Tuesday, July 15, 2014

But I Don't See You as Asian! review

but I don't see you as asian cover

But I Don't See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race by Bruce Reyes-Chow (on Amazon)

Bruce Reyes-Chow still is best known to me as moderator of the 2008 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), though he has an extensive online presence! In his own words, Bruce compiled this book, "...to find that sweet middle space where, after our intellect is stirred in the classroom and our hearts moved on the picket line, we can sit down to eat, drink, and commune." So this is more about finding a dining table to gather around than it is about the also essential intellectual and historical exploration that happens in a university classroom, than it is about the planning, actions, and outcomes of a political rally. You do realize every one of us needs to learn to dialogue, because the USA still is far from being post-racial in behaviors, attitudes, and mindset?! You've also experienced how good food and good drink help people start letting down their own walls and begin opening up about their lives? The subtitle is because "the curator prepares the room with essential items, but also continues to care for that room once it is set up."

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.

my amazon review: but we still need to talk!

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