What is yellow on the outside but white on the inside? If you guessed a "banana," though the inside appears more cream than white, you would be close. The answer is, a twinkie. Have you eaten one? They are fairly inexpensive and only about 135 calories. If you eat too many you might get a stomachache. There is definitely not enough sugar in these bite-size snacks to give you a significant energy boost like Red Bull or Starbucks coffee. Nevertheless, they are fairly tasty. Eat them. Yes! Use that term to describe people. No!
In the coming months I hope to write a 6-part series on some of the issues surrounding ethnicity in (broadly speaking) Reformed and Presbyterian circles. On the one hand, I am fully aware that many people do not believe there are any problems. I normally receive this response from those in the majority. Though I overstate my case for the purposes of this illustration, to say there are no problems is like the slave owner telling the slave, "Everything is okay." The slave owner is not aware, or perhaps suppresses, the myriad of issues surrounding the establishment because he is the superior; he is the majority. From the slave's perspective, however, issues abound. I do not categorize whites in Reformed and Presbyterian Churches today as slave owners nor do I classify African-Americans (or non-whites) in the aforementioned circles as slaves. However, based on personal study, numerous conversations, and personal experience, I think it is clear that we look through a different lens much like the slave and slave owner.
Blacks/African-Americans/people of color, albeit, are not the only ones who are concerned in the broader Reformed and Presbyterian world (in the United States). While the content of the articles I hope to write will primarily focus on issues between blacks and whites (I will provide details in the initial article briefly stating why I am approaching it from that angle), other non-whites wrestle with similar matters.
In response to my brief blog post titled, "Listen Up White America," a dear friend responded to me by email. He described some of his experiences as a Korean Presbyterian pastor. He said that the black experience in Reformed and Presbyterian "churches are very similar to what I have experienced. The most interesting part of it is that those racial experiences didn't happen to me until I arrived at [said seminary] and entered the larger (i.e., outside of the Reformed Korean-American community) Reformed circles. [M]any people at [said seminary] assumed I didn't speak English. It was ridiculous."
He went on to say that he believes Asians, though he can intimately speak as a Korean, are seen either as twinkies (i.e., yellow on the outside, white on the inside) or non-English speaking asians," what he called, "F.O.B.," which means "fresh off the boat." He said, "Most would initially identify us as the latter. It's sad, but it's the truth."
Is there any merit to his claims? Is there any truth seeping through his frustration?
I asked this pastor to further explain his thoughts.
"I'm not sure how to really explain it, so I will explain by showing the evolution of my ministry philosophy as a Korean-American pastor. When I first began ministry I had the big dream of pastoring a multi-cultural church. I thought it was great to have different cultures, races, and generations present together to worship God (I still do). However, at some point I realized such dream would be impossible."
He later wrote,
"If white folks want me as their pastor, I'd happily pastor them. If they can't see me as their pastor because of the color of my skin, then I'd be happy to point them to a pastor [with whom] they can identify. (Do I sound annoyed? I probably am still annoyed and bitter)."
"...one last thought. The church can't escape the race social class system of [the] USA. That is: white men on top, then black/hispanic men, then Asians along with the female of [the] aforementioned races, then handicaps. I know this to be true in Hollywood (I was heavily in the music scene... ran into many record labels that wouldn't work with our band because we were Asian), and I'm finding that this is true even within the church. But I see changes... [Asians are] slowly shedding the image of kung-fu kicking Bruce Lee out of people's heads..."
I feel the pain and frustration of my friend's words. Do you? Is there hope for change? I believe so.