Race, Reminders, and Identity

When stories about Asian hate run on the news or are posted all over social media, I feel irritated, frustrated, confused, and also, heartbroken. Sometimes, I feel a strong sense of urgency to “do something,” but mostly I am just at a loss. I don’t know the right actions to take or feelings to feel, but I know that I want to be a part of the solution because many Asians in America are hurting. There are many answers that I’m still figuring out, but I think that God is truly growing my faith in this season of life.

To give a little bit of context, I was adopted from China when I was young and have lived in the United States ever since. Obviously, I am Asian and I have in fact experienced some racism throughout my life. My parents are white and have not had the same cultural experience that I have had just due to the nature of my ethnicity. I have grown up in predominantly white circles, around people who know me and understand my background. Coming to college, interacting with new people, and experiencing life has shown me how to extend grace better, to seek more understanding, and to educate myself on the needs of the world.

Growing up as an Asian in America, people would always ask me about Chinese culture and my experience as a minority. I always felt as though I spoke from observation rather than personal experience. Especially when I was younger, none of my peers thought too deeply about the social implications of race or differences in skin color. As I have matured, I am starting to realize how to think deeper in these areas.

About a year ago, when COVID-19 was just beginning to cancel plans and shut down the world, something happened that I will never forget. It occurred when masks were more of a suggestion. I was in the grocery store picking up a few things for my family without a mask since it wasn’t required. A lady came up to me and said in a rather rough tone, “Your mouth is open and you are breathing on all the food. That is gross and I am going to need you to stop.” I was taken aback because I was not expecting her to say that. I said, “yes ma’am”, and then walked away. I saw her a bit later in the cereal aisle and she decided to holler down the aisle, “You said you were going to close your mouth, but you ain’t doing that. You are nasty.”

At that moment, I was stunned and embarrassed. I was also fully aware that she was saying these things to me because I was Asian and we were in a pandemic caused by a virus from China.

Anchored in Christ

Although this is a minor incident compared to other Asian people’s experiences, it does stick out to me because it is directly related to the pandemic that we are currently facing. This made me stop and consider many things. This incident started to break down the securities that I once held onto, causing me to re-evaluate where I placed my identity, and challenged me to live more confidently. God is continuing to teach me how to fully embrace the way He created me, trust His plan for my life (which is 100x better than my own), and share the freedom that I have found in Him.

The world is most definitely watching the way in which Christians respond to racism. The world is listening to what Christians say and taking note of what they do not say. Though I want people to feel heard and respected and to know that their feelings are valid, sometimes I feel neither willing nor equipped to respond. I think that is okay; we don’t have to know everything. But, we should set an example for others, love others well, and stand firm in what we believe.

The promises of politicians to protect Asian Americans, the persistent social media campaigns, and the chants from activists do not bring me long-term comfort. Rather than compose a list of do’s and don’t for addressing racism in America, I want to share some truths that I find most comforting. These things hold true no matter the state of the country, president in office, or opinions of the media.

Identity in Christ

We are all children of God, created in his image, and loved by him. Jesus died for everyone and offers the gift of salvation to all that believe in him.

And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised. – 2 Corinthians 5:15

Live like Christ

I once heard a pastor say, “We should be practicing on earth what will be a reality in heaven: In heaven, race, as we know it, won’t exist.” I want to always remember this quote because it is the perfect reminder of several aspects of the Christian faith. Christ-followers are citizens of heaven and earth. Due to sin, there are trials that we will have to endure, social institutions that are not biblically based, and physical/mental afflictions. While we wait for Jesus to return, we should prepare our hearts, keep our eyes set on things of God, and strive with our best efforts to love others the way Jesus modeled.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. – Colossians 3:2

Regardless of our life experiences, the color of our skins, or the stages of life that we are in, as believers we are called to carry one another’s burdens in order to fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). This holds true for practically all situations. If you know that a brother or sister is hurting, then reach out to them and try to meet his/her needs. In the context of addressing racism, I implore you to listen to the Holy Spirit because God will never lead you astray.

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1