With the shootings lately of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas policemen, a burden has slowly been growing in my heart. I am not the most sympathetic person ever, but the chaos has gotten to a point where it’s inescapable; social media is absolutely overrun by the latest shooting, anti-police sentiments, and calls for gun control. Now, I will be the first person to admit that I have not taken enough of a stake in what has been going on in the #blacklivesmatter movement because I was simply never comfortable with making a statement regarding something which I had so little experience with and knowledge about. I was concerned more with how comfortable I was than with reaching out to the black community and learning about their struggle and trying to bear their pain. I sighed and remained inactive along with some of my peers regarding “social justice warriors,” believing their fight to be futile. For that, I apologize. Today, the Lord has made it simply impossible to remain silent regarding this issue.
(In case this runs too long, which I fully expect to do, I’ll be putting the main points in bold.)
Before I say anything, I’d like to lay down some groundwork for where I’m speaking from; understanding culture is a tremendously overlooked part of the increasingly hostile dialogue in this issue, so forgive me for digressing a bit. Now, I will not speak with the passion of my brothers and sisters struggling for some sign of reform because I am a part of the so-called “model minority” trying to understand the plight of simple minority. I am not fueled by a history of police abuse and senseless murders. My people are quiet and submissive to authorities, and it is a greater virtue to be concerned with one’s own well-being above being involved with so volatile a movement that has seemingly “nothing to do with me.” It is not uncommon to lock our car doors when we see black or Mexican people walking around; it is equally as unsurprising when we treat the homeless with distrust and disgust. However, another part of my cultural identity is that of a Christian, and the God who I love sent His Son, who will not break the bruised reed nor put out the smoldering wick, to die for us in love; in faithfulness, He will bring forth justice (Isaiah 42:3). This identity flies in the face of my social-historical identity because this identity sees the black person, the Mexican person, the downtrodden as a brother and a friend, and there is a desire for reconciliation and deeper understanding of their story to see how God receives glory in the midst of trial. Jesus’s heart breaks for Alton Sterling, for Philando Castile, and for the Dallas policemen, just to mention a few; His heart breaks for you and me too when we riot, when we kill, and when we stay silent through it all. Because of the love of the Savior, I am moved to speak out regarding this issue.
But where do I start? It seems like choosing a side to address would be subconsciously identifying with one side of the issue more than the other, and so I will only speak to myself and what I believe people of my culture can do. As the Asian-American community, we have historically been labeled “the model minority;” we’re the minority community that doesn’t cause trouble because we basically have lived in such a way that suggests a willing assimilation into how the white man lives – and that might not even be our fault. In fact, living like the white man was a fantastic motivator for many of our ancestors to get here by boat and try to make a living. However, now that we’ve been established as a community with some weight to it, what are we going to do moving forward? We can choose to bow out of the present struggle like we’ve done in the past, and no one would be surprised, but I believe the Asian-American community needs to surprise people by being more minority and less model. This is not a call to riot, to kill, to lose control; this is a call for us to be more actively involved in dealing with the injustices that we see all around us. We ought to be beyond the attitudes of our culture that make allowances for casual racism; we’re better than that now, or at least we should be. So why don’t we do anything? As a community, we are well-educated, well-mannered by culture, and more sensitive than we’d allow in our private households. If we speak, will the white community truly view us with the same misgivings as they might with the black community? We are now placed in a position where we have the ability to become a true bridge between communities, yet we choose to stand more on one side of America at a time when America needs more than ever to be deeply connected. It’s time we, as the “model minority,” identify with our black brothers and sisters and say, yes, their problem is our problem, and we won’t stand aside quietly while they are continually dealt cultural injustices that have only accumulated through time. We have not had the same violent history with the white community, and this may very well be our strength and contribution to the #blacklivesmatter movement going forwards; we can reinforce the voices that need to be heard instead of drowning them out with our passivity.
There is no doubt that the hurt the black community has endured is unjust, but it is also true that the rights of the Dallas policemen to live were unnecessarily taken from them. This pain has escalated beyond affecting just a single community, and if we do not prevent the monstrous desire for vengeance from slaking its thirst, we may find ourselves uncomfortably well-acquainted with the violence and death that it brings in its wake. It seems cliché, yet it is perhaps the hardest thing to live out in light of the latest events, and so I ask: can we let love be genuine? Will we abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good, or will we entertain the thoughts of evil for the sake of pursuing our perceived good? Is it even possible for us to love one another with brotherly affection, outdoing one another in showing honor despite every vein in our body wanting the other person to intimately, forcefully know our pain? Will we as the Asian-American Christian community continue to be slothful in zeal, or can we be fervent in spirit as we serve the Lord? Are we praying for the strength to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer? Are we each contributing to all the various needs of the saints, seeking to show them hospitality whether it be mourning with them the condition of this world or gently correcting them when they’ve allowed Satan to gain a foothold in their hurt? Let’s bless those who persecute us, blessing them without cursing them. We rejoice with those who rejoice, but in this time, more than ever, let’s weep with those who weep. We ought to live in harmony with one another, being not arrogant in our estimation of others but freely and willingly associating with the lowly and downtrodden, being not wise in our own eyes to the point of being blind to the truth being shared by others. It will be hard, but repay no one evil for evil, but think most about doing what is honorable before everyone, even at the cost of stifling the most violent of passions within us. If it’s still possible, as far as we can control it, let’s live peaceably with all. My beloved brothers and sisters in the black community, I may seem out of place in saying this, but never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” In fact, do the opposite of vengeance and feed your enemy when he is hungry; give him something to drink when he is thirsty for by doing so you heap burning coals on his head. How will he react to your goodwill in the face of tribulation? Finally, let’s not overcome evil by lowering ourselves to more evil, but overcome evil with good. After all, darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
You are all my brothers and sisters, images of God made perfect in the eyes of our heavenly Father, and I love you all. I am still learning about all that has transpired in the drawn-out history of violence, physical and structural, that you have endured, but perhaps you are the only community strong enough to endure it all; on my end, I’ll be doing what I can to help, so that God may be glorified in all of us.