Angry Yellow Men: Exploiting Asian discontent

CAC Digest #9 Aug. 29-Sept 2, 1996

{1} From Jeannette Yep ( jyep@ivpress.com)
Date: Fri, Aug 30, 1996 3:12* EDT
From: jyep@ivpress.com (Jeanette Yep)
To: tstseng@aol.com
CC: jyep@nwu.edu

Tim:

I just wanted to add my 2 bits about the nature of the CAC list. I appreciate
gaining the historical perspective. Since you, Sze-Kar and others thought
more broadly about Asian American Christians at the inception of this lists,
then why didn’t you begin your list with Asian Americans (AAs) as your target
group? If the goal is a “think-tank” network for AA Christian ministries,
then a name like “CAC” is too limiting and inaccurate. “Starting slowly” by
focussing on Chinese Americans may have been more deterministic than you may
have wanted! For example, if a group was called the “Korean American
Christian list” (which I’m sure exists somewhere in cyberspace!), I wouldn’t
feel as comfortable joining. Similiarly, when I’ve told some Korean American
friends about the “CAC” they have never wanted to subscribe. The “CAC” is a
self-limiting name. Of course, it’s OK to have a CAC list. But, I think there
are lots of similiarities in AA Christian world and I, for one, would like to
hear from some inside and outside of the Chinese church context. After all,
we can learn from each other.

On another vein, I’ve wondered, how many of the existing CAC subscribers are
currently invovled in a Chinese church? I wonder how many of us may be
“refugees” from the Chinese church experience? If the later is true,
broadening the subscriber group may be more inclusive and better
representative of those reading along on the CAC list.

My two bits.

Because I suspect you’ll transmit my comments to you to everyone, let me
introduce myself. I am Jeanette Yep, currently serving as divisional director
for InterVarsity in the Chicago area. I was born and raised in Boston,
attending the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church (BCEC). When I moved to
Chicago, I was a member of the of the Chinese Christian Union Church (CCUC)
for the past 15 years. Now, I’m involved in a fledgling Asian American church
plant, where our pastoral team of 3 includes 2 Korean-Americans and 1
Chinese-American. I’ve been involved in Asian American ministry to college
students in some way or another since my college days.

Yours for cyberspace,
Jeanette Yep

Jeanette Yep
IVP, P.O. Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515
phone: 708-887-2510, ext. 280
fax: 708-887-2520

I’m in the IVP office about once a week. If it’s urgent, please leave me a
voice mail message or e-mail me at “jyep@nwu.edu”

{2} Tim replies:

Date: Mon, Sept 2, 1996 2:01 AM EDT
From: tstseng@aol.com
To: CAC Distribution List

Thanks for your intro, Jeanette. I’m delighted by the fact that you are on
the list!

You bring up a very good point (i.e., why we didn’t name ourselves the “Asian
American” Christian list). There was a pragmatic reason why we started off
with a Chinese emphasis. Those of us who started it were Chinese and did not
feel that we had the capability or contacts to start an Asian American list.
We did not want to immerse ourselves too quickly into discussions about a
pan-Asian form of American Christianity because we felt that there were many
issues that we’ve not even started to address as ethnic Chinese Christians.

I think it also shows the tenuous and ambivalent feelings that many have
about something called an “Asian American” identity. As you know, groups
like F.A.C.E. (Fellowship of American Chinese Evangelicals) have not been
comfortable with a pan-ethnic expression of faith. From what little I’ve
observed, what seems to unite Asian-Americans is their dislike of their first
generation church experience (e.g., your reference to being a “refugee” from
the Chinese church). I’d like to know what other compelling reasons brings
Asian-American Christians together. Wouldn’t a multi-racial church be more
idea than an Asian American “hybrid”? And do Asian American Christians
simply drop, dismiss, or ignore their particular ethnicity? Has being
Chinese, Korean, or Japanese become something that is merely symbolic for
second-fifth generation Asian Americans? Are Asian Americans a new ethnic
group?

Please don’t misunderstand – I’m one of those persons who wants to plant and
participate in Asian-American ministries (desperately, given my Denver
locale). I simply raise these questions to encourage thought about how and
why an Asian ethnic group can or should move from an ethnic-specific identity
towards one that is broader. In sum, there are many 2d-5th generation
Chinese Americans who still feel that there is something of value, something
to discuss, about the Chinese church in N. America who may be uncomfortable
with “Asian American” language (I’m not one of them).

It would also disappoint me if, say, a Korean American Christian, would not
be interested in our discussion list simply because of our name. Should not
persons committed to building Asian American Christian ministries express
interest in all the diverse particularities that we bring to the table? If I
knew of any Korean Christian discussion lists, I would want to join so thatI
can learn from them and share my perspectives as a 1.5 generation
Chinese-American. Furthermore, our list was never limited to Chinese
American members. Our discussion topics are certainly not limited to Chinese
topics. It seems that the burden of proof of who is authentically an
Asian-American may be placed unfairly upon those who still think that there
is something of value in our respective ethnicities.

Finally, it seems to me that there are two routes to building up something
called “Asian American Christianity.” The first is to cast off our ethnic
baggages and start over again with something that is inclusive of all AAs.
The second is to recognize the reality of our ethnic differences and do the
hard work of building an AA ministry from there. The former course tends to
forget history; the latter does not (perhaps, cannot) escape it. Perhaps the
two are an artificial distinction. But I don’t think we can walk one path
without also walking the other.

Thanks, Jeanette, for giving me a chance to reflect on your important point
and contribute my 2 cents worth. I hope that others will also share their
thoughts.

{3} From Greg Jao

Subj: Angry Yellow Men (fwd)
Date: Mon, Sep 2, 1996 11:04* EDT
From: gljao@midway.uchicago.edu (Gregory Li Jao)
To: TSTseng@aol.com (Timothy Tseng)

Tim,

A ministry colleague in IVCF forwarded this to me. I thought that you might
like it for CAC. (Alas! I can’t find the address of the list right now.)

Greg Jao

———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 1996 14:07:52 -0400
From: HarryWLew@aol.com
Subject: Angry Yellow Men

Dear Colleagues,

Asian American college students do not see affirmative action as in their
best interests, and that fact is being exploited politically.

That’s the point of the following short article from this week’s THE NEW
REPUBLIC (Sept. 9, 1996, page 11) I think you will find an interesting read.
I hope it will add to your understanding of the students we are serving.

Yours in Christ,
Harry Lew
Grand Rapids

* * * * *

ANGRY YELLOW MEN
Exploiting Asian discontent
By Kenneth Lee

This past March, Bob Dole delivered his only anti-affirmative action speech
of the primaries. “We ought to do away with preferences. This is America. It
ought to be based on merit,” he told a cheering crowd of 2,000. But his
audience contained few if any angry white males. Dole was speaking in Little
Saigon, in the heart of Southern California’s Vietnamese-American community.

Why this audience? After all, as racial minorities, Asians benefit from
affirmative action in numerous areas, such as federal contracting. Most Asian
American civil rights groups, seeking alliances with more established
counterparts such as the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund,
lobby hard to keep racial preferences in place. As Daphne Kwok of the
Organization of Chinese Americans puts it, “We work with other minority
groups because we’re politically young, and there’s strength in numbers.”

According to a 1993 poll conducted by the California Policy Seminar, however,
two-thirds of Asians oppose affirmative action. Hostility to preferences in
higher education is particularly strong. In 1989, several disgruntled Asian
Americans filed complaints with the federal Office of Civil Rights, accusing
the University of California, Berkeley, of discriminating against Asian
students. Ira M. Heyman, then Berkeley’s chancellor, apologized for the
rigged admissions policy and pledged to reform it. Yet a racial disparity
still exists: the average Asian freshman in 1994 had an average SAT score of
1293 and a 3.9 GPA, compared to 1256 and 3.86 for whites and 3.43 and 994 for
blacks. According to a poll conducted by the National Conference of
Christians and Jews, Asians say they have more in common with whites than
with blacks or Latinos.

Take Allan Ng. Ng had an A average in high school and scored in the top 2
percent on his SATs but was rejected by several Ivy League schools. When he
learned that several of his black classmates had been accepted with lower
grades and test scores, he got angry. “I’m from an immigrant family, and my
parents never had the opportunity to discriminate. Why should I pay for past
discrimination?” he asks. Ng has become a staunch opponent of racial
preferences, writing anti-affirmative action polemics for his college
newspaper at the University of Virginia and distributing them through the
Internet. What Ng says publicly, many Asians feel privately. When students at
the University of California at Irvine held a hunger strike to protest the
Board of Regents’ decision to abolish racial preferences, hardly any Asians
took part, although they constitute more than half of the school’s
population.

In this resentment, conservatives see opportunity. “There’s no doubt that
Republicans can run on a platform of fairness and use this issue to get the
Asian vote,” says Jerry Reynolds of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a
conservative think tank. “Any time racial preferences are used, there’s a
victim. And in California, the victim often has an Asian face.” The Angry
Yellow Male may not have the political clout of the Angry White Male–Asians
represent only 1 percent of the electorate–but Asians are America’s fastest
growing ethnic group; they will probably outnumber blacks by 2020. Right now
they don’t lean heavily toward either party. Focusing on Asians provides the
GOP with indirect benefits as well, inoculating the party’s anti-affirmative
action crusade against charges of racism.

In California, where Asians represent 10 percent of the population, backers
of this year’s big affirmative action referendum, the California Civil Rights
Initiative, have made special efforts to woo the Angry Yellow Male vote. The
measure’s supporters have deliberately showcased yellow faces in their
campaign–an ironic, even cynical, use of race-conscious means to abolish
race-conscious policies. The campaign has tapped prominent Asians to publicly
support the initiative, such as Lester Lee, the first Chinese-American to
serve as a University of California Regent. It has also appointed special
liaisons to the Asian community. And it’s manned an array of booths at ethnic
parades and gatherings, where volunteers hand out anti-affirmative action
op-ed pieces–authored, of course, by Asian Americans. In one such editorial
for the paper Heterodoxy, Matthew Tsien, an Asian American activist, writes,
“Asians do face real discrimination, but it is caused far more often by
racial engineering than by white racism…. [Asians are] being turned away
for university enrollment because quota requirements have been filled and
room has to be made for students from other ethnic groups with dramatically
lower test scores.”

Such rhetoric leaves Asian civil rights groups on the defensive. “College
admissions is a complex issue,” says Henry Der, deputy superintendent of the
California Department of Education and former director of Chinese for
Affirmative Action. “Asian students have a lot of choices [in schools] even
if they don’t get into schools like Berkeley.” Black and Latino activists
tend to leave Asians out of the equation altogether, charging that an end to
preferences would mean a return to “lily-white universities.” But elite
schools won’t become all white again; they’ll end up mostly white and Asian.
At Berkeley, abolishing affirmative action will actually increase Asian
enrollment.

Asian Americans are caught between policies that limit their admission to
select colleges and opportunistic conservatives who see in them a way to
further a larger social agenda. Is there a way out? One Asian student at
Berkeley has a suggestion: “Maybe we should be opportunistic and use
Republicans to get what we want–get rid of affirmative action.”

(Copyright 1996, The New Republic)

{4} From Dr. Samuel Ling, re: {1}

From: “Dr Samuel Ling”
Subject: Re: CAC Digest #9
Date: 9/3/96 7:47 AM

Dear everyone,

I think Jeannette’s comments are well taken, and Jeannette, your
suspicion is correct, I read it!!

Do we need a “new” round of self-introductions? Your comment about
refugees vs. permanent residents in the Chinese/Asian church is very
well taken. Let’s get to know each other.

Sam Ling
China Horizon, PO Box 4919, Wheaton, L 60187
email: Samuel.Ling@wheaton.edu
phone: 630-752-5951
FAX: 630-752-5916
Sam

{5} Ken Fong reply to {1}

From: Ken Fong
Date: 9/4/96 1:03 AM

Ken Fong comments to JY and TT:
Hey, Jeanette, I thought I recognized your ‘voice.’ You and TT both
make good points. Given my precarious position on the ‘edge’ of AAA and
AAA-based multi-ethnic ministry, I definitely find the CAC label too
confining, yet I acknowledge that focusing more on the ‘edge’ will
result in ignoring the ‘center,’ i.e., first-gen Asian issues. What I
offer is really not a solution so much as it is a resignation, e.g.,
instead of trying to have one gigantic circle where every single aspect
of AA ministry is covered weakly if at all, for practical purposes,
allow natural ‘clumps’ to zero in on aspects that speak to the heart of
their particular circumstances. I’m all for ongoing intergenerational
dialogue, but I need to hear from people like the Parkwood folks since
their vision is so close to ours.

In some ways, maybe “Asian American” is becoming the new name for
ethnically fuzzier Asians in America in much the same way that
“American” became the catch-all for equivalently fuzzy Europeans in
America. Maybe “AA” is a functional and increasingly more accurate
label for a type of “melting pot” American. Enough for now. Time to
drool into my pillow. G’night. Ken Fong

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