One Tribe — July 2

Repentance, Racial Healing & Reconciliation, Radical Love

One Tribe is a weekly forum dedicated to open discussion of racial healing. It appears each Monday.  Contributors represent many walks of life, but have in common these foundational beliefs: (1) racism is sin; (2) only the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit can break racism’s grip and heal people and relationships; and (3) as Christians, racial healing and reconciliation are part of God’s call upon our lives.  The good news of the gospel is that all are one in Christ (Gal 3:28). May it be so!

All who hold to the above defined beliefs about racism are invited to write for One Tribe.  Please email Angie at to express interest in contributing and for additional information.

White Privilege: It Affects Asia, Too

by Rev. Drew Yamamoto

Angie’s eariler post on white privilege got me thinking.  For a long time, I found it hard to understand as a 3rd generation Japanese American how so many 1st generation immigrants from Japan and other Asian cultures didn’t understand white privilege and institutional racism that so permeates the United States. That privilege winds up being true in any context where there is a dominant group, whether it be ethnic, religious, political or anything else.

For many immigrants who come to the United States, they come from a background of power, whether it was because they were the dominant ethnic group in their culture, or whether it was because they were the hegemon that was displaced and fled to the United States. In having a frank conversation with some friends, I realized that being an American born Japanese, I have never experienced the privilege of being one in power. Even when I go to Japan or Asia for ministry, I realize that while I blend in there, I do not have the same sort of privilege that a native does. Nor do I have privilege in the United States. I am constantly questioned about my nationality (I’m American.); asked when I came here (I was born here, and my family has been here since the 1890s.); and people are impressed that I speak English so well (English is one of my first languages).

I thought long and hard about it, and I’ve come to realize that in the global scheme of power, and more obviously in the United States, there is inherent privilege that comes with being white. As I’ve traveled with people of Western backgrounds in Asia, people stare curiously and admirably at my non-Asian colleagues. People think they look like famous movie stars, even if the resemblance is in passing, and are revered for being white. And oftentimes, people use this for their advantage, whether to act ignorant or naive, or to flaunt a perceived power because of the color of their skin, to their benefit.

It’s easy to chalk this up to exoticism. But if I were to travel to Europe or Africa, I would not get nearly the same sort of admiration or privileged treatment that my white friends are granted. My hope and my prayer, for the body of Christ, especially those with privilege is  that we would, as Christ did, to let go of this power and instead take the form of a servant made in human likeness.

Let us all go forth into this world as servants!

Rev. Drew Yamamoto is the Supervisor for Missions in Asia and the Pacific for the Reformed Church in America.  He is a graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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