Continuing our series in the ways that World Vision has gone woke, we bring you Session Nine of their May We Be One curriculum. Moderated by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah and Rev. Sandra Maria Van Opstal on May 20, 2021, it featured Dr. Michelle Ami Reyes speaking on the Asian American Pacific Islander Experience and why Jesus was “code-switching.”
In this session, Van Opstal introduces her guest by explaining that she can teach us all the ways “in which we have participated and or not known how our country has participated in the pain of the Asian American community and in being complicit…with the things that have happened to them.”
This is after Dr. Soong-Chan Rah explained that white folk use their “white gaze” to view Asian people as either “threats” or “pets” and gave us the helpful diagram below:
She then introduces us to guest Dr. Michelle Reyes. She’s a speaker, author, activist, and the Vice President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative who has written for TGC and the ERLC. She’s all in on Critical Race Theory, writing in a blog post on her website:
White privilege relies on racialization, a system of values that says one group of people is superior to all others because of the color of their skin. This system has been weaponized to justify the cruel treatment of and discrimination toward non-white people throughout American history
….White privilege is both a cause and legacy of racism. It is a conscious act rooted in historic inequities, and it continues to reinforce systemic racism today. When it comes to racial trauma, displacement, the cruel treatment and discrimination of people of color, or the country’s history of slavery, we have to acknowledge the role of white privilege.
….But if we aren’t willing to sit with the weight of guilt when it comes to the sins of racism, we will never understand that we are the problem. Unless we acknowledge the existence of white privilege, we can’t understand our own complicity in it.
Each of us needs to do the hard work of examining our own biases and actions. We cannot separate the past from our present. They are interconnected. Repenting for the sins of historic slavery and its current iterations in our society is a necessary step in beginning to work toward a more equitable and just future, both inside and outside the church.
It is on this note that she tells thousands of pastors and tens of thousands of laymen listening in all about “code-switching,” explaining that Jesus and Paul did their own version of this in the first century.
All of us code-switch in different ways at different times. Sometimes it’s just about putting our best foot forward, like that the first time we go on a date with somebody, or we have a job interview or something like that. We’re trying to present ourselves in the best possible light. So the other person will like us, want to hang out with us, hire us, fill in the blank.
When it comes to minorities, when we talk about code-switching, this is that thought that pops into our brain, like ‘you’ve got this, just act white.’ It’s this way of saying, ‘I’m going to hide my own ethnicity, or my ethnic heritage, my cultural expressions. I’m gonna hide the way that I perhaps act at home so I can fit in within this majority of whitespace.’
And usually it’s not just about fitting in, it’s about trying to survive. It’s trying to not be made fun of, to not be shamed, to not be bullied verbally or physically. So there’s a lot of fear, and trauma that goes into code-switching, as well.
And so, as a caveat, and what I argue in that chapter of my book is that it’s important for historically disempowered minorities to understand that the Bible is not calling us to hide who we are, to be ashamed of who we are, to code-switch merely as a means for survival, and to sort of give in to the status quo.
She concludes by explaining that Jesus would code-switch in order to ensure that he doesn’t come across as “offensive” or so that people will be able to fully hear and receive his message.
But rather, I think we see in the life of Jesus, we see in the life of Paul, that they are able to code-switch. And by that, as I mentioned, they know that they are studiers of people.
They understand how people think, how people tick, theological difference, world differences, a worldview, even just sort of social norms, what’s appropriate, what’s inappropriate. When they step into a room or they step into a new town, they have those ideas at their forefront and say, ‘Okay, if I’m going to connect with this person, I need to shift in this way, or I need to adapt myself in this way so I don’t come across as offensive or that my message will be heard.‘
The original video can be seen here.
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