Welcome to the Monday Mailing Vol 2, Ed 13 –
Words from Larissa Kwong Abazia
(Larissa is a fellow colleague and former vice-moderator of the 221st General Assembly. I share her words from last week, as her words are as important for us to hear.)
It took until today for my whole being to crack open. I sent these words to my presbytery (for non-churchy folx, that’s a region of congregations and pastors). May those who have ears, listen.
Dear colleagues in ministry,
As an Asian American woman, the past few days have been harrowing and infuriating. I have watched the news outlets report on the shootings in Atlanta with an astonishing lack of depth or complexity, falling back on racial stereotypes and coded language. I saw story after story depersonalize a horrific crime and dehumanize the victims. Comments on social media have included: “If they were sex workers, that changes things,” “He was a sex addict,” “He had a bad day.” None of this erases the insidiousness of whiteness and white supremacy that would attribute mass murder to someone having “a really bad day.”
The exotification and sexualization of Asian bodies is a long-standing, deeply embedded, and intentional part of dominate, white culture which centers white bodies as the norm. Although anti-Asian violence is not new, it has been on the rise since the former U.S. president called COVID-19 the “Kung Flu” and “China Virus.” News reports have largely failed to cover this trend in the past year.
One year ago, my eight-year-old son asked, “Why does the president hate us?” His young, fragile sense of himself was scarred by racism coming from the highest position of power in our nation. Early in the pandemic when I feared going out of my home to complete simple tasks like grocery shopping, I was told by some that I was overreacting. Like so many Asians and Asian Americans, I received the message over and over that my trauma was a series of misunderstandings on my part. In reality, that message was white washing and gaslighting. What we all have watched unfold in the past few days and gradually go out of the public eye is just one of countless examples of the ways that white, dominate culture erases the stories, pain, and laments of communities of color. If and when such stories are lifted up, they quickly become a whisper drowned out to the next soundbyte.
Centering dominate, white culture (even within in the church) must be disrupted in order for us to find new paths that we can walk together. We are in the midst of the season of Lent, a time in the Church when we acknowledge our brokenness. The same deep brokenness that caused religious and political leaders to conspire together to kill Jesus Christ, the bearer of love, rather than embrace his faithful witness is evident in the killings of innocent victims in Atlanta and the other-ing and violence across the country. Each one of us is called to disrupt our desire for comfort and familiarity to enter a beloved community where all can flourish. Below are a few steps you can take:
For white siblings:
• Trust people of color to know their own experiences. Hear their stories and pain.
• Sit with the discomfort: embrace openness to what you hear and experience, remaining uncomfortable if you don’t know what to do.
• Do an internet search before you ask people of color to explain concepts, approaches, or tools.
• Acknowledge that your siblings of color, especially Asians and Asian Americans right now, are in pain.
• Take risks and speak up, whether people of color are in the room or not. Don’t require people of color to do the “heavy lifting.”
For siblings of color:
• Know that you are a beloved child of God.
• Remember that your story is valued, no explanations or justifications required.
• Be gentle with yourself. Focus on self-care.
• Reach out to your community of support. You are not alone.
This is neither a beginning nor an ending. This is the radical call of God’s people to love one another. May our sinfulness and brokenness die to make room for resurrected life. Grace and Peace,
Dear Church –
Re-read Larissa’s For White Siblings. Which of these do you, do we, already do? Which do you, do we, need to work on, and which are the hardest for us to understand and do? There is much work for the Church, and indeed our world, to do.