(East) Asian Americans and pastor searches

Minorities keep growing– Hispanics are now 15% of the US population and Asian Americans at 5%. A handful of items coincidentally coincided, beginning with this comment in my inbox:

I was thinking the other day about the term “Asian American” and how it might need another word like “East” in front of Asian to truly reflect the perception that people have when they hear the term “Asian American.” Recently I’ve been thinking outside of the box and it just dawned on me how easily we assume or center “Asian” in the East or Far East mainly consisting of China, Korea, and Japan. When U.S. Census bureau includes Indian subcontinent and south Asia under “Asian” many “East” Asian Americans are not used to the concept or a picture of Asians including the Indians.

In my experience, I find that a majority of Americans of East Asian descent don’t even identify with that label, identifying much more often with labels like “Chinese American”, “Korean American”, or “Japanese American.” For instance, this new Korean American Christian Media website launched a few months ago as a “full service social networking community focused on the 1.5 and second generation Korean-Americans.”

Granted, too, I have noticed that a lot of the Asian American conversations tend to revolve around 2nd+ generation Chinese/ Korean/ Japanese. But, I’ve noticed for individuals and groups that do identify with the Asian American label, most seem to be cognizant about including Southeast Asians and South Asians along with East Asians.

2 other emails in my inbox: (1) a church in Chicago wants to bring on staff an Asian-American pastor (or African-American) for their Downtown Chicago congregation. Details of this ministry opportunity at Holy Trinity Church are online. (2) a 2nd generation Korean United Methodist church near Detroit, Michigan, is looking for a Lead Pastor, someone who can meet the UMC criteria and being forward-thinking. See details about this opportunity and contact me when/if you know someone who fits the bill. More ministry job opportunities at ISAAC.

Plus, there’s that “model minority” stereotype that still lingers. The College Board published this report, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straightread/ download full report (PDF). Their press release got titled ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype Obscures Reality of Asian American and Pacific Islander Educational Experience and New York Times noted how Report Takes Aim at ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype of Asian-American Students. It ain’t easy being labeled an Asian American.

If racial stereotypes weren’t such a sensitive matter, maybe this parody news article wouldn’t sting as much– Asian American Pastor Speaks Only English: Chicago native of Korean descent also knows no martial arts. Could we possibly laugh at ourselves and with each other across racial ethnic lines?

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  1. David Park says:

    Interesting. I agree with a higher degree of specificity of East Asian, it seems that only the people from the Middle East get the type of classification we’re all entitled to. Interestingly, I’ve noticed some shift in the Asian/Pacific Islander moniker as well. It seems like we’ve split that…I’m for at least getting past the nationality-centered identity so we can begin to broaden our identities and begin to accept responsibility for de-antagonizing our histories, which is a back-asswards way of saying I’d like to see reconciliation happen. And for that reason alone, I’d like to keep the larger umbrella of Asian American available, if for no other reason that being an East Asian married to a South Asian means that in order to classify my child might be best approximated as SouthEast Asian, which is really weird.

  2. djchuang says:

    David, or to say it another way, it’s taken more than a generation for the Asian American moniker to take. I still occasionally hear “Oriental”. As for your child, SouthEast Asian would be very easily confused with Southeast Asian — which refers to Vietnamese (did you know there’s more Vietnamese than Korean in the US now?), Cambodian, Lao, etc.