Below is a transcript of my talk during week 2 of Faith & Race. I describe the logic and work of race in my own life, and look to hospitality as a way forward.
When I arrived at the UW campus for college, there were two things that I was certain of. First, I would be an active member of an on-campus ministry. I grew up at Chinese Baptist Church on Beacon Hill, where I was formed and nurtured in our youth group to love serving in ministry. It was within the context of this ethnic-specific community that I first came to understand God’s love for all humanity. Second, despite my appreciation for my Chinese church, the on-campus ministry that I would join would have to be multi-ethnic. I reasoned that the next step in my spiritual maturation would be to worship with people not like me.
At this point, it’s important to point out that I was already worshipping with people not like me. Even in “homogenous” Asian communities like CBC, there is messiness and diversity, with a wide range of experiences, beliefs and opinions. We’re not all alike. I was only marginally connected to the Chinese immigrant congregants at my church, and by leaving my home church in favor of a multi-ethnic community, I lost my family’s immigrant story. I moved away from the story of their courageous journey to America, a story to which I am inextricably bound, regardless of how embarrassing it might feel to be connected to broken English and funny accents. That’s my story; they are my parents. It is ironic that by moving away from a multi-ethnic fellowship, I actually moved from a bilingual faith community to an English-only faith community, away from a community of people that were really different from me, to a place already quite familiar. Continue reading
tonight, i was really excited to watch geoffrey canada lecture at the uw with carrie. canada has been running the harlem children’s zone for the past twenty years, which has as its motto, “whatever it takes.” his approach to “saving” inner city youth (his words) is comprehensive — he runs a set of integrated community programs designed to walk with kids from the cradle to college, promote physical and mental healthcare, and change how parents are raising their kids. president obama wants to try canada’s model in twenty other high poverty areas around the country.
canada said that much of what they’re doing isn’t particularly “new.” everyone knows that healthy habits will have a positive impact on academic performance, and that certain parenting practices are better for a child’s development than others. and equally important, research has long demonstrated the importance of early childhood education toward leveling the playing field, because poor students start school well behind their middle class peers.
what is revolutionary about canada and his work is the fact that he’s actually doing what we’ve known all along would work. as an aside, if nothing else, this is probably the most important point i can take from his talk. he shared a story from his professional life when the secretary of education asked him for some advice about how to fix education in america. at this point, he realized that superman was not going to swoop in and save the day, there was no grand plan somewhere that would wipe out all the educational inequity problems; that, if he wanted to see change, he would have to make it happen himself. Continue reading
this weekend, i had the good fortune of seeing the great jonathan kozol lecture at the seattle central library. he’s touring the country to promote a book he just wrote called letters to a young teacher, a collection of letters he wrote to a new first grade teacher working at the same low-income school he worked at some forty years ago. he counsels this teacher as she works hard to teach and care for her kids, while steadfastly keeping her middle-finger upright and fixed toward the white house. Continue reading