I am proud to be an American. I’m a sansei or third generation Japanese-American kid and although I don’t love most Chevrolets, I do love baseball, a good hot dog, and apple pie ala mode (remember that commercial?). More importantly, I love the fact that we live in a country where we can worship freely, we can vote freely, and we can grow up to be President. So you can only imagine the kind of hurt I felt the first time I heard that awful racist kids’ poem, “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these!” I cried. I was only six years old at the time and in the first grade and I don’t cry very often in public. I just don’t. But I cried that day. And every once in a while, although less often than before, I still meet ignorant people who insult me because of my ethnicity – an ethnicity I am very proud of. And it hurts.
I remember one time in particular that I was standing on the street corner on the way to high school and this guy leans out of his car window and yells as he’s driving past me, “Go back to China you chink!” And it made me so mad. Partly because he was gone before I could respond, but mostly because if you’re going to insult me at least get my ethnicity right. And even not that long ago while I was a pastor at a small church in Washington, GA, I encountered the same kind of racism. That cowardly, drive-by-and-insult-you kind of racism that lets me know there is still racial hatred in the world. I stopped at the local Radio Shack, which also doubled as the local newspaper publisher to get the paper. The girls were in the car with Cassie as I walked around to the newspaper machine and as I was about to put in my 50 cents, this big shiny charcoal gray pick-up truck came by, and this guy who must have been in his early twenties start shouting out, “Ching, chong, ching, chong,” to me at the top of his lungs out of a rolled down window. His friends were just laughing behind him. But unlike that little six-year old that I used to be, I didn’t cry. I was upset. Upset that in the 21st century, I would still find the racism I was hoping to leave behind. Upset that even almost 150 years after the civil war that people still carried around these old prejudices. Upset that 2000 years after Christ, people still haven’t got the message we should treat our neighbor with love.
But what made me the most upset is that my little baby girl, Emma, is likely to face that kind of racism as she grows up. I don’t have to worry about Eve, she’s as All-American as they come with her blond hair and blue eyes, but Emma has enough of her daddy in her that she might be the victim of some cruel kid’s joke. I just wish I could spare her that kind of hatred and fear. Many people are fond of calling America a Christian nation, and if that’s the case we should live up to those ideals. Bigotry, prejudice, and hatred of any sort just have no place in the heart of a Christian and by extension in the heart of America. Instead we should replace those feelings and attitudes with ones that more closely resemble Christ who called on us to love our neighbor as we would ourselves. Prayerfully consider how it is that you can add to the great chorus of those who have gone before to make our country not only what our founding fathers had in mind, but what our Father in Heaven had in mind, too. God bless us all.