Discussing But I Don’t See You As Asian

READING RACISMSo many questions have emerged since this new civil rights movement began. Though I’m not really sure where it began or if this is just one of those cycles where God reminds us again that we are not as far along as we thought we were. Questions appeared here on this blog just last week to be part of the movement. To try to be part of the interruption. So here we are again to try to answer those questions ourselves.

Welcome to White Young Clergy Reading Racism.

Whether or not you are white, clergy or young, I hope you’re here because you want to be part of the interruption. You want to imagine another way. You want to be part of the conversation. That’s what this is all about. A good chunk of us are white women who happen to be members of The Young Clergy Women Project. We are committing ourselves to reading racism in order to confront our own stuff and be part of the change.

We are starting by reading Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. We’ll read one chapter every two weeks because we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew and there’s still plenty of time. We only started reading officially on Sunday July 12. So go ahead and order a copy now. We have only read the first chapter so never fear. Grab a copy and join in these reflection questions.

These were posted last week to get us thinking and they appear again today to encourage dialogue. Here is where we actually discuss. I’ll start the conversation by offering my own thoughts but please join in the conversation in the comments, on your own blog, on social media or with your friends at a pub or the church parlor. However you join in, please do. You’ll find the questions in bold italics and my humble responses follow. Be part of the interruption.

  • Reyes-Chow seeks an audience of readers who are “living in the tension between intellectual pursuit and passionate action.” How or why does this describe you? This describes exactly how I feel. I want so much to be engaged in passionate, embodied action but find myself so often in the realm of intellectual pursuit. (Case and point: I started this book group.) Racism has so often been an idea and a construct. It’s something I’ve wrestled with in the classroom. It’s been studied and observed which often came with a heavy dose of shame. I know that that shame has kept me away from this topic. It has weighed me down. It has disempowered me. It has made me feel like it’s insurmountable. How do you dismantle a construct anyhow? How exactly does that happen? How does it become something that isn’t just an intellectual pursuit but something that is engaged in passionate action. That’s what I want. I want the passionate action but have found myself on the sidelines reading and discussing books. It is my deepest hope to change this.
  • In discussing privilege, Reyes-Chow cites some tweets from the ‪#‎blackprivilege‬ response. Did any of the tweets in the book (or those you found on Twitter) offer you a new lens on racism? When I posted this question last week, I went looking around the inter webs for this hashtag. I read some of the things but it was this article from The Root that stopped me in my tracks. I know not everyone is going to agree and not everyone sees it the same way in the same community. I know. I know. But, what does it mean that this particular blogger saw this hashtag as so offensive? What does that mean for the ways that we try to point out the evils of racism? It makes me head explode and then fret with worry for our world and her people.
  • Especially for (young clergy) women, how did you relate to the dismissive comment that “gender doesn’t matter anymore”? Does or does this not help you enter into the conversation about race? A few months ago, a blog post of mine went viral. This post about Mother’s Day and my personal struggles and woes as a pastor got picked up by other blogs including one particular blog that called me a racist. It was couched in a longer post where it was claimed that white women should just stop with the Mother’s Day thing. Because there are greater evils in the world, we should get over ourselves and be quiet. Here’s my problem with this: my mother died when I was a little girl. It is this truth alone that makes me demand justice for things that don’t make sense. This loss and my grief has made me an advocate and an ally for others that feel like no one might listen or understand. I wouldn’t ever say that I’m amazing at this but I do try to engage in the hard work of understanding the heartache and loss of others. I don’t think that we can ever really know what pulls someone into this good work until we ask. We can never assume. Instead, at least from my story, we should look for those opportunities of connection.
  • How do you experience this truth in your church and in your life of faith that the “church too often finds itself trapped in the vernacular and strategies of a generation past. We have failed to find new ways to deal with the nature of race and racism that manifests in different ways”? Where do you see hope? Yup. Can that be my whole response? Because I’m not sure I really have more to add to this. I’ve long struggled with the laud and honor bestowed upon white clergy who marched in Selma. Good people, mind you. Really good people. But, the way that that struggle and that work has been discussed in churches is as if to say that it’s done. We did it. There’s no more to do. Oh, and how cool that you were there. We’ve gotten lazy about asking each other where we should be now. And because of this I’m not sure I see much hope. Show me some, please.
  • Reyes-Chow concludes this chapter with a statement about Christianity’s role in conversations about race. How might you claim this possibility as a guiding force in your ministry and/or your life? I can only hope that this is a guiding force in my ministry. I wrote this question in such a way because I want it to be — but I’ll admit that I’m not really sure what that looks like. I just know it should be. It really should be. Somehow.

Enough about what I think. What to you think? How might you respond to these questions or anything else you might be thinking after reading the first chapter of Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. Add your thoughts and ideas to the comments below or to your own blog. Be sure to include a link or send me a message so that I can share your wise words.

Next week, I’ll post refelection questions for Chapter 2 and then the discussion begins on Sunday August 9.

I am so glad you’re here.

If you’re just joining in on this conversation, you might be interested to find these earlier posts:

This is the first post where our book study began and these are the reflection questions for the first chapter of But I Don’t See You As Asian. You’ve found yourself at the point of our conversation of the first chapter. So please jump into the comments and share your thoughts.

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