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Article on Suicide Rates in the Asian American community August 14, 2009

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Chinese American.


New American Media put out an article about the rise of Asian Americans and suicide rates and referred to recent happenings involving three students at Caltech who committed suicide.   As I read this and people are chiming in about the influence of pressure of achievement from family and also the overall environment at the university to excel. I think that some of the scholars are missing is that suicide narratives are such a part of the cultural narrative.

As I remember so much of our histories and stories in our family has always had one or another relative who found their only way of escape was to take one’s life. It was not glorified in any sense but more of a necessary reality of our family history. As I think through the analysis of some of the psychological issues which we as a culture forgo or dismiss, I think the deeper issue of transparency or creating space so we know how to speak into our individual and collective pain. (more…)

Gated Communities, Groceries and Restaurants December 29, 2008

Posted by peterong in Asian American.

I  just came across this interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about the growth of Korean Americans in the Fullerton Area. What struck me and got me thinking was the Asian American culture is often seen as one of upward mobility and a pursuance of comfort. It is not surprising why there are so many churches (according to the article, two of the largest Korean Churches in California are in Orange County) in the area to minister to them as well as food conveniences. 

But there is very little said about our connectedness to the gospel that reaches beyond the creature comforts of our lives. I write this in the comfort of a pretty nice church office, but my heart yearns for more of a discipleship that requires sacrifice. Not out of duty because it is part of our immediate transformation by the gospel. 

I come across conversations with so many Asian American Christians and what is always pressing on their minds are where to live, where to eat and where to shop. I find it hard to bring up anything else. I remember asking a person at church this Sunday, “how is your marriage?” and this person looked at me as if I asked them what is their preference for pornography. But if I asked where do you want to eat, I would get a catalog of restaurants and the choice meals. Or if I was to ask where we should live, I would get a series of answers of schools and parking rules. 

I wonder if the gospel is simply a purpose driven life to enjoy the comforts. To live out like that song “Heart of Worship” says, it’s all about God but the irony of that  song it is not about God but all about this person’s struggle. 

As I read the article I thought about perhaps it reflects a bias from the contributer in how he sees Asian American culture or it is a dangerous reality…and if it is so, does it reflect our gospel community the same way. It ends with this summary: 

As a student in 1979, Ahn lived in Garden Grove but became turned off by what he said was an unsafe area. Like many Korean Americans who first got their footing in Garden Grove, Ahn was lured to some of the more posh areas of the county.

“A lot of people did what I did. Young couples look for a job in the Garden Grove area and live there for three or four years. Then their children grow up and people are looking for bigger houses,” Ahn said. “They don’t have a choice in Garden Grove, so they move to another city like Fullerton or Irvine.”

Ahn now lives in a gated community in Anaheim Hills but still drives to Garden Grove every weekend for the grocery stores and restaurants.


Religion hurts Asian American Youth? September 3, 2008

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Asian American Youth.

In this report from Ohio State that states that “…Asian American youth who attended church at least once a week reported 20 to 27 percent more symptoms of depression than their white and African American peers who attended the same level.” 

I suspect this harkens to the Helen Lee’s “Silent Exodus” and the rigidity of the ethnic church and the conflict of mainstream American culture on that. I also have a strange suspicion could be the conflict of faith with the doubled facets of generational gap and culture. But also the leadership that could minister to youth has been lacking. 

Would love to hear your thoughts. 


Participating in religion may make adolescents from certain races more depressed from PhysOrg.com

One of the few studies to look at the effects of religious participation on the mental health of minorities suggests that for some of them, religion may actually be contributing to adolescent depression. Previous research has shown that teens who are active in religious services are depressed less often because it provides these adolescents with social support and a sense of belonging.


I managed to find an abstract of the research here.

model minority or minority model (denial of privilege?) June 10, 2008

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Rants, Reflections.
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A report was released today regarding the state of Asian Americans in Academia as reported in the New York Times. It has this quote: 

“The report quotes the opening to W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1903 classic “The Souls of Black Folk” — ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’ — and says that for Asian-Americans, seen as the “good minority that seeks advancement through quiet diligence in study and work and by not making waves,” the question is, ‘How does it feel to be a solution?'” (more…)

Hot Gway and Obama February 23, 2008

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Lower East Side, racism, Rants.

Time Magazine wrote an article called “Does Obama Have an Asian Problem?” and as I read through this I realized how I felt both a sense of embarrassment as well as relief that some of the issues that it brought out. One part of me felt it like it was an airing of Asian America’s “dirty laundry.” What struck me was the question, “could it be that Asian Americans are not voting for him because he is black?” When I read that, I was caught off guard and not sure what to make of that question from a national publication. Perhaps race does play a part in the way we vote or want to see our leadership but I suspect that the Time article was trying to be provocative and not making a real investigative approach but rather it was a story looking for an issue rather vice versa.

But one quote that got me was this:

Alan Shum, 24, an analyst for an investment fund in New York City, cast his vote for Obama. But he also thinks his elders might have a problem doing the same. “Voting for a black candidate is just not something that would jump out at them,” he says. “Chinese people are really racist at times.” He points to the colloquial Chinese for “white” and “black,” which append both words with “devil.” “The vernacular tells you a little about something,” he says. “Chinese people can be very, very insular as a culture — very superior. We look down upon any race that isn’t Chinese.” (more…)

Sex, Intimacy, and a Cautionary Tale (Yes I am a fan of the show) November 24, 2007

Posted by peterong in Asian American, sex.
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I know, I know, people have ranted, emailed me, and finally someone this past week told me that I have been a neglectful blogger…so I apologize, it has been a busy transition but there is so much that I am working through these past few months.

A few weeks ago I gave a talk called “Beyond Boundaries: Restoring Intimacy.” It was a talk about sex and intimacy and what God has to say about it. It was an extension of the talk I gave at the New York Summer Conference this past year as part of the Jesus Uncensored series and continued at the Eastern Chinese Bible Conference. Apparently I hit a nerve because I am getting a lot of invitations to give this talk at fellies and church conferences. After I gave the talk where I challenged the church to give permission to talk about this profound part of our lives. I have seen the damage it has caused because of the silence we have as a church. We don’t address it besides, “the bible says so…” and that is suppose to overcome this powerful sexual energy we carry around. Yet, I challenged them to reclaim it as a way for us to experience intimacy (more…)

Poor Race August 30, 2007

Posted by peterong in Asian American, New York Ministries, racism, Reflections, Social Justice, Uncategorized.


“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardship.”
W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk

Taking some time out to think about the panel discussion that I participated at the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York City. It was a panel discussion entitled “Do Faith-Based Mentorship Programs Work?” As I prepared and sat on the panel of such esteemed faith community leaders, I soon came to knowledge that I was the only non African American on the panel. As I heard their concerns for the African American youth (particularly of African American males.) They spoke of recidivism of incarcerated youth and the cycle of crime and the absence of adult male presence. As I sat there, I shared a picture of the immigrant Chinese and challenge them to look beyond the Asian American community as what Tim Tseng once said as “foreigners” or “model minority.” It was a provocative exchange that left me a bit concerned about my limited view on implications of race in the complex workings of justice and mercy.

In my years serving in Chinatown and the Asian American church there has been an underlying ethnocentrism that borders on racism. We love to send missions trips to “East Asia” and where there are “East Asian” presence. But I believe that we are not racist by culture but the issue was one of leadership and vision. I think that as a culture, we tend to live in our circles and worship the culture more than Christ but it is inherent for us to practice tribalism for the sake of comfort. It is too easy to label Asian American churches as “racist” and not going through a deeper evaluation that we all have tendencies to create huddles. But the gospel challenges us to make intentional steps towards one another. In the Ephesians church, there were those who wanted to create huddles but Paul challenges them to engage. Pastor Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church,  expounded once that we are not to only “tolerate” those who are foreign to us (spiritually, racially, economically, etc.) but to enter in and love deeply for what they have to contribute to our understanding of the gospel and the yet to be redeemed world. Rob Bell in his book Sex God, says this:

“The temptation is always to avoid things that are difficult and complex. To go around them rather than through them. ” (Italics mine)

So often in our journey is one sidestep after another. To avoid the unknown out of fear. I am afraid to admit that I have ignored this issue for a great deal of time. As I have been serving the Asian American community, I have sidestepped the issues of race in the larger context. But God has a great way of reversing that…

This past weekend, the members of OneHouse met with New York Faith & Justice and had a profound conversation about injustice on both the international and domestic urban context. Lisa Harper, the Director of NY Faith & Justice, opened up the conversation by saying, “if we do not solve our problems here, we are going to transplant the problems overseas.” We talked about justice and the issues of churches being mostly silent on it and how the Asian American church could be perceived as “racist” because of our lack of relevance to underserved communities outside of Asian communities.

During the conversation, my heart was burning as I saw how God has yearned to bring His Shalom into the realm of the affluence of the Asian American church. Beyond our minor church buildings but to the streets, to reclaim our humanity through engaging with those who are blessed (beatitudes blessed: the poor). As we shared over a meal, we learned that we have so much more on this journey to learn. To learn that there are brothers and sisters in our communities, who share the same subway seats who we have not exchanged a single hint of a prayer for one another. What if there is something to be said of Asian Americans and our role in this conversation…to be at the table to share a meal and our hearts for those who are literally disconnected because of our fear. I confess I have been guilty of this. It has been easy for me to send a check to help a family thousands of miles from me. We said how “paternalistic” our motives are and how we are seeing that we are “helping” but not connecting with the humanity of it. So the question is, what am I praying for here in my zip code? What am I am understanding about the issues concerning the neighbors here. How do I work out the gospel in the city? I have ignored that Chinatown is populated by Latinos, African Americans and now with the new influx of the Caucasian hipsters in the Lower East Side. When we become unconcerned we have unleashed chaos into the gospel pursuit of redemption to those things that are broken.

As I remembered a sermon on Jonah (you can download it here) by Steven Ro, Living Faith Community Church pastor. I walked away with the sense that justice is an act of expressing a merciful God. Pastor Ro said a God whose “…mercies extend to the end of the world…to even to the enemies of God.” When we live out justice, it reflects mercy of God. It shows that we are living in a continued message that God is compassionate. Jonah’s understanding was God was only compassionate to the religious people. But through this story of Jonah, it shows that God is not tribal, filled with judgment, not unconcerned, but rather a God who is inclusive, holy pity, and committed concern through compassion.

We are so distorted in our narrow vision and it is this blind spot that will forever mute our faith to nothing more than a spiritual ethnic club that says neither of God’s broad vision for redemption or His profound intent of moving us towards connecting with our disconnectedness.

Domestic Violence Among Asian Americans August 20, 2007

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Research.
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Here is an article released by ANI today about the growing number of domestic violence among Asian American couples. Here is the article.

Domestic violence more common among Asian-American couples


Washington, Aug 16 : A UC Davis study has found the reason why domestic violence is more common among Asian-American couples.

As part of the study Nolan Zane, Manveen Dhindsa and colleagues examined data from the National Latino and Asian American Study, a National Institute of Mental Health-funded survey of 2,554 Latinos and 2,095 Asian Americans conducted between May 2002 and November 2003.

The study, the largest national survey of mental health disorders and use of psychiatric services in these ethnic groups, was led by David Takeuchi, associate dean for research at the University of Washington School of Social Work in Seattle.

It found that apart from marital distress, violence was more likely to occur if the family lacked closeness or if a spouse suffered from an anxiety disorder or stress related to acculturation into American society.

Acculturation is a process in which members of one cultural group adopt the beliefs and behaviours of another group.

“These results are quite important as they highlight that factors beyond marital distress can strongly increase chances for abuse,” Zane said.

“Such information can be used to enhance therapy for batterers, as clinicians can go beyond remedying marital distress and focus on other psychological problems found to significantly impact marital abuse,” Zane added.

The findings of the study will be presented at the annual meeting of the Asian American Psychological Association in San Francisco.

CNN Reports on Asian American women and Suicide Rates May 21, 2007

Posted by peterong in Asian American, Uncategorized.

CNN (did you know it stands for Cable News Network?) did a report on suicide rates for Asian American women (was this to coincide with Asian Pacific American Heritage month?). The report ties in that it has to do with Asian American culture and our pursuit of the “model minority” dream for Asian Americans to succeed.

This made me think that part of the issue is our failure of community…how socially awkward we are when we discuss issues of brokenness. How we despair in isolation or even offer language or space to voice our despair. I was at a church a few weeks ago where the pastor wept discussing his mother’s cancer, and I sat there thinking how brave it was to expose himself and yet, if this happened in an Asian church, people would be so disgusted that this is being shared on a pulpit. The pulpit is used for power (not authenticity), Community is for service (not healing), Discussions are for information (not revelation) and we create this muted version of the gospel, that denies the complexities of our emotions. So, we continue to breed a generation of fragility. Safe and unheard Christians who value comfort and function…not dangerous and transforming… (more…)

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month May 12, 2007

Posted by peterong in Asian American.
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Yes, the month of May is in full bloom and we get our own month to celebrate our achievements and history in America. May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month—a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.  APA Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill.  In June 1977, Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. In May 1990, the holiday was expanded further when President George H. W. Bush designated May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated with community festivals, government-sponsored activities, and educational activities for students. This year’s theme is “Lighting the Past, Present, and Future.” (information from  infoplease.co- they have more chow fun facts)

CNN has a special section dedicated to this month that was quite interesting. They have some articles: Asian American Diverse Voices, Notable Asian Americans, Pioneers, and an audio story about Korean American rappers.

Here is a great KQED site that chronicles Asian American Activism. Asian Nation has “guidelines” on how to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Scholastic has a cute primer for kids to learn about immigration and Asian American History. Smithsonian has a teaching guide that is chock full of goodies. Here is a chronology that from a weird site.

Beau Sia is featured in this youtube PSA  

George W. Bush made a proclamation that is drenched in model minority lingo…man, can this man ever get it right? or at least a little right?

Overall, it is a great month that hints at warmth from a brutal Suracuse Winter and it is nice to reflect on the community in which I have been part of…stories and more stories of our experiences, the legacy and the wonderful intersections of culture and faith.