Yesterday, our family made a trip out to Walmart.

We don’t usually shop there, but my wife needed to pick up some supplies that we were pretty sure we could only get there.

While we were leaving the fabric section, an employee engaged me in a game of “cross-race blindness.” Our conversation went something like this:

Employee: Hey, Jackie Chan!

Me: (Blank stare)

Employee: Oh… didn’t I see you last week?  Remember when I told you that you looked just like Jackie Chan?

Me: No, that was someone else. I wasn’t here last week.

Employee: Oh… but you look just like Jackie Chan, too! Right?!

Me: No, I don’t. Not at all.

As we left the area, I could see the employee give another employee an astonished look, as if she couldn’t believe that I could not see my own striking resemblance to Jackie Chan.

A few preliminary remarks:

  • I don’t think this was blatant racism; more due to ignorance and probable lack of exposure to Asian and Asian American people.
  • In the grand scheme of things, I don’t consider things like this a big deal.
  • What’s far more important to me, especially since our daughter was with us, is how I choose to respond in these kinds of situations which, unfortunately, will probably be an ongoing reality throughout her life.
  • Even if IMDB thinks so, all Asian people do not look alike. Let me assure you, I look nothing like Jackie Chan. I mean, I could see someone making the mistake if they saw my crazy wall-climbing abilities, but other than that..  ;)

The Third Way

For me, this is a chance to practice the third way Jesus makes possible to His followers. Rather than fight (meeting ignorance and/or racism with anger) or flight (allowing the Asian in me who wants to keep the peace to simply say nothing), Jesus presents a completely different way altogether.

I hope it’s a sign of my growth in loving & following Christ that I genuinely didn’t feel anger in this situation. Maybe it’s because I kind of expect racism at Walmart (let me tell you about the time I went to the Walmart in Tennessee!), but I’m hoping my commitment to living out reconciliation and demonstrating the reality of the Kingdom is slowly changing who I am and kept my blood pressure low.

You May Ask Yourself

In these situations, I usually ask myself a series of questions:

  • Is it worth it to engage this person? Do I see a positive outcome from engaging?
  • Could this person be educated? Is it just well-intentioned ignorance that can be changed?
  • Do I have a relationship with this person? Would this serve the cause of reconciliation?
  • How can I address the ignorance in way that makes it clear it’s wrong, without escalating tension unnecessarily?

In yesterday’s exchange, I wanted my daughter to see that we can be strong and handle ignorance directly (e.g., “No, all Asian American people do not look the same.”) but without allowing the other person to provoke us into anger.

The Way of Love

It was strangely appropriate that this happened to me on MLK Jr. Day.

His words still carry profound resonance for us today, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”