Beating this pandemic alone will be costly
We can’t afford hate during this crisis
To be Chinese does not equal disease
I am Asian American, I am not a virus
It’s not uncommon for human fear
To refuse to focus on real dangers
Believing instead in a false “Us vs Them”
Seeing enemies instead of simply strangers
Yet love can overcome fear
People all over are linking arms in this fight
I want to put their stories and their faces,
Their unity that’s contagious, in the spotlight
Like the doctors in Zhejiang, China sharing expertise
Through a Zoom call connecting west and east
Answering questions for their USA colleagues
Even praying for American’s fighting this disease
Or the Chinese Red Cross sending medical staff
Along with 30 tons of supplies
All the way to beleaguered Rome
Where death counts continue to rise
Millions of masks, test kits, and ventilators sent
By a Chinese billionaire whose giving isn’t done
To help the USA, Italy, & Russia, Africa & Latin America
Living out what it means to believe We Are One
Nations are being neighborly
Like South Korea donating test kits
500 to the Philippines and
50,000 to the United Arab Emirates
Asian Americans have been doing their part
Even within the borders of these United States
Donating medical supplies and raising funds
As we face the rising of anti-Asian hate
In Houston, a $42,000 donation of supplies
Long Island: $70,000 by Chinese American Associations From Vegas to Charleston, Michigan to Idaho
If you look for the helpers, you’ll find many are Asians
Yes some are thinking first about money and power
Politically gaming and blaming to protect their own
But many are crossing divides of race and nation
The best of love and unity in humanity can be shown
I’d planned on reposting a series I’d done on Facebook in 2018 that compared political cartoons from the late 1800s and early 1900s to issues we were facing today. Turns out a lot of those posts are mysteriously gone from my Facebook feed.
However, we can analyze this one today.
This one was titled ‘The Mongolian Octopus – His Grip on Australia’ and was published in Sydney, from The Bulletin [‘Australia for the White Man’], August 21, 1886.
Fears of the “Yellow Peril” were not a USA only problem. Pretty much any area colonized by white, western europeans also felt threatened by the mass immigration of Chinese people and east asians in general.
You can see how “small pox” and “typhoid” – the medical threats of the day – are associated with Chinese. Today, as Asians all over the world are sharing how they’ve been verbally and physically attacked because of a racist connection between them and the coronavirus, we see not much has changed. #IAmNotAVirus is only necessary in a world that associates anyone east asian with disease and infection.
Other labels in this cartoon (cheap labour, robbery, immorality, drugs), should remind us of the labels being put on immigrants and asylum seekers at the USA’s southern border. When you hear your aunt or neighbor expressing their concern about the criminals coming in from the US-Mexico border, it is the same thing. The fear of Chinese immigrant in the 1880s was no less real to them as the fear of the Latin immigrant is today. And no less racist either.
Today we know that all people are made in the image of God. Right? That there is no race or ethnicity, no culture or heritage that is inherently immoral, diseased, or criminal. I hope so. However, it’s clear we still have not fully eradicated these ideas from our collective cultural conscious.
When the news broke about Coronavirus and media/press grabbed any image of east asian people (images from unrelated events and places) they could find to attach to their articles…it was a false association with damaging effect.
It revealed how the former racist narratives of Chinese and east asian people still exists in our collective imagination. We’ve not done a good enough job of deconstructing these biases.
I think it helps to look at these things from history…look at something from a safe distance of “we know better now” because we can clearly see how wrong this cartoon is and how dehumanizing it is.
Then we can ask ourselves, in what subtle ways are we still doing this? Still tempted too or permissive of associated a racial/ethnic group with infection, disease, immorality or generally being a threat to ‘our way of life’?
I have a new article up at The Art of Taleh:
Here is an exerpt:
“It is not difficult to hate someone once we’ve perceived them to be a threat. The depictions (in words and images) of East Asians as the evil and threatening “yellow peril” have deep roots in our cultural history and COVID-19 is merely proving how little has changed. […] Yet God urges us throughout the Bible to resist all lies and deceptions; to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). What might that look like during the rise of COVID-19?”
Recently, the President of the United States said that four minority congresswomen originally came from countries with broken governments, that they should go back and fix the crime infested places they came from instead of stay in the USA. Yet 3 of them were born in this country and one has been here since she was a child. The only reason the President referred to them in this way is because of their black and brown skin.
My first thought was about how boringly common that kind of racist language is. So common it even has a term; the concept of the Perpetual Foreigner in the United States is basically that US Citizens who are not white will always been seen as an alien or a foreigner, as belonging somewhere else.
However white citizens, whose ancestors definitely originated somewhere else, are never spoken of this way, never questioned or seen as foreign simply because of their race. No one is telling Pelosi to go back and fix problems in Italy. No one told Hilary to join British Parliament instead of run for President of the USA.
My second thought was about how frighteningly damaging those words are when they come from the President and not just a random person with an internet connection and no real influence.
As the weight of the President’s words toward black and brown women who are serving our nation in elected office sank in, my own experiences with this sentiment ate away at me.
So, while my husband drove our family to Portland for the day, I sat next to my baby in the back seat and wrote this on my phone to post on my Facebook profile. I needed to try again to explain why this hurts. Even though I actually have written about this very thing several times recently on Facebook. I am reposting it here, below the next heading.
So, white friends, do you think it is ok or normal to assume that someone who is not white was not born in the USA? That they actually belong in another country? That they should go and fix that country before they can positively contribute to the USA?
If you have any doubts about how common it is for non-white (and I will say especially asian) people to be told to go back to “where you came from” or asked a variation of “Where are you REALLY from?” (which might be asked with friendly intentions but still makes the same problematic assumption)…then I will personally verify this for you.
It happens to me. It happens to my non-white friends. It’s so common I don’t even talk about it when it happens usually. Last time it happened I didn’t even tell my husband because I was a little embarrassed about the circumstances.
It is important that you know these assumptions and comments and questions are based in the (often unconscious) belief that white is default, white is normal, and white always belongs. Therefore anyone not white is other, is not expected, and does not belong.
It is important to know that it is not the one individual incident that is the main problem. It’s the lifetime of these recurring incidents happening in the first person, witnessing it happen to others, seeing it expressed in movies and the news.
It is the cumulative effect that is so damaging, like one thousand soft punches to the exact same spot that begins to ache then bruises and eventually immobilizes the entire arm.
Even if you know not everyone thinks that way.
So when I hear people in power speak this way, I am rightfully angered and grieved. I know that it increases the perceived acceptability of these assumptions and normalizes these comments.
If you hear about these kinds of incidents and your instinct is to find a way to explain why these comments are not racist and/or to minimize the impact on non-white people, it’s like you’ve witnessed someone softly punch my broken and bleeding arm and rolled your eyes at me when I cried out in pain. It’s like your telling me I shouldn’t feel pain because they didn’t know that was a sore spot. You might as well punch me yourself.
Since this blog is new, I planned to ease into the transracial adoption posts. Truth is I have no idea how to start. Instead, I’m jumping in with these words I originally typed up for a Facebook group. Topic of the day: Centering white parent perspectives on transracial adoption .
There is a celebrity Facebook talk show called Red Table Talk featuring Jada Pinkett Smith, Gammy (her mother) and sometimes her daughter, Willow. I’ve only watched two of their episodes and both times it was because of some questionable ways they were discussing race-related issues.
I was asked to watch their episode entitled, “Should White People Adopt Black Kids?” and share my thoughts on it in the Be The Bridge Facebook group from a TRAdoptee perspective. So I did. Then, a couple people asked to share my thoughts beyond that group. So I’m making it a post that can be shared more easily.
Watching this episode with white adoptive celebrity mother, Kristin Davis, was disheartening. It seems Jada and Gammy had concerns about white people adopting black children, so they found a white adoptive mom from their world to validate their concerns but also assuage their fears and put a bow on the topic. That’s it.
While there were some potentially good questions and a few basic but important points made by Davis, overall this episode is problematic. It lacks substance, perpetuates a few stereotypes (e.g. black families don’t adopt through the legal system) and generally is not a helpful watch for anyone. Unless your first and only question was to know what the adoption process was like for Davis. There are many people doing a much better job of having these discussions.
If they had titled this, “How White People Adopt Black Kids”…I might’ve given it 4 stars.
I had a lot of thoughts and questions watching this conversation unfold, but I’m going to choose just 8 points to discuss; the 7 points I originally wrote in my post in Be The Bridge’s Facebook group plus 1 bonus point for you here because you’re special. [wink] If you watched the episode and then read through all these thoughts, my hope is that you’ll see how exhausting this discussion can be for TRAdoptees.
What do I mean when I say “centering” the white/parent perspective? I mean that point of view is treated as if it is the most important perspective. I mean that the way the topic of transracial adoption is being discussed assumes that the white adoptive parent’s opinion, feelings, experiences and interpretations of things are the most interesting and sufficient for understanding transracial adoption. Spoiler alert: They are not.
So, by the title of the show, we expect a tough conversation about transracial adoption, but we enter a discussion with ZERO adoptee voices. And not even a mention that it is important to listen to adoptee voices.
No meaningful conversation about adoption, especially transracial adoption, should ever exclude the voice of adoptees.
There are lots of us transracial adoptees who are grown and out here happy to share our experience and stories. But still…when folks want to talk about adoption…very few come to us or listen to us. They still go to the [white] adoptive parents to tell them all about it.
This is a problem because:
This was mentioned in the comments of my original post and it just makes this RTT episode all the more icky for me.
Now, I have absolutely zero confirmation that what I’m about to share next is at all related in any way. However, my point is that this happens a lot (adoptee voices being ignored).
About a month ago, a well-known adoptee advocate who is herself a black transracial adoptee posted this on her Facebook page:
I cannot imagine someone more qualified that Angie to answer the question; “Should White People Adopt Black Kids?” PLUS, she is dynamic, comfy in front of the camera, and would make for a very engaging guest on RTT.
Read Angie’s Post: Do Transracial Adoptees Know Anything About Transracial Adoption?
Jada and Gammy have some good questions. Gammy even starts off with a very common but important observation on TRA: “Love is not enough”. Yet, when the discussion gets going, they seem to accept very soft and even shallow answers from Davis.
For example, when asked why she decided to adopt at all, she could not articulate why. She says some things like; her friends were doing it and she would feel incomplete if she weren’t a mom and it was a very spiritual kind of thing. These are red flag answers for me.
Later, Davis says that there is a lot of soul searching already done before filling out a pre-screening adoption questionnaire. That may be true but she did not reveal the fruits of that.
What do I expect, you ask?
If those are her truthful answers, why are they so bad?
With all the knowledge we have now, I expect APs to have more substantial reasons for stepping into difficult work of adopting a child. The “I felt unfulfilled” answers are not good enough anymore. I would expect that APs answer that question by turning the focus off of them (where it nearly always is) and bringing attention to the real issues of adoption.
Davis had a weird balance of talking about difficulties of adoption but then also giving the “…but it’s all good” vibe. For example, when asked about adopting her second child and how that came about she says...”one day there he was”. This is one example of the kind of problematic language that is so common in adoption stories that is cliche and default. This particular phrase erases the birth mom from the adoption story. It implies the child just appeared out of nowhere. This phrase disconnects adoption from the inherent trauma of a child being separated from their first family.
Now, Davis did use her privilege to speak positively about birth moms. She challenge how often they are ignored or misrepresented. I do applaud her for that! But that only makes her falling back on this weird adoption-ism seem extra out of place.
Today, we know better. We must do better. Let’s not give these glossy phrases about adoption a pass. Growing up hearing that kind of thing; “One day, there you were” inches into ‘rainbows and unicorns’ territory.
In the teasers for the episode, the term “White Savior” gets thrown out. This is a real issue and controversial topic! There is so much meaty stuff that could be discussed here but the conversation stays in the white comfort zone.
When Jada pitches it to Davis, she whiffs it with another milquetoast answer. Her response is to confirm that the White Savior is not a myth. Haha. Was there any doubt? But then she says she doesn’t come across that, though. Translation: It’s real but it’s rare.
It bothered me that Davis’s counter to the reality of White Saviorism was to argue the extreme by saying, well, we can’t say, “don’t try to do anything good because your skin is white.” This is a terribly common way to silence people bringing up real concerns by creating a false dichotomy. I don’t believe Davis intended it this way but I believe it reveals how unequipped she is to have deep conversations on this topic.
There are so many other important ways white people can help vulnerable families that do not involve adopting non-white children. Why don’t we talk about that? Why do we assume white people helping = white people (separating families and then) adopting.
In the unexpected focus on Davis’ adoption process, Jada references a sample questionnaire that is apparently indicative of what hopeful APs fill out in their screening process. There was a question that asks hopeful parents to check which races/ethnicities they would be willing to adopt. Davis mentions feeling like she should not exclude any of them.
She says that it ‘was’ her opinion at the time that the question itself was racist. Probably because she used to think that bringing up race at all was racist. However, she doesn’t go on to mention how her opinion on that question changed. Jada and Gammy do not press on that either. No one talks about the significance of that question further.
There are good reasons a racially aware AP would self-select out of raising children of certain races/ethnicities. Addressing that would have made for a much more nuanced conversation.
Instead, Davis merely focuses on how that question made her feel uncomfortable; because she would “feel racist” to exclude any racial categories. This, again, is what it looks like to center white parent feelings and miss the point entirely.
Don’t misunderstand me. It is good that the white AP is broken hearted over the racism her black children encounter. However, do Jada and Gammy (or any self-aware, non-white person) need a white mommy to tell them what every day anti-black racism looks like? No.
Yes, they did ask her how raising black children has opened her eyes. There were many other ways she could’ve answered. It was not helpful to hear her unpack the two minor situations she recounted.
I recognize that Davis is in process with unpacking her white privilege and I applaud her progress! She merely shows here that she still has a lot of work to do. Again, I question why she was chosen to speak on this topic. If we want to hear from white APs, I would personally rather hear from one who can talk about how their eyes have been opened racism without the “…and can you believe that happened?!” vibes. Yes. We believe it. We live it.
We should note this whole conversation is shaped by some economic privilege. You might’ve missed the bit where Davis talks about the difficulty finding a good school. A school where they will not be the only black kids and they will have black teachers. Jada commiserates with her about how difficult that is in Los Angeles! Wha?
My husband and I used to live and work in Los Angeles. There are lots of schools with black children and black teachers. Something tells me, though, that those schools not even on their radar. I used to do photo shoots in the gated Pacific Palisades neighborhood where Jada and Will raised their children. If that is the view of Los Angeles you have, then…okay…maybe you would find it difficult to find a certain kind of $chool with diverse demographics.
Even more subtle still is Davis’ description of her adoption process. She reveals the adoption agency she went through was above average. She does not seem aware that her experience is likely not a fair representation of the vetting and preparation process that many other white APs experience. I’m glad for her but my guess is she has more options and resources than most.
I understand that Red Table Talk and others like it will always be celebrity fluff. Not the places we should go to for complex topics and nuanced learning. I get that they script and edit to get clicks and views. At 3 million and counting, the strategy clearly works.
Even so, if I ignored all that and generously assumed the intent of this Red Table Talk episode was to dive into the complexity of transracial adoption…the impact of this episode is still a poor one.
The impact of this episode feels like another erasure of transracial adoptee perspectives. It feels like yet another “not all white people are racist” production. So much that needs to be said, heard and understood about transracial adoption and whether or not white people should adopt black kids was given a pass because a white adoptive parent’s experience is still more important than the non-white adoptee’s.
Friends, we need more mental exercise. I’m not talking brain teasers or word puzzles. I’m talking about challenging our assumptions, exploring other cultural perspectives, unlearning false history, etc.
It’s 2019 and our world is as “Us Vs Them” as ever. We all suffer for it. Most of us put more effort into seeing what’s flawed in others than taking stock of our own shortcomings and changing. So, it’s time to learn up, lovie.
Now…I’ve always loved reading and learning! So it’s easy for me to claim mental exercise should be a priority. However, books aren’t the only way! There are really well-done documentaries and podcasts, historical art exhibits and historical sites to visit, plus cultural events to experience.
I started 2018 wanting to learn more about racial identity development, and broader Christian perspectives on justice and activism. I ended the year seeking out more author’s of color and women. I bought more books than I was able to complete, so 2019 is gonna be a real page turner.
Available on 1/22/19! I got a free advanced copy of this historical survey of the American church to review and help promote. This has a lot of historical facts and quotes, but it doesn’t read like a bland history book.
It is easy to understand, but the subject matter can be hard to confront and digest. It connects the dots, throughout American history that show how the American Christian church has, with few exceptions, silently gone along with the racism of the culture at the time.
Get your pre-order bonus here: www.thecolorofcompromise.com
I got an advanced copy of this before it was released as well. 2018 was a great year for social media book launch teams. Kathy Khang does an excellent job explaining our biggest fears and obstacles to speaking up while making a compelling argument for why we need to learn to use our God-given voices. She is encouraging and provides great practical wisdom on discernment, handling backlash, and even tackles how best to use social media.
I will share a more comprehensive review soon.
A just-for-fun novel! This is part mental exercise though, with a heap of guilty pleasure reading. Kevin Kwan is a wildly successful Chinese-Singaporean-American author and that deserves to be celebrated. This trilogy provides comedy and romance, Chinese & Singaporean culture clashing with western values, #richpeopleproblems and sinful descriptions of tasty foods I will probably never get the pleasure of trying in my lifetime.
Thank you, cousin, for sending me these books!
The first book I read in 2018. Daniel Hill, a white pastor, shares his racial awareness journey and the common struggles in faith and identity for white Christians.
I started the year with this book because I grew up in white culture and hoped this would help me decode and deconstruct some things. I think it helped. I would recommend this to all my white Christian friends.
Such a loving and gracious book. I found this enormously helpful in learning to differentiate what is praiseworthy and redeemable in my God-given ethnicity vs seeing myself through the harmful/sinful lens of the man-made concept of race. Sarah Shin does a great job of giving us positive language to use when speaking of ethnic and cultural differences.
I would recommend to anyone struggling to see past the brokenness in their racial or ethnic identity.
Fiction & Fantasy!
Ken Liu created a wonderful world and great characters and put them in an epic story that folds in elements of east asian culture and folklore. This is a beast of a novel, though, so not for the reluctant reader. It is refreshing and thrilling to read a novel of this scope and magnitude that features asian customs and traditions.
Can’t wait to read the next book and continue the story.
Oh my. This was the sweat fest my brain never saw coming. Took me months to work through this. Why? Well, for one, Christena Cleveland packs a lot of education into this book. It is part autobiography, part sociology and part social psychology.
And then, she made my spirit do some hard work. This book focuses on our life in the church with fellow believers and how we are called to a costly and deep level of unity with one another across racial, political, and cultural, lines. This is something I wish we would all read but I’d probably save the recommendation for the truly committed spiritual leader.
Finally a “Meh” rating. This was read as a group study. I wouldn’t have read it otherwise. Let’s see, this book was supposed to present how Proverbs speaks to everything. To me, it read more like how a white woman of a certain age interprets Proverbs. There were a few helpful insights, though.
I wasn’t the only one in the group study who raised an eyebrow. Can’t say I’d recommend it. Maybe to my mom. She’d probably find it encouraging.
The antidote to the last book! Haha. If you bristle at the title, calm down. This is actually way less controversial of a book than you’d think. Sarah Bessey kind of whimsically rambles a bit I think, but she shares some great insights into just how subversive Jesus’ care and attentiveness for women was in the Bible.
See, Christians have a reputation for being kind of anti-woman, but the Bible’s view of women shows crazy love for the ladies…IF you understand the cultural contexts of the stories. So I liked it. My mom probably would too if she could get past the word “feminist” on the cover. Haha. Love ya, mom. Actually, she isn’t reading any of this. Don’t panic.
Oh holy, historical (science fiction) horror!
Kindred was a very engaging and well written novel. Amazing character development, tackling two different time periods, interracial marriage, and a strong female protagonist. HOWEVER, it was hard to read sometimes as it presents some intense themes and devastating imagery (read: chattel slavery, violence, rape, misogyny). Death comes to life in this one.
That ending, though! I’m both excited and scared to read more from Octavia Butler.
Binti was a super fast and wild Young Adult Fiction read. The setting is a futuristic sci-fi space fantasy featuring a young mathematical prodigy. Binti has deep roots in her ethnic culture and has to learn how to keep her identity while breaking traditions and forging a new, controversial path. You can literally finish a book in a morning, but the story stays with you. Surprising and enjoyable storyline, even if you’re not all that into aliens and space travel and whatnot.
This 3 part documentary may be 16 years old, but the information is STILL SO NECESSARY! I’m talking debunking the idea that race has a biological reality, explaining how it functions as social construct, showing the systemic oppression of non-white people generation after generation. These are still things people do.not.understand.
So watching this as the foundational learning experience of a small group I started last year was perfect. I bought the DVD with a Home License but you can also rent it on Vimeo for less than $5 I think.
So this was the first podcast that I really got sucked into. It’s only a 14 episode series from Scene On Radio, but it’s so well done. John Biewen, a white journalist, tackles the questions of where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for? He interviews all kinds of scholars and dives into some really interesting stories and histories. And it’s FREE!