Racism: My Thoughts in light of my experience and the Pandemic

in grade school, i transferred to a new school. there was a kid on the playground who taunted me by taking his fingers and slanting out the corners of his eyes then jump around in front of me saying, “ching chong chinaman, ching chong chinaman.” i distinctly remember thinking to myself: what an idiot, doesn’t he know that i’m filipino?

in 2020, this coronavirus crisis is showing other manifestations of a not-so-subtle bigotry against asian americans.

In an recent interview, RUSSELL JEUNG said, “So my wife was walking on a trail in a regional park, and this person was approaching her. And they could see each other. She moved to the side, but the person moved in front of her. She called out, and he didn’t respond. But when she passed him, he coughed at her. So we don’t know if it’s intentional or unintentional, but this type of coughing at people and spitting at people, it’s something that Asians are actually experiencing a lot more…And in San Francisco, we’re getting reports now on our reporting center. And 10, 15% of the reports are about physical assault of people getting either physically attacked or being spat upon or coughed at.”

“Asian Americans Are Blamed By Some For COVID-19 Outbreak” https://www.npr.org/transcripts/822383360

racism has always existed but has been legitimized by the president of the usa these past four years. many examples show this: his non-response in charlottesville, va; his desire to build a symbolic barrier-bridge on our southern border; his latest example of racism in this time of the pandemic: calling the coronavirus the “china virus.” these tactics have embolden racists to support this president and consequently, act overtly with hate against people of color in various ways.

this is not what jesus had in mind when he taught us to “love neighbor”

for those who are attune to this sin of racism in our world, the subtle nature of how it is played out can be easily seen. at the beginning of the crisis, i met some friends for lunch in chinatown seattle. it is usually bustling with people and hard to find parking there. i always get the feeling that i hit the lottery if i could find street parking. when i drove in, there were tons of empty parking spots on the street. when i walked into one of my favorite restaurants there, tai tung, which has had decades of loyal customers and is always crowded at lunch, there was hardly anyone there. people were avoiding chinatown in fear that the virus was prominent there. did they think it was the “china virus” too?

about ten years ago at a national community organizing gathering in houston, our small group had a discussion on racism. i was asked my perspective. i mentioned that against blacks and latinos, the racism can often be overt. but against us asian-americans it is felt as more of a discounting of our voice: “aww, it’s just an asian guy saying it, it doesn’t really matter (therefore i do not have to listen)”. we are usually non threatening to the white population. but what is the sentiment we become a majority at elite universities?

this is not what jesus had in mind when he taught us to “love neighbor”

in our catholic faith, our u.s. bishops put out a teaching on racism ( http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/upload/open-wide-our-hearts.pdf ). it is a decent start for dialogue but they could have been far more prophetic in an official statement. but perhaps it isn’t the nature of a bishop’s conference to go out on a limb. we would rather put out nice statements that do not offend others– especially our wealthy benefactors who help keep many parishes afloat.

but jesus’ love was to the roots/core. standing for this radical love cost him his life. while there are some brave individual bishops around, i am not holding my breath for a bishops conference to put their lives on the line for gospel. maybe that is for the other pillar of church leadership: men and women religious. but have we used our positions and privilege to give prophetic voice to our brothers and sister who suffer the effects of bigotry? or does fear paralyze us too?

so in light of racism and bigotry, how do you and i live out jesus’ commandment to “love one another?”

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