Editor’s Note: The following is one of several interviews we will be sharing from individuals in our church community who have helpful perspectives and vantage points into the issues of race and the gospel.
Adam Leong and his wife Megan are campus ministers at Mizzou, leading Asian Christian Fellowship and International Christian Fellowship. He and his wife (and now baby Ezra) have been part of our Christian Fellowship family since 2013.
- What experiences or roles have you had that have given you a unique vantage point into issues of discrimination or racism?
Being Chinese American in a predominantly white community, I often find myself in an interesting position. Because most conversations about race are seen in the black/white context, white people are usually more comfortable talking to me about racial issues than they probably would be around black people. However, I am still a minority and have been on the receiving end of more than one discriminatory, hurtful, offensive, and/or ignorant comment or action. As a minority, I have also been able to have more candid conversations with other members of the minority community about their experiences that they may not have with members of the white community.
Finally, as a campus minister with InterVarsity, I’ve been able to see first hand what has been happening on campus during the past month or so. I’ve had conversations with black students who have literally feared for their lives because of threats of violence against them. I have seen administrators turn a deaf ear to complaints of racism and discrimination. I have walked around campus and seen black students and white students afraid to look one another in the eye. I have walked with Asian American and international students as they navigate their place in this conversation.
- How do you see God’s heart and the Gospel as central to these issues?
I believe that the Gospel and Justice are two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, the pursuit of Justice without the power of Christ actually changing our hearts will always fall short. It is only through Christ’s sacrifice that we can be made new creations, putting to death the injustices of the world. The Gospel is necessary in order to bring perfect Justice to a broken world.
On the other hand, I believe that it is impossible to fully understand the Gospel and follow Jesus without actively pursuing Justice as well. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O Man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Philippians 2:3 talks about us humbling ourselves as Christ did in valuing others about ourselves. The active pursuit of Justice in our world is God’s heart and the heart of the Gospel.
- What do you see as some helpful, practical steps toward change?
- Clarify your definitions: I believe that a lot of the tension that people are feeling is due to differing definitions of key terms. It’s important to understand what “racism,” “white privilege,” “discrimination,” “justice,” “prejudice,” and other words being used in the conversation mean to all parties involved before a real conversation can occur.
- Have a peer-to-peer conversation with an ethnic minority: When I say “peer-to-peer” I mean talking with someone who you would consider a peer and not a subordinate (i.e. they work for you). This allows for more freedom of expression. Ask them about their experiences being a minority in Columbia. LISTEN and empathize instead of attempting to justify or debate. Just ask and listen. If you don’t have any minority friends, I’d be more than happy to talk to you. : )
- For those of us who are ethnic minorities, it is important for us to seek out people in the majority who we can talk to honestly about these things. The worst thing we can do is develop the mentality that everyone in the majority is against us and the way we do that is by building relationships with people in the majority who can then advocate on our behalf.
- What is one particularly helpful thing you’ve learned in your own journey as you’ve wrestled with these issues that you could share with us?
I think the one thing that has been most helpful for me has been to own up to the sins of my fathers. As a Chinese American who has spent his entire life living in the US, I am generations and oceans removed from the discrimination and oppression that my people have/continue to inflict on people groups like the Taiwanese, the Hmong, and the Tibetans (to name a few). Confessing, lamenting, and repenting of those sins has led to a greater understanding of my own prejudices, which can then be healed and rectified through the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the same way, I believe it is important for all people to own the sins of their fathers in order to reveal their own current prejudices because those past sins do affect us. The white community in the US has a history of racial discrimination, particularly against blacks. Even if you don’t believe that you have contributed to it, if you are white, you have still benefited from it. It still has an effect today. Those sins need to be confessed, the injustices lamented, and their current influences on personal mentality and actions revealed so they can be repented of.