Racial Justice Newsletter

Do Justice, Love Your Neighbor and Walk Humbly with God!

Member Corner

Do Justice, Love Your Neighbor and Walk Humbly with God!

Like Jonah, I have tried to run from God's calling many times. When I was called to serve as Vice President and then President of the New York Conference of the United Methodist Women (UMW), I felt neither ready, nor qualified, but I ended up serving in both positions for four years each. At the end of each term, I realized God had equipped me through the years and using me for His purpose. At the end of my tenure as Conference President last year, I was called again to serve—this time by the Racial Justice Charter Support Team (RJCST) at the national level.

Through discernment, I was reminded "you are called by name" as it says in Isaiah. I was also reminded that God does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. I am blessed for the opportunity to serve again in a different capacity. The RJCST is made up of two UMW members from each jurisdiction, the Vice President of the National UMW, a few past and current members of the Program Advisory Committee, and several conference officers. Along with nine other racially diverse members of the RJCST, I attended a training session at our National Leadership Development Day. We attended a workshop about systemic racism throughout U.S. history, and we shared our thoughts on how to build an antiracist, multicultural and diverse society together. We explored the historical development of institutional racism and how it impacts our society today.

According to Professor Saito, "race has been used by whites to legitimize and create difference and social, economic and political exclusion."

We studied systemic racism—how it operates institutionally and culturally, and how it shapes individual identity. During this seminar, I found myself in awe of how deeply I had accepted many white supremacist ideas and how I had come to identify myself close to these privileged whites due to my socioeconomic status and limited experience with racially motivated discrimination.

Repercussions of European colonialism in the U.S. include white supremacy and white privilege through disenfranchisement, persecution against Native Americans, African-American oppression—even 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863—and discrimination against Chinese immigrants (who began to arrive in California in 1850 and built the Transcontinental Railroad). Numerous efforts including the Immigration Act of 1924 and the Asian Exclusion Act were passed to bar other ethnic and racial groups from entering the U.S.

Because of the impact the Civil Rights movement and the work of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., major reform was seen including the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which repealed discriminatory quotas on immigrants, and allowed those banned by those previous acts to emigrate to the United States.

I moved to New York City in the early 1970s soon after this new law took effect. Growing up in a new language and culture was challenging and led to an identity crisis as a Korean-American youth. My 45 years as an immigrant to the U.S. can be summed up as follows: I assimilated into a predominantly white culture, teaching at predominantly white public schools and European private schools for 26 years. Korean-American immigrants in my generation as well as the generation above mine have benefited from this privilege which has been systemically denied to many Black Americans today. Although we faced prejudice because of our unfamiliarity with the language and culture, we too express and benefit from internalized racism.

I do not mean that we must feel guilty for feelings most people may not hold, but we must understand how Koreans have benefited from opportunities denied to others. As more generations begin to integrate we may see a gradual change in our internalized racism. However, in order to undermine the existing systemic racism and to bring justice for all, we must understand the injustice faced by Black Americans today. We must understand their historic plight and the impact of their long, agonizing fight for racial justice. This fight has ultimately benefited people of all races, through things such as the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which made it possible for us to leave our poverty stricken or politically corrupted homes and seek the American Dream. As stated by John Wesley, we United Methodists are taught to "do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."

I hope the Korean-American UMW can "make it happen" by actively participating in racial justice as we are called to do in Micah: "do justice, love your neighbors and walk humbly with God."

This article was originally published by the PDF Document opens in a new window. National Network of Korean-American United Methodist Women in English and Korean.

Posted or updated: 3/31/2017 12:00:00 AM

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