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But I Don't See You as Asian: Curating Conversations About Race Paperback – June 8, 2013
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Bruce has offered us a great gift: a jargon-free, accessible, guide on how to avoid some of the most common errors we make when engaging across color lines. Using both personal anecdotes and astute cultural references, Bruce gives us an entry point into needed conversations while exposing the fears and anxieties that often make these dialogues difficult and awkward. At times silly, other times insightful, this resource is the primer for thoughtful engagement on a subject many prefer to ignore.
We have spent far too long ignoring our privilege and acting as if racism will work itself out. Bruce's approach allows individuals and communities to tackle deep prejudice and ignorance in a way that will make change in our families, neighborhoods, and churches.
About the Author
Bruce Reyes-Chow is a native Northern Californian and 3rd generation Chinese/Filipino who writes and speaks extensively on faith, politics, race and technology. Bruce graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Philosophy, Sociology and Asian American studies, earned his masters degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary and was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Austin College. The author of "The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church," for the past 20 years he has worked with groups and individuals in areas of social justice, church planting, technology and diversity. Bruce lives in San Francisco, CA with his wife, Robin, his three daughters, Evelyn, Abby and Annie and one very cute canine.
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There were a few things I did not like about the book. The first chapter was very long, so long that I almost didn't continue to the second chapter. I had read the titles of the chapters and thought I would find the book interesting so I didn't quit and am glad I continued with the other chapters. The first chapter just did not fit in with the other chapters. I think it would have been better placed in the Introduction with Chapter 2 becoming Chapter 1.
Because the author seemed to have a good command of the English language (his main language), I was sorry to find numerous errors which should have been corrected by a good editor. I even had to wonder if the editor had actually caused some of the errors by doing copy-and-paste instead of cut-and-replace.
I also disagree with the author about two things. The author was critical of people who said they couldn't tell the difference between some of the Asian participants in the Olympics. Did he stop to think that people use body shape, body size, manner of dress, sound of voice, and color of hair and eyes to identify others? When we watch the Olympics on television, we see many people with the same uniform, and they are all very fit. We don't always see good close-ups of them, and we don't all have large screen TV's. We don't have the variety of hair color and eye color or some of the other visual clues that help us tell one person from another.
As for the author's friend who thought she saw the author's dad at church, perhaps the author could have appreciated the fact that his friend wanted to show his dad a warm welcome instead of criticizing her for mistaking another Asian man for his dad. I agree, though, that it was good that he stopped his friend from starting a conversation with the man while thinking he was someone else.
In spite of my criticisms above, I am glad I read the book and appreciate the effort the author put into educating the public about racial remarks that we may have overlooked.
Bruce shorthands ethnicity, culture, and race into the single word race, because "...it generally encompasses both genetic background and sociological location." Initially he lined out the book by selecting "...statements and comments that [regardless of intent, created resentment, hostility, and divisions within a community that genuinely seeks understanding, compassions, and wholeness] people have made to me or that I have heard people say to others." At times he also refers to other observable, more external attributes such as gender, height, weight... social class? Yes. Because how a person dresses, does their hair and makeup, walks and talks can reveal so much, but at least in the USA, those factors also are functions of your geographical area.
Reyes-Chow invites everyone to be set free by naming, claiming, and acknowledging the complexities of their individual lives, their experiences and their appearances. I loved the anecdote about the Korean-born youth, adopted and raised by parents in North Carolina, who considered himself White. His cultural phenotype indeed was middle class White American, though his genotype was Asian. In the HS youth group at the church I served in City of History, there was one teen whose physical features were African-American, but who was more culturally White than a lot of the genetically White kids who lived in the nearby very racially diverse neighborhood. Each of us has lifelong contextual historical and cultural locations. What are yours? What are mine?
For this overview of a single individual's experience and perspective, along with his invitation and encouragement for readers to do the same, I found Bruce's insights, revelations, and reminders helpful at least five stars's worth. You could use it in a high school or college classroom as additional reading alongside a book or books that approached the topic from a more thoroughly historical or structural perspective. It would be excellent for a racially or culturally homogenous or multicultural church discussion group, in a library or other book club. Participants even could read a chapter or chapters right then and there, and talk about it immediately afterwards, so no homework necessary. But because Bruce is not a professor or an Actual Academic, and because of its style and content, it could not function as the main class textbook.
It was a fine read as an individual, but it did let me down.
I think it would be a great read for a group or community, especially if the chapters were used as launching points and not treated as the expert in the room. The chapters don't need to be read in order and it would be fine to pick the chapters that were important to the context and leave out the rest for another time or altogether.
If I was leading a group with this book, I wouldn't have people read at home. The chapters are short enough, I would read one as a group and then spend multiple sessions/meetings unpacking the book and our community, moving to the next chapter when we needed a new prompt, not when the clock/calendar told us to.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free when it was offered as a Kindle freebie and the author is a Facebook friend I've met once in person. Some of what I've shared is based on conversation with the author, but my rating or review is in no way influenced by the author.