In light of the alarming rise of hateful rhetoric, dehumanization of, and violent attacks against Asian Americans, rallies for Asian lives were held in 14 cities across the country on March 28. The following brief remarks were delivered by our Missional Health Director, Jennifer Chan, at the rally in Manhattan where several CTC NYC team members joined the Asian American Christian Collaborative and leaders across the city to lead a time of lament, prayer, and calls to action.
We’re here today to grieve and cry out against hate-filled, racist rhetoric, the spike in violent attacks, and the murders of 6 women in Atlanta. We’re also here today to grieve and cry out against the dangerous confusion in our country about who Asian Americans are, the mixed messages of model minority and perpetual outsider.
I’m wondering if some of you here, like me, have found yourselves reckoning not only with the dangerously confused messages about who Asian Americans are in this country, but also with confused messages from our own homes. My great-grandfather first came to this continent to work the very worst jobs you could work on the railroads, at a fraction of the wages of all other laborers. Growing up, I heard over and over, “Exploiting people seeking a better life is BAD,” but, at the same time, I also heard, “Don’t rock the boat, just work hard, stay out of trouble.” This led to some confusion in my life. And there’s no doubt that we have urgent work to do to confront the dehumanization and violence that seem to be coming at us nonstop right now even as there’s important work to do inside our homes, with those nearest and dearest to us.
A simple meditation for how we might go about doing this work, flows out of an understanding that a good God made a good world filled with a wide variety of goodness that should be shared and honored. Today, as I wrestle with being Asian-American in this painful moment, it’s a discipline, to celebrate and help others see, what is good and beautiful about that culture. For me that’s an East Asian (Southern-Chinese to be specific) culture. For you–it could be other East or Southeast or South Asian culture.
No matter which one, in the long journey that is fighting for a more just world, I think it’s better to be fueled by what is uniquely good and beautiful. Even as we are being renewed day-by-day by grace we can never earn.
So, I celebrate the simple beauty of the round tables of everyday meals and new baby banquets–where family-style is the only style, because everything was shared and it was glorious. I celebrate our heroes–the stories passed down of a people who deeply valued courage, the honoring of elders, and yes, great sacrifice, as my great grandfather did for his children. I celebrate the Chinese language and traditions that I grew up resisting, wishing I was at home, watching cartoons like everyone else on Saturday morning, instead of at Chinese school. Because it’s beautiful, isn’t it? My two brothers and I share not only our family surname, but one common name in our three-part Chinese names that honors the shared experience of our particular generation. And, it’s beautiful, isn’t it, that the traditional Chinese character for love literally has the character “heart” embedded inside it? A heart that is in action symbolizing love as being “heart in action.”
Since COVID-19 hit, my daughters and I have been cut off while crossing the street, cursed at and disrespected in ways I won’t describe here. But those 6-year-old daughters have also started searching out buildings with stoops in our neighborhood where they can practice giving speeches. So to my daughters, and to my Asian American sisters and brothers, I pray we’ll be found faithful in this time. This is a time to be brave, to be okay being very uncomfortable, to be okay not just giving help, but asking for help. And maybe most importantly, to draw on what is unique, beautiful, and good about our cultures in this work for a better world – full of heart in action.