I prefer to stay away from the arguments that so often characterize blog-world; don’t we get enough of that in real life? However, on occasion there are disagreements of substance worth pointing out, ones that have the capacity to teach.
Yesterday Dr Soong-Chan Rah (whose book and blog I’ve recommended before) wrote about a new book by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership, whose cover and promotional materials he finds offensive.
So the “Kung Fu” part got my attention, as well as the dragon on the cover and the Chinese characters. I guess I was hoping against hope that it was the story of an Asian-American Christian rather than another example of Asian culture being pimped out to sell products.
In a more recent post Dr Rah shares his email exchange with one of the authors. There’s no need to recap that dialogue here but it does raise an observation. Rather than defend themselves to Dr Rah and other Asian Americans who’ve taken issue with their use of stereotype and characture, couldn’t the authors listen to the concerns, frustration, and anger that is being expressed? One friend put it this way on Facebook,
Why do these authors (both are white) feel the need to use a bizarre amalgam of Asian cultures as a means to sell more books? Do they realize how many people (myself included) have been mocked and ridiculed by very similar caricatures and stereotypes that make up the premise of this book?
There are moments like this one when those of us who are white have the chance to learn something about the experience and perspective of those who haven’t shared our privilege. I probably miss most of those chances because of my defensive instinct, but during those times when my mouth has stayed shut there has always been much to learn. It would be a pleasant surprise if this turned out to be one of those moments for these authors and some of their readers.
Keep an eye on Dr Rah’s blog for more updates as this story develops.
One final thought. Stories like these are poignant reminders to those of us committed to the reconciling implications of the Gospel of how gritty the work can be. How grateful we are that with God all things are possible.
Since first posting this a few days ago there has been a lot of conversation online and, apparently, in person. This morning Dr Rah posted a nice summary of what sounds to have been a very productive phone conversation between the book’s authors and a few Asian American Christian leaders. After some initial missteps it appears as though this thing is moving in a redemptive direction.
I’m hoping that a friend will be posting some of his reflections about this here on the blog within the next day or so. Check back soon.