Afterthoughts on Racist Photo of Spanish Men’s Basketball Team

I was so dumbfounded when I saw the headline “Is Spanish team photo racist toward Chinese?” Trying to regain some composure after seeing the article and taking a long walk to cool down, here are my afterthoughts:

1. There needs to be a correction made on the news headline. This photo does not only offend Chinese but all Asians. If anyone would think that such photo is offensive only to Chinese is a sign of pure ignorance. And it would only prove that we still have a long way to go in addressing and educating racial issues in this country. Although I am not Chinese (though I am a Korean-American) such racial and degrading picture is simply unacceptable regardless of what Asian ethnicity you are.

2. For a team to represent their country front of the whole world to see, Spanish Men’s Basketball Team really blew it. And they ought to feel their shame. When an athlete or a team is playing at the Olympic he/they not only display their athletic abilities but a sense of dignity and ambassadorship of their country.

3. Because of their stupidity are we to think that people in Spain are also racists and ignorant to racial issues? I hope not because that too is racial stereotype and generalization, which is a form of racism. I want to believe that there are better people in Spain than ones that have represented by their men’s basketball team.

4. Racism of any sort is due to sin and sinfulness of man. It only reminds me that every man needs the gospel. And only then can a racist be transformed to love all races for whom Christ died. The biblical gospel is culturally and racially transcendent. But more importantly, it transforms all of God’s people to love all of God’s people.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14 ESV).

Racism

We went to Museum of Tolerance (aka Holocaust Museum) today. This was my first visit. It was very powerful and moving say the least. I tried my best to hold back a few tear-jerking moments. We even had an opportunity to hear a live testimony from a real Holocaust survivor at a special gathering. If you’re in the area or plan to be in the area, you need to make reservation ahead and make the trip. It would definitely be worth your time. I’m even considering taking the leadership there next March prior to the start of the Shepherds’ Conference.

I really think that Christians/churches need to be more exposed (perhaps, educated is a better word) in issues surrounding racism. However, though raising awareness is a start, it is not enough in my opinion. I believe Christians/churches need to intentionally confront racism within our own thinking, within our own families, within our own churches, so that this very issue would not be a hindrance in being the salt and light in our own community locally, regionally, and globally. God is not glorified when we harbor any type of racial prejudice and racial stereotype. Such sin must be confronted and be repented of.

Although I grew up at a place where it is culturally and ethnically diverse (even boast of such diversity), I witnessed racism nonetheless. Perhaps, one of the greatest examples or forms of racism is on Sundays. I have observed over the years that at least in Southern California Sunday is truly the most segregated day of the week. What’s interesting is that people would work with different color of people during the week, yet on Sunday there are segregations among churches, namely, people worship with their own “kind” as several have tried to explain to me. As you can imagine, I told them I reject such thought.

Another interesting observation I’ve made is with discussions I had with several pastors in Southern California, largely, with my “white” brothers. Several times these brothers have expressed that they want to reach out to non-Caucasian groups (e.g., Asians, Mexicans, etc.), yet they don’t have (in some cases not willing to invest though they had the means) any non-Caucasian pastors on their ministrial staff, which I’ve pointed out. I also said, just look at our seminaries, for instance. How many “minority” professors/instructors (though I don’t like this term) are represented in our schools? Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that schools need to overlook quality just for the sake of portraying a certain image. But reality is that there is a skewed ratio though there are many qualified minorities. Also, how often do you see minorities in the leadership of many denominations nationally, regionally, and locally?

Let me tell you a real incident that happened to me several years ago. My wife and I flew out to Dallas to check out the housing since I was planning to be enrolled in their ThM program. When we drove to a neighborhood just outside of the city, we met a realtor and she said this to us – “This is the Bible-belt state and we’re all Christians here. But I’m not sure whether your kind of people would feel comfortable here.” And immediately she made sure that she’s a proud redneck! My wife and I were speechless by such unwelcoming attitude and we quickly walked out. I kept thinking, what’s “your kind of people”?

Growing up, I had many “colorful” friends. And never once did I hear my parents use any color adjective to refer to any of my friends. It was always, “Hey, son, how’s your friend Walter doing?” and never “Hey, son, how’s your black friend Walter or white friend Casey?”

Ever since we moved out to Midwest, our family and friends from Cali frequently ask whether we face any racism amongst largely Caucasian demographic area. I generally tell them, by the grace of God, we haven’t encountered much racism though there have been few instances with some ignorant folks. But most part, we’ve been very pleased with Midwest folks. We’re not going to have some ignorant people to ruin the image for the rest. If not careful, that is exactly what stereotype is.

That is why I am so thankful to God for the people of Sovereign Grace Bible Church (SGBC), who are so color-blind. I mean, how many churches do you know that has a pastor, who is “made in Korea” to shepherd all-Caucasian church in South Dakota? Really! It is possible only by God’s sovereign grace. And I love the fact that the folks at SGBC love me as their pastor regardless of my color and racial distinction. In biblical sense, this is the reality of Christ’s kingdom and Christ’s church. I’m so thankful that I can be part of such exemplary picture.

We must fight against racism. But let it begin with us first. There is no such thing called “racist Christians.” For God so loved the world (not just to a particular color or race), he gave his only begotten son…