I’m going to be honest with you: I have a love/hate relationship with this month. Like most important things, it’s layered and complicated. It can feel like a kid’s tiny Band-Aid haphazardly slapped onto an adult scar. It can also be a wonderful time to celebrate who God has made me as a biracial Korean American, and celebrate the Asian American community I’ve come to cherish and belong to.
Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month!
I’m going to be honest with you: I have a love/hate relationship with this month.
Like most important things, it’s layered and complicated. It can feel like a kid’s tiny Band-Aid haphazardly slapped onto an adult scar. It can also be a wonderful time to celebrate who God has made me as a biracial Korean American, and celebrate the Asian American community I’ve come to cherish and belong to.
Layered on top of that love/hate relationship is the pressure that comes from having been misunderstood or maligned in my efforts to be honest about what it means to be an Asian American Christian, and worry that I’ll be met with shallow calls for unity, in response.
In my own experience, save but a few, these calls for unity haven’t been an encouragement to the deep work towards unity that I think we were all made for. This kind of unity, as I write about in my book (Tell Me the Dream Again: Reflections on family, ethnicity, and the Sacred Work of Belonging), “requires whole people, full of their color, and hard, holy work.” Instead, it’s often been something thrown in my direction to silence me or others who want to bring our whole selves into the work of deep unity and transformative community.
Without a doubt, the Church, which is you and me, should be where diversity and the flourishing of all individuals in their unique ethnic and cultural reflections of the imago Dei, is championed the most.
So, with hope for that Kingdom-come dream still-unfolding in us and among us, and the arrival of this month that’s been nationally carved out for honoring and celebrating Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, I want to leave you with a question, a few important historical facts and statistics, and some recommended resources.
One Question for Digging Deeper this Month
What is one next step you can take in learning more and leaning into honoring and celebrating Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders?
A Few Important Facts & History to Know and Consider
- The Asian American and Pacific Islander community is immensely D I V E R S E. According to Pew Research, “A record 22 million Asian Americans trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages and other characteristics.”
We are not a monolith of looks, culture, or experiences. For example, some of us use chopsticks (and those who do, use very different kinds), and many of us don’t. Our languages and foods are vastly different. We are the most economically diverse racial and ethnic group in the nation as well. My experience is not the same as other Korean Americans. The “model minority” myth is indeed a myth, and a damaging, deeply divisive one at that.
- The Asian population is the fastest growing demographic in the nation. “Asian population in U.S. nearly doubled between 2000 and 2019 and is projected to surpass 46 million by 2060 (Pew Research).”
How do our church communities and social communities reflect this national reality?
- The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1885 is a law that not only restricted immigration in the United States, but was the first and only to explicitly target a specific ethnic group. The impact of this legislation and the kind of rhetoric surrounding it has carried on through generations.
From stereotypes about Asian food, mocking of masks, to hearing Covid-19 being called the “China Virus” and/or “Kung Flu,” and the lumping of all Asians as being the same, that legislation and the dehumanizing language surrounding it, is not only part of our history but the on-going reality that many Asian Americans live with.
- The killing of Vincent Chin in 1982. From an article in Time Magazine, 11 Moments From Asian American History That You Should Know, “In the late 1970s and early ’80s there was a global oil crisis that drove the U.S. economy into a recession and led to the collapse of the auto industry. The American manufacturing sector blamed Japan for that. In this climate of anti-Asian hate—one that is eerily similar to today—a Chinese American named Vincent Chin was killed in Detroit because he looked Japanese. This is part of a historical pattern in which Asian Americans are attacked whenever there is a crisis in America.”
Podcasts that highlight, honor, and celebrate Asian American Christian perspectives, voices, and stories (this month and beyond):
PBS Film series Asian Americans for a deeper dive into Asian American history.
Books by Asian American Christians:
- Tell Me the Dream Again: Reflections on Family, Ethnicity, and the Sacred Work of Belonging by Tasha Jun (me!)
- Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin
- Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy
- Learning Our Names: Asian American Christians on Identity, Relationships, and Vocation, by Sabrina S. Chan, Linson Daniel, and E. David de Leon
- Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up by Kathy Khang
- Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Rah
- Refractions: A Journey of Faith Art, and Culture by Makoto Fujimura
- Invisible by Grace Ji-Sun Kim
(I have a much longer list – feel free to reach out if you are interested in more.)
About the Author
Tasha is a Korean American melancholy dreamer, wife, and mom, who grew up in a multicultural and biracial home. She's spent her life navigating liminal space. Writing has always been the way God has led her through the ache and towards the hope of shalom. Here debut book, Tell Me the Dream Again: Reflections on Family, and the Sacred Work of Belonging is available now, wherever books are sold. Find her at https://www.tashajun.com or sign up for her monthly notes at https://shalomsick.substack.com.