and purpose of the book was not intended to offend.
I am not certain how the private conversations went between the authors and the offended, before everything went into the open. In this blog post http://profrah.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/immediate-reflections-to-an-ongoing-story/ , Prof. Rah apologizes, “Publishing a private e-mail exchange. This is something I am still agonizing over. I offer a public apology to Mike Foster.” Referring to the post at http://profrah.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/response-from-one-of-the-authors-of-deadly-viper/
Written text, or typed, does not convey the tone behind the words. So I can see how they can be easily mis-read, especially when emotions are running high. Sad.
I’m the “confused and frustrated” comment linked above. I started following this a few days after the “Open Letter” post on Prof Rah’s blog.
I’ve learned quite a bit (and I’m still learning) but I think your comment points out some of the confusion I’m still working through.
I understand the problem with blackface and comments about someone’s eyes or the way someone talks. I’m having a hard time, however, seeing how that’s the same as using martial arts as a theme of a book.
I’m not saying it isn’t offensive (because apparently it is), it’s just that it seems like that’s quite a jump to equate one to the other. I just want to connect the dots (thanks to my analytical, OCD personality!).
Then adding to this “gap” in my understanding is the offense of “co-opt[ing] Asian culture in inappropriate ways” (from Prof. Rah’s Open Letter) in order to market and sell a book. That raises a whole set of questions about who then, is authorized to use these themes to market a book (only someone who is Asian? only someone who’s studied the culture? how long should they study? should they use a committee?). I don’t mean this sarcastically, it’s just the questions I have when I hear this. I want to understand what would have made the book “right”. And I don’t want to offend someone because I like ninjas or use an analogy about martial arts or something like that. How far is too far?
I want to understand. I think I’m on the path to get to that understanding, but it’s such a complex situation that I think some things got lost in the emotion and the communication of the issues.
Just some thoughts I’m working through.
Since most of what caused all this concern has been taken down, I cannot go into the greatest detail as far as what the original material looked like. What I can reconstruct from the comments on the blogosphere (particularly at Prof Rah’s blog as well as Eugene Cho’s) is that the aesthetic went beyond martial arts into sort of random artifacts of Asian culture.
The very idea that a martial arts theme can equal Asian culture such that the book included various Chinese characters and Japanese gardens says a lot. Asian cultures are about more than martial arts and martial arts exist in many different cultures. A more direct comparison might be a book that used a basketball theme but then tossed in every stereotypical artifact of urban black America.
@djchuang – I’m am neither the offending (the authors and Z) or the offended party. You added the non-offending part, the authors of the article may no such prohibition. And I am offering wisdom thru your blog to those that have been offended by posting the article here because most of them are unaware of the collateral damage they’ve done.
You said: “It is not for telling an offended person that s/he is sinful and s/he is being unlike Christ.” The title of the article is “The Sin of Being Offended” for goodness sakes!! The article specifically states, “From a spiritual perspective, the truth of the matter is that as believers we have no right to take offense at what others do or say to us.” And then it follows up with 1 Peter 2:23!! I’m starting to think that you’re interpreting everything through your personal belief (Romans 15:1 and this article) instead of reading and applying what the text actually says. From a conversation perspective, that’s frustrating. From a spiritual perspective, that’s saddening.
And while I’m not Italian (my men’s group leader is,) my/his point is that no Italians are offended by those commercials. And if they were, most people would deem it silly and over-reaching. By the way, Olive Garden is owned by Darden, who also owns the Red Lobster franchise. So they’re just ‘pimping’ Italian culture to sell mildly authentic food. The horror!
@Dan – equating pictures of Asian art and random Chinese characters with blackface is like accusing the local owners of Sal’s Pizza (who aren’t Italian) with the same ‘crime’ by putting up maps of Italy and Frank Sinatra photos. @Dan- I don’t think you’ve actually seen the book. I have a copy of both the first edition that the authors self-published and the new Zondervan printing. And so do two Asian brothers that were in our group. They were some of the most vocal in our group when doing the study about thinking the approach was ‘cool.’ And one happens to be first generation American with a black belt in Taekwondo.
I wasn’t equating in the sense that kanji on a book cover = blackface in terms of offensiveness (I don’t even know how one would measure that). Rather what I was doing was pointing out that authors are the ones who bear responsibility for how they package their message. Using the example of minstrelsy to present the gospel was perhaps over the top, but my point stands – if I want to spread a message I have to take responsibility for how I do so.
I don’t think a pizzeria is a good analogue here since the product on offer is actually connected to Italian or Italian-American culture. There are some things still though that the owners could do that would be offensive, like using fake Italian accents (something the DV-CA gang did with Asian accents in a video that Eugene Cho referenced).
There is a fine line perhaps between homage and appropriation, but unless you’re opening a pizzeria or making a film in the style of classic Hong Kong action movies why dance with that line? While you are correct that I haven’t seen much other than the front cover of the book (still visible on Amazon as of yesterday) so I cannot say with certainty how offensive I would have found it to be, I still think the authors/Zondervan were not wise in even risking this sort of aesthetic direction at all.
Thanks, DJ. This is a really helpful discussion about all the nuances of racism, conviction and the Asian American community.
@Dan – You may not think it wise, but the authors self-published the book to rave reviews both in content and approach, so much so that Zondervan took the original printing and created a second addition. I can understand pulling the silly Chop Suey style video promoting the second edition, but pulling the book from the shelves and shutting down an established web community that didn’t flirt with those ‘lines’ was beyond the pale in political correctness and overvaluing self (“I don’t care how many people this has helped or can help, I am offended.”)
And I’ve literally been in a Mexican restaurant owned and run by a Chinese family who greeted me with “Hola”, the menu was garbled Span-ese, and the waitstaff were dressed in Mexican garb. They also served fortune cookies after your meal of fajitas. It was comical to me as part-Latino, though I never felt my culture was being pimped. Besides, my heritage became irrelevant once I became saved. I once asked him, “why not open a Chinese restaurant?” and the owner said, “In this neighborhood, better money in Mexican. Plus, I like Tequila.”
The funny thing is, this is all about wounds and hurt feelings. Every first reaction of the offended was about how it hurt their feelings. Not whether it was targeting their heritage negatively (it wasn’t) or whether the content was damaging (it wasn’t) or if Christ or the other apostles ever were offended over issues of race or culture (they weren’t.) We are neither Jew nor Gentile, Latino nor Asian, according to the Word of God.
By the way, the sooner all of us realize there won’t be a Chinatown, Little Italy, or East LA in Heaven, the sooner we can talk about important things like Christ, character, and integrity and not navel gaze on topics like self-esteem, pride in culture, and appropriate use of Asian art.
Simple question, who or what do we find our identity in? I know we can separate ourselves from our culture it is part of who we are. However, “aren’t we told we are not a part of this world.” Aren’t we also told that our identity is found in Christ.
yes, i understand that things can be insensitive to a culture and there is a certain political correctness that is out there. But can we look at the intent and heart of the Mike Foster and Jud Wilheite…can we discuss the important topics of this book, what this book is all about and how things were used to illustrate and give understand of the Greater message. Can we use stereotypes, even negative ones and redeem them for Kingdom purposes.
Can we also be more offended by the lack of holiness than someone using cultural references to talk about issues that all of us need to apply in our lives?
I have Deadly Viper right here on my desk…love the book…loved the blog and loved the heart behind it. This is a total shame how this came out and I am very disappointed in the one(s) who hadled it in such a manner.
Randy and Chris,
The danger here is that it is easy, if you aren’t offended by something to put all the blame on those who are offended. To say that you’re talking about living a godly life and other people are weak or parochial if they are offended by your presentation of it because a Christian’s identity should be in Christ is an easy escape.
The truth is that it is easy for us to say to our brothers and sisters who may be offended by our thoughtless words and actions “relax about all this, you should be more like Christ.” I know it is easy enough for me to say that especially since the unspoken, obverse implication is that my not being offended is a sign that I myself am more Christ-like.
@Dan – that’s assuming the actions were thoughtless. The authors had Asians work on the design and consulted with a local university professor on the use of specific Asian characters and themes. In this case it wasn’t thoughtless. Also, what sin did the authors commit that needed repentance?
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)*
Missed you at the ISAAC get together at Fuller – Jonathan’s talks were great and great discussion that followed.
While I appreciate the attempt to make sense of the various responses by AA to DV, I don’t find the appeal to Rom 15 accurate nor helpful. It assigns those who “took offense/were sensitive” as the “weaker brother.” In context the weaker brothers are those who possess the freedom to eat meat but cannot do so b/c they associate it sin. Paul makes clear there is nothing wrong with the meat itself. Applying this text to the DVZ controversy assumes that the use of Asian images by DV is the “meat.” According to this Rom 15 logic you already assume no actual offense was made – it is only in the imagination of the weaker brothers.
But I believe many AAs will disagree that the appropriation of the Asian theme is morally neutral. As much as I am a Scripture prof and believe in its authority, I would say that simple appeals to Scripture do not adequately address the complex nature of this controversy. Personal testimonies by individual AAs likewise fail to do so. If the nature of the problem is systemic, involving issues of white privilege and colonialism, we need more tools than just Scripture and personal experiences to address the issue.
“The authors had Asians work on the design and consulted with a local university professor on the use of specific Asian characters and themes. In this case it wasn’t thoughtless. Also, what sin did the authors commit that needed repentance?”
Hi Randy! Hope you don’t mind me chiming in a quick response.
Black men and women served willing in the cause of the Confederacy during the American Civil War as both support personnel and even infantry (a small number). There were even instances of free Black men purchasing Black slaves. Does the participation of some African American men justify the slavery of African Americans? Of course not.
I understand that DV has some Asian Americans involved in the DV ministry. But not all Asian Americans are the same, and the involvement of some shouldn’t be a blank check to invalidate the concerns of others. It’s as flimsy as a excuse as some person saying, “My two Black friends say it’s totally fine for me to call them the N-word, so I use it all the time when I address Black folks! They told me it was OK!”
I don’t know how much thought the authors put into the product, but from my standpoint (as someone with a better than fair amount of knowledge about Chinese and Japanese culture), the end product was still lacking in presentation and it was another vehicle for a set of dehumanizing stereotypes that have plagued Asian Americans in this country for years as “the other” and “the enemy”, labels that I think we can all agree are unwarranted, demeaning, divisive, and strips Asian Americans of their God-given humanity.
Asian Americans have been exploited, wrongfully imprisoned, and even murdered because we were thought of as the “enemy” or as a threat. Google the case of Vincent Chin if you don’t believe me.
HEre’s my two cents, @randy…
I can tell you’ve been thinking through this a lot and in the whole DV thing. With your comparisons to Italian pizza place, etc…
I’ve come to understand “racism” as prejudice tied to privilege and power, not to calling someone “white” or “black” or “native” or whatnot. Let me explain what I mean (sorry it is long-winded, I just like to start at the beginning so as to communicate well).
White folks could be prejudiced against Asian folks, and Asian folks could be prejudiced against White folks, that’s true. But the -ism is tied to power. It’s true that the majority of people in the US are white (i mean that as “of european-mostly western-descent”, not as skin tone). Based on that majority, and the history of this nation, white folks have, as a people group, more power (social/political/etc) than other racial groups in this country.
Because of this majority and power, white norms and cultures (whether irish, swedish, immigrant mix, etc) become the standards. Which leaves non-white people as “different” to white people, and quite often, misunderstood. It’s not a part of most white folks’ social consciousnesses, as we just live a “normal” life.
So back to what is racism. Racism comes in to play when the racial group in power, which in the US is white folks, take advantage of or discriminate against people of a minority racial group, or believe in that kind of discrimination. In the DV mess, discrimination (however unintentional and well meaning the authors are, which most of the asian-american blog communities have acknowledged) was in the form of misrepresented minority culture and the misuse of minority cultural tropes to market an unrelated book. It is all because of the power of the majority racial group, white folks, to unknowingly comment on and pass judgment on the culture that is “different” and “not normal.” And the majority group, white folks, have the power to dismiss the complaints and corrections of the minority group, because the white folks are the majority of the people producing the material, marketing the material, selling the material, and a lot of the buying of the materials. It’s all about the power and the norms.
…As far as it is not Christ like to be offended, I think we need to look at what offended means. I think Christ was offended when he saw his Father’s house turned into a den of robbers, and he reacted in the extreme. He saw wrong and was hurt by it, and did what he needed to do to make it right. To be honest, his reaction scares me a bit and seems a little too extreme for me to follow.
As far as tough skin, I read a great piece by Kathy Khang on morethanservingtea.wordpress.com about how Christ doesn’t advocate for thicker skin — we need to be sensitive to the pain in ourselves and in our christian family. I dont want thicker skin, so that seeing poverty and pain doesn’t affect me.
That’s me. Your Thoughts? Did I say anything poorly?