July 27, 2022

Cultivating Healthy Racial Discussions: Some Questions

As the topic of racial reconciliation continues to prevail through our media, the necessity for healthy racial discussion becomes more and more obvious. These conversations can be challenging, controversial topics to host, making them generally avoided because we’ve never been taught how they should be conducted. Unfortunately, there is no perfect blueprint to lead these conversations. However, if you’re seeking guidance, there are certainly good signs and bad signs to look for when you begin these discussions. Some of these signs can be spotted by honestly reflecting on the following questions:

1. What role do I play in this conversation?

Reflecting on your role previously prepares you for what can be an intimidating discussion and can help guide your conduct. 


  1.  Am I hosting or am I in the position of being educated? 

As the conversation host you hold a responsibility to listen respectfully, have patience, and ensure the conversation continues to be productive. On the other hand, perhaps you are less versed in the unique facets of racial history and you’re in the position of a student. In this role, it is your job to acknowledge areas of ignorance, ask questions, and of course, learn. 


If you are the host, I ask you to reflect: 


  1. Is the person opposite of me as educated in racial facets?

Though learning will occur in any position you happen to play, you may know more than the person opposite of you. If you do, it is important to know the other person’s range of knowledge and be able to lead the conversation without sounding like you are preaching to them. 


  1. Am I in an emotional position to calmly talk about my racial worldview with another person whose views might differ from my own?

Can you hear something you might disagree with and handle it with love? If the person opposite to you says something that doesn’t sit right, are you capable of pointing out the inaccuracy without attacking them? Will you continue to be able to teach with love and patience? Being a host requires continual calmness and emotional maturity. It’s not easy, but I promise it’s possible!


  1. What parts of my racial narrative are painful? If these wounds are reopened, am I emotionally mature enough to not transfer that pain to the other person?

In our vigor to see racial reconciliation, sometimes instead of acknowledging and treating the hurt racism has caused, we can end up transferring our pain to others. It is important to recognize our pain in order to healthily express it. 


  1. Is the person I’m talking to willing to learn?

If the answer to this question is no, you can answer any questions, have conversations, but if they are unwilling to learn, it is your responsibility to wipe the dust off and move on. It is not worth sharing our deep values with ears that aren’t ready to learn.


  1. What more do I have to learn?

Sometimes, when we take the role of teacher, we can easily convince ourselves that we know it all. But we do not. Racial reconciliation is based upon learning and embracing others’ unique perspectives and requires an openness to learn. Humbleness is also equally important because we do not want to alienate those opposite of us and thus lose our opportunities. 


If you are the student:


  1. Am I willing for my views, my comforts, to be challenged?

If your answer is no, then this conversation won’t go very far. If you’re not willing to be challenged, for your views to be called into question, it simply means that this makes you uncomfortable. And that’s completely totally normal. It takes time, but if you’re willing, soon your answer to this question will change, and that’s your green light!


  1. Does the person I’m having this conversation with have a healthy racial worldview?

As a learner, it is important to learn from someone healthy! Ask yourself: 

  • Does this person openly admit to their limited perspectives and biases? 

  • Do they seek mutual growth during these conversations?

  • Do they have a diverse social circle? 

  • Do they use respectful terms that reinforce a person's/group’s value?

If these all sound like your person, then they sound quite healthy! The biggest most important quality of a healthy teacher is that they do not leave you feeling ashamed for your developing racial journey. If they do, please do not continue these types of conversations with that person. 


  1. What previous experiences in my life have shaped some of the mindsets I hold?

Reflecting on what has shaped our mindsets is powerful - what has shaped what you believe? Knowing the roots of your mindsets allows you to better communicate why you hold a certain view, and discussions will allow you to reflect on if that association is healthy or not. 


  1. How has racism hurt me personally?

Everyone has been hurt by racism. Everyone. We carry deep, inflicted wounds from the racial injustice that have influenced our lives. Knowing how racism has hurt you personally allows you room for both empathy and healing. 


The topic of racial reconciliation isn’t an easy one - the discussions aren’t always going to be comfortable and they require a willingness to let go of previous mindsets. But, in learning how to have these discussions, we cultivate a healthier racial worldview and perhaps in turn, can share this growth with others. My friends, there is so much healing to be had in this topic, and I hope your reflections help you pursue the beauty and the growth that discussion on racial reconciliation can provide. 

May 28, 2022

AAPI Media

To commemorate AAPI month - that is, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I thought I’d provide a list of some of my favorite types of media with Asian main characters/cast to continue to celebrate these people all year long. 


Movies:


Big Hero Six:

This animated Disney movie encompasses both the action of a superhero movie with the emotional yet fun atmosphere Disney is known for. Taking place in fictional San Fransokyo, this movie stars an Asian lead and a diverse group of sidekicks. 



Wish Dragon:

This animated movie, found on Netflix, combines both Romeo and Juliet with the magic of Aladdin. Featuring an all Asian cast, this movie is a great way to enjoy a classic storyline while simultaneously widening ourselves to POC leads. 



Raya and the Last Dragon:

This newer Disney movie boasts a super-diverse cast of Asian characters, with its storyline paralleling the deep, complicated histories between different groups within the nation of China. Additionally, this movie has gorgeous animation. 



Mulan:

Though there is both a live action and a sequel, I always go back to the original Disney tale of Mulan. Following a farm girl turned warrior, Mulan explores loyalty and family duty as she trains to protect China.




Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: 

A Marvel movie for the older crowd, this movie features an almost all Asian cast and deeply celebrates Asian culture throughout the story of Shaun (Shang Chi) as he protects his late mother’s village from his disillusioned father.  



Children’s books:


Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho:

This sweet children’s book filled with vivid illustrations and an important message, explores a girl and her relationship with her almond shaped eyes. 




Shaoey and Dot by Mary Beth Chapman:

Actually made into a series, Shaoey and Dot follows an orphan and her ladybug friend as Shaoey gets adopted and adjusts to her new home. 




The White Swan Express by Jean Davies Okimoto:
Following the adoption stories of multiple families in Guangzhou’s most famed hotel, this sweet book honors the adoption stories the hotel has come to be a part of. 



Daisy Comes Home by Jan Brett:

Paired with gorgeous illustrations, this book follows Mei Mei, a young Chinese girl who raises chickens. When Daisy, one of the chickens, gets separated, Mei Mei does all she can to get her chicken back. 



The Red Thread by Grace Lin:

Based on an Asian version of soulmates, red threads connect those destined to be together regardless of distance. In this story, a happy royal couple face perils as they attempt to find who is on the other end of their thread. 



I Love You Like Crazy Cakes:

Exploring an adoption story through the adoptive mother’s eyes, this sweet book illustrates the deep, maternal love experienced during the adoption process. 




The Newest Flower by Juliese Padgett:

If we’re being technical, the birch trees in this book suggest this book takes place in North America. But as the author, I argue that since Calli is an Asian-coded character, (and a real flower hailing from Asia!) this book belongs on the list. Perfect for this month, this short story transports readers to a flower oasis and teaches a message of love important for every month of the year. 


YA Books:



American Girl: Good Luck Ivy

It has been years since I’ve picked up an American Girl book, but what I appreciate about the brand is the dedication to their dolls’ stories. Ivy’s story focuses on balancing her Chinese household and the changing climates of San Francisco. 


Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed:

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal lives a poor but cheerful life in her village in Pakistan. But when she says the

wrong thing to the richest man in the village, she finds herself forced into

indentured servitude. With the house staff, she must find a way to prosper even

under his harsh expectations and encompassing presence.

(Additional notes)



Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth

Gopal, in an attempt to help provide for his family, takes a job that brings him to the top floor of an old building complex where with 5 other boys, he is required to make frames all day. Unable to contact the outside world, the boys can’t tell each other their names but find refuge in their shared stories. (Additional Notes)




Front Desk by Kelly Yang

A story about an immigrating Chinese family, the Tang’s are given the opportunity to run a motel and Mia Tang is convinced that once her family gets on their feet, they’ll live the American dream. Except, pretty quickly she learns that the motel owner, even though he’s Asian like them, doesn’t want them to succeed and it’s up to Mia to stand up for what she believes in and not to limit her dreams to society’s expectations. (Additional Notes)


Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Hanna, the daughter of a pioneer, struggles to fit into all the towns she’s moved to due to being half-Asian. Along with her dreams of getting an education and opening a dress shop, Hanna faces significant challenges with bravery that challenge the prejudice of her new town. (Additional Notes)


April 20, 2022

Regardless of Ethnicity: A Message of Mindfulness

As the goal towards racial justice becomes more and more mainstream, I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate several discussions regarding racial reconciliation. Due to my inner circle consisting mostly of Caucasians, my perspectives sometimes come as a surprise to my white counterparts. There’s beauty in my perspective - these people will never be able to experience life through the eyes of an Asian American adoptee and hopefully, my viewpoint allows a glimpse into a wider racial climate than they were previously aware of. 

And as I’ve gotten to have these hard discussions, I've also had the honor of getting a glimpse at their unique perspectives on the subject of racial reconciliation. Because even if this society holds biases in a white person’s favor, being a white American is a culture of its own and I value learning from an inside perspective. 


When offered this intimate glance, I found myself discovering deep resistance to these conversations - resistance that stemmed from deep hurts. As I got more and more chances to listen, the more this hurt became visible to me.

Pain like this - I recognized it - and the root of it horrified me. These people have faced verbal attacks that have left them ashamed of being white


If this doesn’t scare you, it should


This is the same racism that’s plagued our narrative for centuries. History wails with the pain that occurs when we reduce and assume people’s value based on their skin tone. And even if discrimination changes its appearance, it is never justifiable and causes immeasurable damage and hurt. 


Before I continue, I’d like to acknowledge that I do not take lightly the pain specific to POCs that unfortunately, is a part of our cultural narrative. The lack of value placed on a human’s life due to ethnicity is never acceptable and it needs to be acknowledged that certain categories of people groups are more brutally attacked for simple physical attributes. Furthermore, it is essential that our growth as a culture is to acknowledge and work to eradicate acts of racism. But as we emerge ready for social change, we must acknowledge that some means can cause hurt. In our drive, have we villainized white people for sins they themselves have not committed? Is that not an act of discrimmination? My friends, the goal of racial reconciliation is to address and heal pain, not to exchange it. 


That being said, in order to avoid attacking others during our racial discussions, we must change our approaches to such conversations. If we point fingers, if we accuse people of their ancestor’s actions without on the other hand pointing out the growth they are able to cultivate, we lose our platform. Accusations we level on the white party today, they only serve as reasons for them to construct walls and maintain limited racial perspectives. When we point fingers, villainize people groups, we lose the opportunity to help guide someone to a wider, more inclusive racial worldview. 


Racism has stirred deep pains in our stories, regardless of if we are black, white, or somewhere in between. In order to heal, we must be able to express this pain and treat the source, but please, please, ensure before these conversations occur that this pain does not drive us to drag down certain people groups to the level we feel we’ve been put on. Instead, we must be able to constructively express our pain in a way that seeks to be understood. From here, we can express our desire to see true equity - where all people are held to the same standards having already begun on the same level.


My friends, there is so much potential beauty and growth in the hard subject of racial reconciliation. But as we pursue these conversations, it is essential that we work to end discrimination, not transfer it. By recognizing the hurt each of us carry regardless of our ethnicities and embracing our different perspectives, we cultivate a safe environment to mutually expand our racial worldviews.

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