Since Soong Chan Rah broke the news about Zondervan publishing an egregious racial faux pas from The Skit Guys in their latest book, “Skits That Teach”, there has been a lot of activity online to get people to speak out against the publisher, the authors, and key distributors, i.e. Youth Specialties (YS). Thecuttingtruth and emergingtruth, two fellow Asian American bloggers are indeed “holding their feet to the fire” by holding the parties involved accountable, with thecuttingtruth proving his point by ordering the books in question this morning despite YS having promised to “freeze all remaining stock”.
After communicating with thecuttingtruth this morning, I sent Youth Specialties the following email content:
Is the book “Skits That Teach” listed in your Store section the one in question with racially egregious material towards Asian Americans? If so, I humbly request that you temporarily remove it from your store site until the revisions demanded are made.
I have not been able to access the YS storefront since late this morning. I have left a message with Soong Chan Rah and hope to follow this through with someone at YS or Zondervan directly. It appears at best that Mark Oestreicher, President of YS, is proactively engaging Prof. Rah, thecuttingtruth, and emergingtruth in the form of comments. He comments that he is waiting to make a statement on his blog, ysmarko.com, until he communicates with Rah, so please be on the lookout for this. While emergingtruth accuses these actions as merely “damage control”, I have hope that measures, if not all, are being taken to rectify the matter. This scenario is far different from the Rickshaw Rally disgrace from the Southern Baptist Convention (which is still friggin’ posted!) because of the relative speed and reasonability in which the parties are responding to the feedback. So while some of us are the hunt for our pound of flesh, I believe we have made this a worthwhile effort and it has been effective in this instance.
However, this indicates a severe pathology in the ways in which non-Asians perceive Asians as these “Skits That Teach” have taught me the following:
1) We are not ready to laugh.
Forget the distributors and the publishers, it’s the authors I have a problem with. Your initial dismissal of this offensive material makes it sound as though Asian American Christians are the ones who take themselves too seriously. I suspect you never thought that minorities would be buying your book? Or are minorities not part of the Kingdom? Or perhaps lesser in your mind — which makes them perfect fodder for ridicule? That’s not playful banter, Skit guys, it’s Rosie O’Donnell material. Shame on you.
2) We need to create our own content
And shame on us. If African-Americans can have their own line of Hallmark greeting cards, then for Christ’s sake, we need to contribute Asian American content in bible studies, dramas, skits, talking points, other YS-like material and work at informing non-Asians about who we are and how we are wired. The Skit Guys are partially guilty for the ignorance, but the responsibility of engaging and informing non-Asians about sensitive stereotypes falls on us. The fact that our churches are so segregated and ethnocentric only reinforces the notion that Asians are not Asian AMERICAN.
3) We need to engage more in the larger Christian community
And shame on all of us. This problem exists in the Christian community because we are all so segregated from one another. Sure there are multi-ethnic churches where we all face the same direction in worship and prayer, but rarely do we break bread together, look one another in the eye, and listen to one another. In essence, we need to engage, church-to-church, person-to-person, and repent. We can point the finger and say that this is a clear reflection of the Western superiority complex, but I guarantee you that patronizing, exclusivistic, and rabid self-aggrandizing sin is in our Asian heritage as well. We must hate the sin and love the sinner in the collective sense and in tangible and realistic ways, make this part of our everyday.