On week 23 of my son’s development within the confines of my womb, I would like to directly address him about one of the things he will likely face as he leaves the shelter of his mama’s body into a much bigger, and not always fair or just world. As the conflict in Ferguson, MO once again brings the debate over the racial divide and conflict between the white and black populations into the forefront, I want to let him know that, just because he is neither white nor black, he will not be exempt from the debate…
My darling baby boy, who has yet to grace the rest of the world with your presence…
In a few short months, our time joined within one body will come to an end. You will join the rest of humanity in this great world of ours. There will be many good and beautiful things that will capture your heart and soul, as this wonderful gift of life on earth overtakes you with awe and wonder. Your daddy and I will do our best to help you become the man God is knitting you together in my womb to be (Psalm 139:13-16), and protect you from harm as much as we possibly can.
One of these things is going to be what we call “the race issue”…
something this world has been dealing with since the fall of man.
Being of Korean descent (which will likely manifest itself in yellowish skin, black hair, brown almond-shaped eyes, and flatter facial profile), you will undoubtedly experience a great deal of privilege (as well as some consequences) being part of what has been stereotypically coined as “the model minority.” You will be seen as being “smart.” You will be seen as being “polite” and “accommodating” and someone who won’t put up a fight about things. You will be given a great deal of what we call “the benefit of the doubt,” because those who came before you have set up a legacy of what America views as “success.” I’m not saying these things are not good things (though I question if this is always 100% true among ALL Asian people). But because of this, you will also grow up at risk of treating the minorities who are not looked upon with such esteem lesser than yourself while looking upon white Americans as the people group to emulate.
Son, I don’t want you to grow up believing the lie that this privilege you may experience because of how you look gives you reason to ignore the fact that others do not. I do not want you to look away when you see the injustices others face because of something they had no more control over than you did – the skin color/culture/nationality they were born into. Each and every person you meet, no matter where they are from, what they look like, and what they sound like, deserves the same amount of decency, respect, and benefit of the doubt.
With every race and ethnic group, there will be the “bad apples” who wreak havoc on society (yes, even Koreans…you will eventually learn of what happened at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007). Believing people of one skin color/culture/nationality is more likely to do so than another will only perpetuate the hatred and violence that seems to plague our world. We are all broken people who have the capability to do horrendous things. We are all in need of saving from ourselves.
But just because you are part of this alleged “model minority” doesn’t mean you will not have unfairness directed towards you. You will also face some uncomfortable situations where you will be made to feel that you do not belong. Words others use (mostly in ignorance) will make you feel as if you are are the “other” in a place you will always know as your home.
You will be asked, “Where are you from?…No, where are you REALLY from?” even though you will tell them you were born here in the United States (and are in fact a citizen by birth).
You will have people saying “an-young-ha-SE-yo!” to you (with a really thick American accent) and assume you will be impressed they know “your language.” (Granted, we do plan to teach you our native tongue, without a doubt.)
You will be told that you “don’t have an accent at all” and that they would never have thought you were an Asian over the phone.
You may even face direct racism, where people will tell you to “go back to your home country,” which will COMPLETELY confuse you because…well…you ARE in your home country. You may even find yourself being physically threatened or harmed over this.
I will not pretend that these are hardships are as bad as the ones other races face. Other races will be made to feel like potential criminals, murdered, etc. because of the color of their skin. They will be unfairly beaten/imprisoned because they “look” like the guy who did such and such. They will pay the price of others who have done horrible things simply because of the way they look.
Still, you will share in the fact that both you and they will face social injustice. Racial pre-judgments are real. No one is able to fully prevent such things from happening. But what we CAN do is to make an individual choice – whether to be part of the problem or be part of the solution.
Will you choose to see others as fellow human beings? Or will you choose to define them according to their skin color?
Will you choose to treat others with love and respect? Or, in delusions of superiority, will you choose to treat them with malice and contempt?
Will you choose to overcome stereotypes and see individuals for who they are? Or will you choose to prejudge others by the actions of a few?
Will you choose to stand up for what is right, speaking truth in love, for all people? Or will you choose to ignore it, pretend it’s not happening, and allow injustice to continue?
Will you choose to help unite all peoples in love, peace, and joy? Or will you choose to further divide and continue the hate, war, and sadness?
At the moment, of course, your main focus is to continue to grow and develop (by the grace of God) inside me. And for the first years of your life, your focus will to continue this development and make new discoveries about the world around you. But when the time comes, and you begin to realize that the world is not always such a wonderful place, the choices you make and the outlook you choose to have will make an impact on this world. As your mama, I pray that you will choose to be part of a new generation of people that will aim to better a broken world and work to bring justice and peace.