Ethnicity and Identity, A Study on YouTube

Wow, I didn’t expect to be posting this many YouTube videos, but this was very interesting and I couldn’t help myself. But in all honesty, I shouldn’t be spending so much time on YouTube.

Basically, this is a series of interviews with Chinese young adults who were raised outside of the motherland. They describe their stories around the question of identity. Each interview is 8-10 minutes, so it takes a bit of time, but worth a view.

Check out the description here, the creator, and the series below:

As the world becomes smaller and more interconnected, old ways of thinking become less and less suitable. New ways of understanding things must be introduced to adapt to new phenomenons; this documentary attempts to do just that. For most people, ethnicity and identity are seen as one thing. However, I theorize that in the future these two concepts will grow further apart and at the same time become vague. This piece serves as a window into the future as well as into my own personal thoughts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

So You Want To Be White…

h/t to Mr.Pages for this article: “Acclaimed skin-whitening studies from Ottawa raise racism concerns”

Some quick eyebrow-raising quotes:

Award-winning research by Ottawa biochemists into technology that makes dark skin fairer is renewing controversy about a type of cosmetic product worth billions in Asian markets.

‘The market exists and we’re not going to increase or decrease that market.’— Researcher Eman Ahmed-Muhsin

“We’re not racist,” she [Ahmed-Mushin] said, pointing out that tanning products are popular in North American in the way whitening products are in places such as India, Japan and China.

Critics have accused the industry of racism and imperialism. Ranni Moorthy, a U.K.-based actress from India, told CBC News the products are touted as cures, as if dark skin is “some kind of disease, to be put right.”

Notice the language here seems to tying together skin color and “the market”.

From what I’ve been told of the Indian notion of race, the etymology of the word “caste” is strongly correlated to “color”. And most Asians, including South, associate white skin with luxury…free from work, shaded from the sun, and pristine.

It just so happens that there is a whole people group out there whose most definitive characteristic is their white skin. It also is coincidental that those people have, over the last five hundred years or so, developed global distribution channels and created entire systems of economics and markets that allow for ridiculous amounts of profit to be gained. So now, people of color who never want to be that color again can white themselves out and people with white skin can paint and glaze themselves some other color. And you know what? It’s all in the name of money…there’s a market, it exists, and therefore we are slaves to it.

Any problems with this? Anyone?

Woman, Thou Art Loosened

[guest post from Anna Lee]

Hello, faithful readers of David Park. My name is Anna and I have to admit, I feel a strange inadequacy to post on David’s blog. At his invitation, I’ve been given the freedom to journal thoughts here (thank you, David) and I invite you feedback (thank you, reader).

A bit about me: I am a Chinese American Christian woman, born and raised in New York City, now entering her thirties. I’ve been a Christian for at least 12 years now. I’ve spent the last eight years working in the non-profit sector, with the last five in a Christian para-Church that serves university students, faculty, and staff. David caught me while I’m in the middle of a life transition: due to recent circumstances involving professional and personal death in my life, I’ve found myself asking deep questions of calling. I’m no longer asking the “Who am I?” questions of my early 20’s. I know who I am. Now what do I do with me?

I am a professional Christian who’s hit a wall in her development. I feel the weight of some pastor/teacher gifts and strangely, I’m loathe to invest these talents. I’m considering getting a MDiv and seeking out ordination, but questioned my motives (am I just doing it for personal gain), questioned my theology (what about 1Tim2:12?), second-guessed God (are you really calling me to this, or am I making this up?), second-guessed my friends (are they really telling me the truth, or are they just being polite?), coveted the privilege of my brothers who have gone to seminary (I bet they won’t get turned out of their church communities if they went this route). So, as usual, I made a list:

Reasons for Anna to bury the proverbial talents:

1. I’m no dummy: I’ve seen the steady stream of my Asian American sisters mysteriously disappear once they get a MDiv from my Chinese American church. Women leaders not welcome here.
2. I’m not deaf: I’ve lost donors over the years who found out that I disciple men and gave me the 1Tim2:12 (to which I respond: well, what about 1Tim2:15? Does that mean my salvation hinges not on faith alone, but on giving birth? How are you expositing this scripture?)
3. I’m not blind: the pastorate is a male-dominated industry with women doing much of the heavy-lifting. Even if I graduated seminary and got ordained, would anyone hire me? Ironically, I read the statistic that the average wait for a Chinese American church to find a bi-lingual, bi-cultural, male pastor is five years. Aiya.

Reasons for Anna to go to seminary and seek ordination

1. I’m no dummy: I know what my giftings are. And I know what happens to the guy who burries his talent. No weeping and gnashing of teeth for me, thank you very much.
2. I’m not deaf: I don’t take the call of God lightly. I’ve entered my own make-shift discernment process and all signs lead to go.
3. I’m not blind: I’ve fallen in love with Jesus. During this time of death, I’ve invited the Spirit to cultivate my eyes to recognize Christ in the midst of this transition. Mother Teresa once called it “recognizing Jesus in distressing disguises.” Out of love for Him, I see and follow.

Tonight, a friend told me that he defined “coveting” as desiring something you already had. I hear this tortured process is endemic to other Christian sisters considering the pastorate. I covet God’s glory and lordship over the Asian American Church, over our sisters as we get called to go, over our brothers to send us well. Perhaps as women we covet the call to servant leadership, but it’s something we already have. As for God’s glory and lordship: may He work out his righteousness with his own right hand.

The Fight To Stay Asian

In high school, I had the opportunity to be part of a program that allowed for a unique class called "Theory of Knowledge". It was, as the name perhaps reveals, an open-ended, discussion-driven class that poked at the epistemological methods of adolescent minds. Some days, I have to confess, featured the type of discussion that go unappreciated by the average high schooler; other days, like the one I'm about to discuss, go unforgotten.

The topic was multiculturalism and pluralism. The classroom held about 22 students. I was the only Korean-American, there was another guy from Hong Kong who had been in the country for a few years, one Indian guy, one Indian girl, one Pakistani girl, one half-Japanese, half-American girl, and one Cuban girl; there were also two African-American girls in the group. The other 13 students, to the best of my recollection, were Caucasian or at the very least had families that had been in the country for multiple generations and could not be picked out of a group visually as "non-white".

The teacher began by talking about how wonderful multiculturalism was, how the acceptance of other races, creeds, and peoples had begun to really show us how things could be, that world harmony was possible. She led the conversation to the point that we all responded hypnotically to the fact that yes, it was a good thing. Even a few of the students chimed in and said how nice it was to learn new languages and eat new foods. One of us "non-whites" piped up and remarked how good it was to have opportunities here that we would not have had any where else. Then as the discussion seemed to die down and the class period was coming to an end, I ruined it.

I raised my hand and the teacher gave me permission to speak.

"But you don't know me. You don't know Korean any better because of me. This multiculturalism thing is not all true. I mean the world is becoming a smaller place, and yes, there are wonderful opportunities here, but I don't radiate my Korean-ness here and he doesn't radiate his Hong Kong-ness here or her Pakistani-ness."

The teacher interupted me. "But by you being here, we have a window for discussion. The possibilities are there. Even that was never possible before."

I don't know where my anger came from but it started to flow more freely. "A window? I know a Cuban. I don't know what being Cuban is like. I know two African-Americans. I don't know what being black is about. That's not a window–that's a peephole. When I'm here at school, you don't know that I don't speak English when I'm at home or what my life as a Korean is like at all. This is not multiculturalism — it's uni-cultural with all the rest giving up what they have to have the opportunity. I'm not Korean any more, I'm just an American with a Korean face! Or at least I have to be if I want to be a part of this multicultural facade."

You could have heard a pin drop. We certainly heard the bell ring.

I think it was the first time that even I realized that culture is something we fight to maintain – perhaps fight isn't the right word, but it is something that we work and develop and re-create with every generation, like building sand castles. There is a slow erosion and tectonic movement to identity, cultural and self. I think it becomes even more complicated in Western cultures where the self precedes the culture, as though one element could stand on its own.

Perhaps the difficulty with ethnic churches is that there are two forces that are re-worked at once – culture and faith. The fight to maintain either begins anew with each generation, and while each promises a more clear identity of the self, well, let's just say it can be easy to get lost in all of that as well, now more than ever.

I think with all the emphasis, technology, society, mass culture driven to idolize the individual, isn't it a natural conclusion to just forego the traditional definiton of culture and just develop a culture of self? But where would that self come from? Isn't that the line we're fighting to recover to some extent? Isn't that what we want to stand the test of time? I want to know what it means to be Korean, American and Christian all at once — isn't that why I'm so wrapped up in this?