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I will be giving a talk at Princeton Theological Seminary

Asian American Program Lecture:

Asian American Theology, Racialization and Identity

Time: Wednesday, April 22, 2015, 1:00-2:00 PM

Place: Theron Room in the New Library

Please drop by if you are around…..

Below is an excerpt of my talk taken from my co-written book with Dr. Joseph Cheah, Theological Reflection of “Gangnam Style” (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

 

Asian American Theology, Racialization and Identity

Racialization is a process by which skin color and cultural practices are given social importance as markers of difference.[1] Racialized identities are in part the result of how the dominant group has stereotyped minority groups. For example, when we see a Latina in a palatial home, most of us automatically would assume that she is a house keeper rather than the owner of the house. Similarly, Asian Americans are often racialized as foreigners. Thus it may be clearer to speak in terms of racialized rather than a racial group because race is a product of racism.[2]

We live in a society in which “racism” has been internalized and institutionalized. It is embedded into a culture as racial discrimination has become a force for upholding stability. Racism is the manifestation of the deeply entrenched determination to maintain the status quo. It has become institutionalized and internalized by those who believe there is a center in society, that they are part of that center, and that they are right to relegate those unlike them to the margins. Racism is intrinsic to the structures of society[3] and is seen overtly in violent physical attacks and covertly in gradations of wages and employment opportunities based on racial criteria.

Racism exists in many places in society such as government boards and manual laborers. Covert racism can be subconscious, apparently non-deliberate, and rarely recognized by the perpetrators themselves.[4] For a society to be welcoming of all cultures, it is crucial to be able to celebrate our differences and allow our differences to enrich us rather than suppress us.

Racism is an attitude that promotes exclusion of the vulnerable and powerless from basic social equality and opportunity by groups who believe they are the only ones fully entitled to the benefits of our economic, social, cultural, and intellectual[5] spheres.[6] We live in a society in which “racism” is now illegal, but it has been internalized and codified. It is deeply embedded in a culture from whose inception the perception of meaningful social and moral differences between races has been a regulative force for maintaining stability and growth and for maximizing other cultural values among members of the “preferred” race.

“Racism” is the tool of the deeply entrenched determination to maintain the dominant culture. Only a full awareness of this disturbing reality leads to new insight of what can be possibly attained in a nation.[7] “Racism” has gone underground, and tends to be more like a pillow than a baseball bat. When it strikes, it is done with the guise of humor or a veiled sneer. If you strike into it, your complaint disappears in a cloud of dissimulation.

[1] Kay J. Anderson, Vancouver’s Chinatown: Racial Discourse in Canada, 1875-1980 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999), 18.

[2] John Solomos, “Beyond Racism and Multiculturalism,” Patterns of Prejudice 1998(32):49.

[3] Stanley R. Barrett, Is God a Racist? The Right Wing in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), 307.

[4] Ibid., 308, 309.

[5] One must be especially careful with regard to those opportunities for which there are legitimate qualifications one needs to accomplish before being admitted. This is where so much controversy is created by giving some preferences to groups who, in the past, have been unjustly excluded from schools and jobs. If one gives preference, for how long must that persist? When can we say the debt of discrimination has been paid?

[6] Fumitaka Matsuoka, The Color of Faith: Building Community in a Multiracial Society (Cleveland: United Church Press, 1998), 3.

[7] Grace Ji-Sun Kim, “Asian American Feminist Theology,” in Liberation Theologies in the United States: An Introduction, edited by Anthony Pinn & Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas (New York: New York University Press), 143.

 

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BN7A3104-MGrace Ji-Sun Kim is an Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. She is the author of  Embracing the Other (forthcoming); Here I Am; Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice co-edited with Jenny Daggers; Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style” co-written with Joseph Cheah; Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers; Contemplations from the Heart; Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit; The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other; and The Grace of Sophia. She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.

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