I don't own a television, so whenever I'm back in Detroit, I typically get my fill of TV. Last night, I was watching the investigative journalism show 20/20 that airs on the ABC television network. One of their pieces was entitled ‘Hollywood’s Stereotypes: Does What We See On The Screen Affect What we Think Of People?’ When I saw this, I thought to myself 'Hmmm...Intriguing. I wonder what they have to say.' Let me tell you, after watching it, I found myself feeling rather upset, both at the media and at myself. Let me quickly summarize:
Italians = Gangsters and Mobsters
Arab Americans = Terrorists
Asian Americans = Doctors, Nerds, Kung Fu Specialists
One of the actors they interviewed was Daniel Dae Kim, one of the cast members on the TV show 'Lost'. Something he said, albeit absolutely hilarious, was also absolutely spot on. And I quote:
"Hollywood stereotypes Asian American actors, relegating them to certain roles. We've been portrayed as inscrutable villains and asexualized kind of eunuchs."
After this piece, my mind was cluttered with all these questions.
'Whenever I use my FOB accent, am I setting my people back for the sake of a cheap laugh at my expense?'
'Does my joking perpetuate this stereotyping? Is it possible to take a joke too far where it becomes more offensive than funny?'
'How am I making active steps in breaking free/redeeming us from the stereotypes the media has portrayed us to be?'
In lieu of this, I think back to the conversations I've had with my good friend Gideon on the need to redeem our Asian American culture and heritage from this incessant habit of stereotyping. Case in point: Chisai Jackson, a musician who has performed at the FRWY. From what Randy has told me, when he used his real name, he couldn't get his foot in the door. But when he started using the name 'Chisai Jackson', things started happening, except when he met with different exec's, they couldn't understand why he, as an Asian, didn't "sound" Asian, and didn't have an "Asian name". (Please don't take this as a knock on Chisai. I don't know him, nor have I heard much of his music, but I am simply commenting on the way things seem to work in our day and age.) When Randy told me this story, seriously, I started fuming. WTF?!?!?!?! Now Asians have a particular sound to them? And what sound may that be? Something NOT white?
As I was working a papers on Worship and the Trinity, I started thinking about this again, which led my thought to the FRWY. I love this community. The people, the vision, the willingness to experiment and rethink what a Christ follower could look like in Hamilton, as well as the refusal to remain status quo. On that note, it's "fun" being the token Asian, but I'm sure that I didn't sign up for an Alpha Course photo op. If being a missional community means to reflect the community at large, a la, Beasley, then is it too much of a stretch to say that our definition of being missional is incomplete when we have a token anything? I mean, if all we have is a negro and a chink in a sea of whiteys, then we've got a long way to go. But here's the problem: I don't know where to start. Am I alone on this one? I really hope not, cuz I'm starting to feel really lonely.
**EDIT** After feeling like I shortchanged Chisai's story, I found this interview on his MySpace. It's him telling his story. It has seriously inspired me. Check it out.
Get this video and more at MySpace.com