So I’ve finally gotten around to reading Frank Wu’s book Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White and it’s been a riveting read. I have heard criticisms about how Wu repeatedly plays off Asian-Americans as victims in his book and his writing is simply an angry tirade. But I applaud him for his courage in putting out so much of the results of his research in a way that brings Americans to an understanding of the Asian-American experience.
Wu devotes an entire chapter to the topic of the model minority, explaining that the stereotypes of Asian-Americans as hard-working, over-achieving, polite, etc. and should be looked upon as the standard for other minorities. While on the surface they seem flattering, Wu claims that this view of Asian-Americans is detrimental to everyone.
Some things I am now considering, with regards to reaching Asian-Americans in ministry:
- The notion of the model minority promotes an “us” versus “them” attitude. White Americans don’t accept Asian-Americans as true Americans, while African- and Latino-Americans don’t accept Asian-Americans as true minorities. We are in the unenviable position of being looked upon as completely different, with no allies and no sense of belonging. How can our churches and parachurches minister to Asian-Americans in a way that instills an understanding of acceptance–from God, from leadership, and from the body of Christ?
- The glass ceiling. On one front, our (usually immigrant) parents have drilled into us that we have to work hard and succeed in the classroom and later in the workplace, proving that we can be accepted. On the other front, the notion of the model minority tells other ethnic groups that Asian-Americans should be successful because we are pre-disposed to it. Any success on our part is dismissed as “being Asian” and not attributed to our hard work and determination. In this context, we have to work even harder to get ahead, never really receiving the accolades that we strive for. How can our churches and parachurches minister to Asian-Americans in showing them the gospel of grace, that we do not and cannot earn any approval from God?
- Can we ever be ourselves? Wu writes “Asian-American children are never allowed to be like other children. They must be superstudents, because their parents, their teachers, and society overall expect nothing less.” Feeling stifled and never feeling loved unconditionally, can our churches minister in a way that lets Asian-Americans be ourselves? Can we allow ourselves to be free? How can the gospel be communicated in a way that emphasizes the freedom that comes from it?