Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Considering Trayvon

On the evening of Saturday, July 13th, George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter by a jury in Sanford, Florida, leading to high emotions from those who considered Zimmerman an upstanding citizen who tried to proactively protect himself and his neighbors and was caught up in a tragic confrontation, as well as those who considered Zimmerman and racist thug who initiated a violent confrontation with an innocent black young man. My Facebook feed was exploding on Saturday night into Sunday, and I couldn't help but notice a pattern. My black and more politically progressive friends were distressed about the verdict. A handful of other friends argued that while the incident was tragic, the verdict was sound. A couple of others applauded the verdict as a victory for law and order and the right to self-defense. But the vast majority of my other friends on social media - many of whom are Asian or Caucasian devout Christians - said absolutely nothing.

Part of me finds this potentially (more on this caveat later) troubling, because the case of Trayvon Martin shouldn't matter only if you're black. I would gather that in most African-American churches the morning after the verdict, prayers were lifted up for justice, healing and peace. How about those churches who are predominantly Caucasian, Asian or Hispanic? Did it even get a mention? Does anyone else care? And it's not as if nobody was using social media during that weekend. I had plenty of friends that shared delicious-looking photos of desserts, kids playing in the pool or other witty musings and quotes.

Of course, it's possible that nobody chimed in because (1) they wanted to process their own feelings about the verdict privately and not share those on social media, (2) they felt that their public endorsement of the verdict would give them the perception of being racist or otherwise insensitive or (3) they felt that, as a Christian, this was a political and highly flammable hot button which wasn't to be touched. Of course, the Facebook feed appropriately gets white-hot when there's an unjust development as it pertains to the defense of biblical marriage, the lives of those who are unborn, or news of house churches in Sri Lanka being torched.

But what would really distress me is if they didn't care at all. Only God knows our hearts, but I hope we all care, and care deeply.

To be clear, I'm not calling for a lynch mob to get George Zimmerman. I'm not even admonishing Christians to disagree with the verdict, as I think it's reasonable to deeply grieve this tragedy and the resulting aftermath yet still believe that the judicial process was done correctly. I'm just disturbed that there isn't more angst and concern - especially from non-black evangelical Christians - that a segment of our population feels disenfranchised and disrespected to the point that there's a sense of utter despair and hopelessness as it relates to how society views them.

To me, the case of Trayvon Martin, even if the verdict is legally sound, has provided an interesting window in to the state of race relations and how, regardless of what sociologists may think, we're far from a post-racial America. If anything, the case and the resulting blowback and reactions from many have illustrated that there's a major disconnect around the perception of racial fairness across different ethnicities. And if you're Caucasian or Asian and your response is "Race isn't a big deal," or worse, you flippantly quote Galatians 3:28, then you've just made my point.

If you're Caucasian, I don't think you can truly understand how demoralizing and disempowering it feels to live in the shadow of stereotypes and preconceived notions (even non-malicious and subconscious) of those who are largely in greater positions and authority over you. And for those of us who are Asian, we're not off the hook. Yes, we also live in the shadow of stereotypes and preconceived notions, which normalize a certain behavior and skew future perceptions (e.g. Asian women are stereotyped as being subservient and quiet, so when an Asian woman does speaks out, the clash against the stereotype makes her falsely seem angry and aggressive). But while there some negative stereotypes (e.g. Asians are weaklings who aren't strong leaders or innovative), they largely trend much more positive compared to black stereotypes. Ask a random group of people in our society to guess the ethnicity of the Scripps National Spelling Bee champion. Now ask that same group to guess the ethnicity of the guy who got arrested for the suburban home invasion. If you still don't believe me, do a quick side by side inventory of positive or negative stereotypes. This is the societal shadow that our black friends experience. And while we can sympathize, no, we can't really relate.

I don't have any quick and easy solutions for this dilemma. I do believe that Jesus is ultimately the answer, because like any sin, racism cannot be merely legislated away, but needs to be dealt with a the heart level. Having people care and recognize that this sin exists is probably a good start.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

California Dreamin'

For our summer vacation this year, we figured it would be good to take out kids out to California. Why not? We were already halfway through the country which made the trip a little shorter, and with Carissa turning three earlier this year, this seemed like as good as time as any to finally give our three kids their first exposure to a Disney park.

Vacation came at a good time for all of us. Sarah and I could use the emotional rest after a hectic half a year. Between moving out of New Jersey and moving to Texas, house sales and purchases and transitioning our lives, it was a good time to step away from it all and clear our heads.

Like any vacation with children, finding rest and relaxation in the midst of vacation tends to be matter of how one interprets those things. Physically, the trip was exhausting, but I have to say that it was immensely enjoyable. The weather was beautiful, we had very gracious hosts (Sarah has an old friend from the music circuit with whom we stayed with) and we were able to provide the kids and ourselves with some nice memories of LEGOLAND (I'm just capitalizing it to respect the trademark), Disneyland and Disneyland's California Adventure.

Some random musings:
  • I can see why so many people love the SoCal lifestyle. The weather was terrific, the suburbs were pretty and the town centers were neat and tidy. Beaches are a short drive away and the restaurants are excellent. Sure, the cost of living is sky-high, but such is the law of supply and demand.
  • LEGOLAND was disappointing, at least to our family. If one thinks about it, there isn't really a "LEGO" theme or narrative per se, it simply hijacks various other themes and creates the backdrop out of LEGO blocks. So for example, you'll see safari, automobile, boat and fairy tale-related rides which have nothing to do with LEGO except that the vehicles and props look like they've been constructed by LEGO blocks, which would have been find except that the rides and attractions were underwhelming.
  • Both Disney parks were predictably excellent. With the advent of the FASTPASS system, the ability to minimize your time waiting on line (and by extension, go on as many rides as possible) has come down to how well you can plan your sequence of rides, knowing the proximity of rides, when to wait in line versus using FASTPASS while timing your "no more FASTPASS" expiration times with the securing of another FASTPASS at a nearby ride. There's seriously an application on the Apple App Store which provides wait times. At the end of the day, it comes down to how anal-retentive a parent wants to be in order to hit lots of rides without waiting in line (I'm raising my hand) as opposed to being laid-back and missing out on some of the more popular (and thus longest wait time) rides.
  • Disneyland's California Adventure Park, from what I could tell, is built upon the former parking lot. I haven't been to this place in almost 20 years, but I did remember that the parking lot previously was in front of Disneyland's Town Hall, facing Cinderella's castle. Instead, the two parks face each other. Apparently, some genius at Disney realized that they could make a heck of a lot more money with two parks instead of one, and they could instead build a multi-level parking structure off to the side with tram service.
  • Back to the parks: California Adventure is sort of a hodge-podge of rides and attractions you'd find in Disneyworld (e.g. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, It's Tough to be a Bug) plus some original rides (e.g. California Screamin'). Daniel and I spent Sunday afternoon together here and we had a nice time together. I love my daughters, but there's something about fathers and sons spending time doing "guy stuff". Riding rolling coasters might not necessarily be a manly art, but there's a certain machismo that exists when fathers and sons get to bond over things that females tend to find little interest in. We did do Disneyland together as a family, but split ourselves in the morning so Daniel and I coule partake in the more intense rides such as Space Mountain, Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion while the girls took their time taking photographs and getting autographs from various Disney princesses. In the afternoon, we hit the age-appropriate for everyone It's a Small World and the didn't-realize-it-was-too-scary-for-the-girls Peter Pan's Flight.
We had a great time, but analogous to Disneyland, vacations provide a finite idealized escape which when done right, can inspire one to push forward with just a little more hop in one's step. With our house move just a few weeks away and a busy 45 days upcoming at work, I'm hoping that this vacation can provide that for us.