A Christian publisher, Zondervan, apparently released a men’s book recently that had some pretty overt and stereotypical Asian content. Apparently the title of the book played off of this cluster of stereotypes, and to add insult to injury, the marketing campaign went even further.
A handful of Asian-American bloggers challenged both Zondervan and the book’s authors about the hurtful nature of these stereotypes. The part that really caught my attention was when Zondervan CHOSE TO DO THE RIGHT THING–they acknowledged that they had been wrong, and pulled the books. ALL of the books. (doing the right thing is usually not cheap, either.)
I read the blog entry of one of the people originally involved in the conversation about this, and found this blogger to be gracious, kind, and extremely generous to the authors. He had actually already reached out to one of the authors, and was hoping he would be able to meet the other one. Having come into this debate very late in the game, my sense was that this man was a complete gentleman and extremely gracious despite the pain that this incident had caused him.
I was almost in tears for Zondervan’s act of bravery, blown away by the fact that they had admitted their sin and had enough courage to remedy the situation. It was one of those moments where I felt a glimmer of hope for the future of the church, when for a brief moment, I wasn’t quite as weary on this journey as I so often am.
And then I started reading the comments on this gentleman’s blog . . . and as I did, that hope I had felt began to fade.
White (I’m assuming) Christians, oblivious to their white privilege and to the offense that had been caused in this situation, were spewing accusations TOWARDS THIS BLOGGER and towards the other Asian-Americans involved in this conversation. I usually don’t read more than a handful of comments, but I think I read almost 2/3 of them this time.
The accusations were ugly. Not only had these meddling Asians caused Zondervan to cowtow to the secular god of political correctness, they had also surely cost the salvation of millions of (purportedly white) men whose lives had been changed by this ministry. (Because Jesus is incapable of changing men’s lives without the help of one particular book/website?)
Oh, and also–the Asians made the Body of Christ look bad because they had dragged this all out in the public square, where millions of non-Christian Facebookers and Tweeters would see how horribly divided the Christians were.
(might the non-Christian world not instead be amazed by the testimony of humility and grace displayed in the resolution of this situation? And at any rate, I don’t think we have the option anymore in the 21st century to NOT be in the public square when it comes to social media. and one more thing–it’s my understanding that a bunch of people were Tweeting about what a stupid decision Zondervan had made . . . is THAT glorifying God?!)
I was flabbergasted by this backlash, until I remembered that the thing that keeps racism going is its invisibility. I was watching the wages of white privilege unfold right before my eyes. We white folks don’t get it–and we don’t NEED to get it. We are not “the other”, and that “other” makes an extremely convenient target when we don’t want to look at ourselves.
I know that I have a problem following up when it comes to this type of thing, but I really want to write to Zondervan and tell them how thrilled I am that they chose to do what was right, even at such a great cost (and I am speaking of more than the financial cost).
The reaction to this is proof positive that we have so far to go in fighting this disease of racism . . . and though I rejoice in small victories, I am still sometimes so overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending road that we still have to travel.
My prayer is that more and more people and organizations will have the courage to do what Zondervan did–to admit to their blindness to the racism that wounds our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to take steps towards seeing, even when that seeing is painful.