Dr. King and I were born about a mile and a half away from each other, but generations apart. Growing up in Atlanta, I recall that my schooling was in the extremely white enclaves of East Cobb and Dunwoody. As the token Asian kid, I never knew how “different” I was except for a select few incidents that I had brushed aside, and it wasn’t until I was much older that I knew the impact that Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement had on my ability to be where I am today. But it’s not just Dr. King, it’s the abolitionists that came before him, Rosa Parks, the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, and thousands of others that never made it in to the history books, but whose significance still lives on.
I recently read an article about “Yellow Power”, a movement that was born out of Asian Americans seeing and questioning their role in America as a result of the “Black Power” movement. This led me on a Wikipedia journey to a short entry about Richard Aoki, an Asian American and an early member of the Black Panther Party. Mindblown. I have to admit that I am somewhat embarassed, to still know virtually nothing of “Yellow Power”, but even less about how profound an impact the Civil Rights Movement had in possibly creating the myth of the “model minority” and how my privilege stands on the backs of those that fought for non-whites to have any freedom at all.
Yet underneath all that privilege, is still a longing to find my own identity. As a second-generation immigrant, I’ve lost many of the teachings and stories of my Taiwanese heritage, and still I am largely ignorant to the “forgotten revolution” of Asian Americans in the 60s and 70s that I am a beneficary of. Complicating this further is my status as the son of a well-educated immigrant, not knowing how closely I can identify with these unsung heroes given my lack of strife.
Despite this, on this MLK Jr. Day, I remember and honor Dr. King for everything he stood for and the power of his witness. I remember all the members of the Civil Rights Movement and their struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. I am humbled that everything I have today, can be traced back to heroes like him who stood for what Jesus stood for.
The most impactful quote for me from that segment is when Dr. King says, “I might say that my church is not a segregating church. It’s segregated, but not segregating.” It’s impactful for me because I see the separation of our nation, our cities and communities, and especially our churches, in spite of our freedom and in spite of what we in the Christian church know as the vision of heaven that God has laid before us.
Sadly, the movement is not over. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is not the America I thought I would raise my children in. Where our country stands today, divided as ever, is unacceptable. We can do better. We have to do better.