In this post I narrow some focus to visible minorities and our role in fighting systemic racism.
Some of you may be familiar with the term “model minority”, particularly if you’re of Asian descent. It’s the idea that you sit in between white and Black. To over simplify, the idea is if you “act” as a minority should–assimilate and adopt white culture–you will reap some (not all) of the benefits of white privilege. But the problem is, despite the attempts, those tables can turn mighty quick. It also comes at the expense of vilifying other minorities.
In 2020, some white people felt emboldened to spew racist slurs and attacks to any Asian face. Since “Asians look the same”, whether you’re Korean, Malay, or Japanese, everyone received treatment as the “outsider” white supremacists screamed to any Chinese looking face. That comes from the global pandemic coupled with Trump’s #chinavirus attacks that opened the door to a fresh wave of anti-Asian racism.
We need to be on guard here and simultaneously understand there is a spectrum to consider in the pursuit of solidarity.

The term BIPOC (I use IBPOC) stands for Black, Indigenous, people of colour. Although we’re not playing the oppression olympics, the reason why anti-Blackness protests are covering the land is because Black skin suffers the greatest. The denigration of Asian skin to systemic racism pales in comparison to violence against Black skin. So although our struggle for justice is tied, reparations or not the same because the suffering is different. We shouldn’t be known exclusively through our suffering, however it is important to understand our different histories as we push for equity. Because Black lives are disproportionately vilified, other minority groups needs to join forces in the fight against anti-Blackness.

Visible Minorities Waking to Systemic Racism and Anti-Blackness

We must also examine our own ethnicities and traditions to determine to what degree white culture has influenced us to adopt versions of anti-Blackness. That level of introspection will take many ethnic groups into our own pain of systemic racialized violence, but also how we perpetrate racialized violence too. For example, I may feel the weight of Japanese internment in my history, but at the same time have been formed socially to distrust the Somali community in my neighborhood because they have Black skin, and somehow somewhere Black = violent/criminal.

White supremacist formation exists within ethnicities and deserves our attention. In the wake of the George Floyd protests, the work is to simultaneously feel our own complicity in systemic racism, while dismantling anti-Blackness in our midst. We then hold that tension with our own experience as visible minorities subjugated, albeit in a different way, by the system.

That can take some work especially if you’ve spent more time in white spaces than ethnic ones. That would include school, church, or work.

For me, I’ve had to work to see imbalances in the system (particularly in the church). It hasn’t always been clear when something was ‘off’. In the church or in non-profit work, racism has always been present, but it’s so casual that until you become woke (“wokeness” is a term pulled out of Black community,) to engrained yet hidden systems at play.

Everyone has their own story and moments that factor into this discovery. When a realization occurs the response will vary. I see it unravel in four different ways (from the context of a visible minority in the church.)

  1. Realize systemic racism, stay within ethnocultural barriers (ethnic churches).
  2. Realize systemic racism, leave church entirely.
  3. Don’t acknowledge systemic racism, play model minority, content to stay within contemporary (white dominated) church.
  4. Realize systemic racism, work to or for a redeemed church.

Most are in 1 or 3. I know this because it used to be my story before I started trudging along exploring the 4th option. I didn’t know better and never had vision for better. For the longest time, although I didn’t quite fit in, the traditional institutional church was what I worked to preserve.  (This produces a dubious scenario where ethnic churches propagate systems of privilege rooted in colonialism. I digress.)

The church needs visible minorities with holy discontent. The ones who are not content staying in their closed ethnic churches, or not content within white dominated evangelicalism. I do believe the 4th option is better in a way because the first three do not adequately answer how the church respond to mission in a post-Christendom world. There’s more out there. But we must be willing to process deeper questions about the role minorities currently have.

I’m always interested in ways to address the unmitigated decline in the western church. Part of that is adjusting the power structures of control. The way we think and view the world needs to shift outside of the modern paradigms of Christendom. I believe the shock to the system is here. I believe the current wave sweeping the church includes the emerging voice of women leaders and IBPOC who are finally receiving their due. We just need more willing to stand, be accounted for, and live out the fulness of their gifts.