By Andy Jung
CBFNC Associate Executive Coordinator
Over the last week, as I watched the images of the protests filled with pain and outrage, I’ve felt sadness and grief. I empathize with the pain of the black community that has led to the massive protests. The systemic racism that has existed for over 400 years is unconscionable. I’m also happy to see white protesters walking in solidarity with the black protesters to seek change in a broken system. I am praying that this is the seminal moment that will result in structural change. Yet, as I continue to watch the protests, peaceful and otherwise, I wonder why I don’t feel compelled to go out into the streets and protest against the injustices that goes against everything I believe about God’s love for all people.
As a seven-year-old, I came with my family as an immigrant to the United States without knowing the language or the culture. We settled in small-town Sanford, NC to begin a new life. (Why we settled in Sanford is another story for another time.) As young children often do, I quickly adapted to the new surroundings, new food and a new language. Even though I experienced some ridicule and hurtful comments from other children, I made friends with most of my classmates in the elementary school.
As I progressed through middle school and high school, I found my niche in several friend groups that I cherished. I played sports, did well enough in the classroom, participated in clubs and was the co-editor of the school newspaper and the yearbook. I can say I thoroughly enjoyed growing up in Sanford.
Yet, as I reflect back on my childhood, I now realize that I was given a place of privilege.
Even though I was a Korean immigrant, I was accepted in places many of my black friends would not have been welcomed. Even though I was literally the foreigner, I was accepted much more readily than the black families who have lived in Sanford for generations. With the majority of the white people I came into contact, I was treated with respect and was seen as their equal.
Even in my professional and ministry career, I have been accepted without much hesitation. I enjoyed many years of ministry with young people and their parents. I was given leadership roles outside of my initial job description because they saw my gifts. I was then called to pastor a church in a small town with a unanimous vote because they envisioned me as their pastor. They did not judge me by the color of my skin or where I was born. Now, I serve on the CBNFC team because I was seen as a person with gifts and abilities. Everywhere I have been, I have been received with kindness and respect and have been given a seat at the table.
So, why have I enjoyed a place of privilege as an immigrant when blacks who have been in the United States for generations aren’t afforded the same seat at the table? Why am I seen differently to most white people? Why am I given the benefit of the doubt when I am pulled over by police for being in a hurry? Even as an Asian immigrant, I will never know what it is like to be black in America.
I still don’t know why I haven’t been compelled to protest in the streets (maybe one of these days) but I know without a shadow of a doubt, I want to see change in our nation. I want to see the system changed to help black people to experience the same America that I’ve experienced. I want my white friends to recognize their position of advantage in America. I want my government to pass legislations that will help put all people on the same level playing field. I want the pain and rage of our black community to change the perspective of the white community.
As I list my hopes and dreams, I realize change starts with me.
So, I am going to continue to listen to my black friends and colleagues and learn how I can be part of the solution. I am going continue to read more to learn more about systemic racial injustice and what can be done to fix it. I am going to speak out boldly when I see injustice occurring. I am going to actively look for ways to affect change in my circle of influence. I am going to love deeper and pray harder for our nation. Through it all, maybe one day, my place of privilege will be experienced by all people, especially by my black brothers and sisters