Your Beliefs and Practices are Cultural

“When I went to seminary to prepare for the ministry, I met an African-American student, Elward Ellis, who befriended both my future wife, Kathy Kristy, and me. He gave us gracious but bare-knuckled mentoring about the realities of injustice in American culture. “You’re a racist, you know,” he once said at our kitchen table. “Oh, you don’t mean to be, and you don’t want to be, but you are. You can’t really help it.” He said, for example, “When black people do things in a certain way, you say, ‘Well, that’s your culture.’ But when white people do things in a certain way, you say, ‘That’s just the right way to do things.’ You don’t realize you really have a culture. You are blind to how many of your beliefs and practices are cultural.” We began to see how, in so many ways, we made our cultural biases into moral principles and then judged people of other races as being inferior. His case was so strong and fair that, to our surprise, we agreed with him.”

— Tim Keller

Agreed. But also, this isn’t just a race thing but a larger cultural phenomena. In my experience, we Americans think that our way is the right way. When we go out to other countries, we are so quick to judge their behaviors, rituals, architecture, values, etc. In college I took an anthropology class about nonprofit organizations. We studied American humanitarian organizations that would go oversees to help develop third world countries. When they built systems, even things like washrooms, they would build them in a way that only makes sense to the Western man. The people these systems were intended to serve ended up not utilizing the services at all, because it did not fit culturally. This showcased how we believe our way is the only and right way. Instead of meeting people where they are, we are inclined to “help” people meet us where we are.

Just some food for thought.

Now Jesus was a man. He was human. He was not a white man! He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa, and Asia, and Europe, and he probably had a brown skin.

— Billy Graham in South Africa in 1973

“Christ belongs to all people. He belongs to the whole world.”


[Too Young to Wed] Nepal: A Fragile State

A short film on a young Nepalese couple speaking about their early marriage and how  early marriage perpetuates a cycle of poverty and difficulty. In this film, you will see clips of the wife when she was a child bride about a decade ago. The wife and husband, Durga and Niruta, were 14 and 16 years old at the time of their marriage. You will also see a more recent wedding procession (2016) with a young bride, Anita. Her cries are emotionally deafening.

Before you watch the clip, here are some words from Stephanie Sinclair, the documentary photographer:

I kept seeing girls who were marrying so young and struggling in very immediate ways — from domestic violence, cyclical poverty, being more prone to HIV, having higher [medical] risks in childbirth — and I thought that deserves as much attention as any conflict zone. The real courage belongs to the girls for enduring such trauma and sharing their stories, which they do because they don’t want to see these things happen to others.

The earthquake in 2015, like other natural disasters, exacerbate poverty in Nepal. With greater poverty comes greater pressure to wed your children in early marriage out of the necessity and hope that they will have food and a home.

Statistics show that child marriage usually increases in emergency settings. The challenges these families face are very layered and nuanced. It’s not just the immediate consequences but lifelong consequences that the next generation has to face, particularly the girls.

Durga and Niruta’s story leaves me speechless. Seeing their living conditions also breaks my heart… : ( I don’t know what to say.

(Click here to read more about this clip and other NPR Q&A material with Stephanie Sinclair).


Race and Ethnicity: Large Gaps in College Completion Rates

Some data I copy and pasted from an article:

  • Among students who started in four-year public institutions, black students had the lowest six-year completion rate (45.9 percent). The completion rate of Hispanic students was almost 10 percentage points higher than that of black students (55.0 percent). Over two-thirds of white and Asian students completed a degree within the same period (67.2 percent and 71.7 percent, respectively). Nationally, 62.4 percent of students finished a degree or certificate within six years.
  • Among students who started in four-year pubic institutions, black men had the lowest completion rate (40.0 percent) and the highest stop-out rate (41.1 percent). Asian women had the highest completion rate (75.7 percent) and the lowest stop-out rate (11.2 percent).
  • The overall completion rate for students who started in two-year public institutions was higher for white and Asian students (45.1 percent and 43.8 percent, respectively) than Hispanic and black students (33 percent and 25.8 percent, respectively). Nationally, the rate was 39.2 percent, as the Research Center reported in December 2016.
  • The completion rate at four-year institutions for students who started at a community college (with or without receiving an associate’s degree first) was dramatically different for students of different racial and ethnic groups. While almost one in four Asian students and one in five white students had completed this transfer pathway by the end of the six-year study period, just one in 10 Hispanic students and about one in 12 black students did.
  • The completion gaps between racial groups tend to shrink as students grow older. Among traditional-age students, there was a 24-percentage point gap in the completion rates of black and white students (42.7 percent and 66.8 percent, respectively) and 17.5-percentage points gap between Hispanic and white students (49.3 percent and 66.8 percent, respectively). Among adult learners (those who started college at 25 or older), however, the gap was 12.3 percentage points (42.0 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively) between black and white students and just 9.1 percentage points between Hispanic and white students (42.0 percent and 32.9 percent, respectively).

“These data show that even with recent institutional improvements, counting students who transfer does not narrow the graduation rate gaps,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director, National Student Clearinghouse. “This means that there is much work to be done to improve the postsecondary outcomes of underrepresented minority students, regardless of whether they are native to the institution, transferring in, or transferring out.”

The above was taken from this article:

For more information on the annual report of college completion rates, check out this website where you can download the report and look at an infographic:


The Structural Emasculation of Asian Men

Eddie Huang wrote an article and response to Steve Harvey’s diss of Asian American men. He wrote,

“I told myself that it was all a lie, but the structural emasculation of Asian men in all forms of media became a self-fulfilling prophecy that produced an actual abhorrence to Asian men in the real world.”

First, I am thankful that someone with a platform, like Eddie, is responding to a racist incident. I am thankful because we should not remain silent on these issues. We need conversation. Second, I am thankful that Eddie responded by sharing his personal experiences with the structural emasculation of Asian men in America. This eludes to the fact that behind the stereotypes and structural racism are real people who do get affected by racism. To be affected by racism does not mean the person is sensitive. To be affected by racism means that your own identity was enforced upon you without any consideration for your individuality. And that, my friends, is hurtful. It is like if I told you all the things you are, fat, ugly, and abnormal, without ever getting to know you or giving you a chance to speak. This shaming, name calling, and labeling sounds similar to bullying, doesn’t it? And if you know anything about American society, it is that there are beautiful movements taking place to dismantle bullying in schools and social media. That’s a wonderful attitude Americans can expand to racism. We must dismantle the shaming, name calling, and labeling for all people. (Click here to read Eddie’s article).

My friend, whose name is also Jenn, wrote this in response to his article:

I’m not going to bother with Steve Harvey’s trash “joke” nor his non-apology, but I’m so glad Eddie Huang wrote this. The desexualization of Asian men has incredibly racist, xenophobic origins from the 19th century and it still hurts the Asian community to this day. It’s a shame that a man of color can’t see the disgusting prejudice in his own words about Asian men, regardless if there was no intended malice.

She has a way with words, and I agree that these stereotypes against Asian men still hurts the Asian community today. She also brings up an interesting point that Steve Harvey, a man of color, was unable to see his own racism and stereotyping of another colored group. This is an interesting point, because we would like to assume that a minority person would not be racist or would be more understanding of the negative effects of racism. However, Steve Harvey shows us that just because a person identifies with a minority group does not mean that the person will not have prejudices against other minorities. This goes to show that we all have much to learn about our own prejudices and that we all have work to do to uncover the biases and rebuild our lens on ethnic groups, homosexual groups, disabled groups, etc. 

Luckily, I have the opportunity to learn more about my own prejudices and correct my own lens and view of groups of people. I just started taking a sociocultural class in my counseling program. I am nervous to delve into deep-seated issues of racism, discrimination, etc because of how messy, uncomfortable, and hurtful it is. Talking about these things will, without a doubt, stir up many emotions. However, I am thankful and excited to be learning more and talking about these issues. I’m hoping this class will equip me with the language and knowledge to talk about these issues, so that I can speak up in the face of microaggressions and racism. (Possibly even “correcting” these issues in my personal encounters with racism).

I hope you will join the conversation as well. Why? Because we are all human beings and to talk about these conversations is to care more about the person than your own comfort. Don’t forget that behind all the stereotypes and ethnic groups are real human beings.