Posted by: dannyjwkim | October 4, 2007

a fish doesn’t know what water is

My turn…

So one day in April we hear the utterly shocking and upsetting news of a shooting rampage on a college campus. But one reactionary stream of thought that was going on throughout this country that you may or not have been aware of was this: Blacks and Latinos were holding their breath hoping that the shooter wasn’t black or Latino. Muslims and all peoples who are of “Arab-ish” (meaning if any average ignorant person sees you and suspects that you might pray five times a day towards Mecca even though you are actually a Sikh American who grew up in northern California) skin color were even more desperately hoping (just try to imagine what it’s like for them in our post-9/11 society) that the killer was not “one of them”. Asian Americans were probably not as worried in such a way, but hang on a minute – sometime by mid-morning the news was let out that the guy was of “Asian descent”. WHAT?!?!?!?! “We” never do stuff like this!!! (Meanwhile there is a collectively gargantuan sigh of relief let out by the aforementioned parties and they can now breathe) And then the holding-of-the-breath anxiety began amongst Asians – “please don’t let the dude be Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese/Cambodian/Laotian…”

White people were just appalled by the tragedy itself and were probably significantly less concerned (if at all) about the race or religion of the shooter.

I share that narrative as one tiny wee example of why racism is more nuanced and more entrenched then overt and conscious acts of injustice. If you are not familiar with the term “White Privilege” then I beg you to think it through because otherwise that just means you have probably never thought about racism in any serious meaningful way. I’m not asking you to agree with all the contentions of “white privilege” but regardless of what “group” you belong to it is an absolute must to wrestle with its implications.

So how do people of color help non-‘people of color’ explore this safely and honestly without just getting pissed off at them and making them feel bad about being members of the dominant majority culture?

And how the heck are the accidental beneficiaries (the majority culture) of the “institution” supposed to detach itself from something so entrenched to help create something that is post-institutional? (Props to this brother for that last question)

But then of course while I’m writing all this – it hits me. I’m all riled up about race but I personally would draw the line of concern at such subgroups as the Otherkin. Because they’re just so completely other that there’s no way that I need to pay attention to them, right? Do I? … And there’s the rub. I am also guilty of being in the majority culture by having absolutely no knowledge or concern for people who simply don’t belong to any discernable group that I also belong to, oh other than the homo sapiens grouping. And this is where I let out my own sigh, but not one of relief, for yet again I discover how slippery is the depravity slope of the human heart, of my human heart.

Anyway, you might have made it this far and still have no idea why the narrative I chose at the beginning is an example of racism. If you are confused please just ask. Because as long as we timidly/lazily keep silent we’ll just be perpetuating things like this indefinitely.



  1. Being non-white, I hardly considered any notions of white privilege. I don’t know why. It has become an almost embarrassing part of who I am.

    Nevertheless, I see it more clearly. It leaves its stench all throughout the system. But who’s to blame? Is it history? Is it lack of education? Because I have a hard time being mad at my white friends who, as far as I can tell, really like me.

    A revolutionary idea that Scot Mcknight put into my head was this: Jesus came to reconcile people to each other. His healings weren’t necessarily to prove his God-ship. His healings allowed for the healed to find their rightful place back in society. The leprous men could, again, worship back in the temple. The bleeding woman could now be a vital member as a mother to children (CULTURAL). And I think for today, race has to be dealt with in such a way that Christians show the power of the Gospel.


  2. The color divide reaches all levels, and every once in a while there’s a high-profile incident that sparks the re-emergence of the discussion (as long as we’re being linky):

    Why hasn’t the public demanded an apology from Albert Gonzales as it does from Michael Vick?

    As to the other sub-groups that reveal to us that we are unwittingly participants in a majority culture, I agree. And to the extent that it’s present in our own day-to-day communities, I agree that reconciliation is important. Unity without uniformity.

    But if we zoom out another 10x, and go back in time about five years, we see that the United States has propped itself up as a majority culture in the entire world. Yet, we are not actually a majority; the majority of the world is Asian and the majority of the world lives in extreme or severe poverty and scraps for food and water to stay alive.

    And on the transnational spectrum, there are certainly huge subcultures that are overlooked and considered unimportant or not considered at all as a result.

    We have not availed ourselves, as a collective member of a so-called majority, to the hidden “subgroups” of the world nearly enough. The concept in the post is therefore scaleable: in the global society, our entire demographic is a fish in the water of humanity.

  3. I’ll add another link.

  4. I’ve been reading sermons & essays by MLK. There’s alot of echos of his thoughts sprinkled throughout…

    I’d have to say, really, it comes down to reconciling & rebuilding community between those who hold power and those who don’t. More than a matter of just changing places.

  5. For those who live in Atlanta, just another post about Clarkston changing to its sudden refugee population:

    It’s especially difficult for a fish to recognize the water when the water changes so quickly.

  6. […] the water we’re swimming in To the nature of our inner sin Are we challengers, or bargaining peace? […]

  7. I tried having a conversation with a white friend about white privilege once. She got really defensive. It didn’t go well at all. Granted, there needs to be a time and place to bring up such things.

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