I enjoyed reading this book. I can’t believe I read through it from beginning to end in one sitting. As I read through this book, I asked myself, ‘Why am I enjoying this book so much?’ One factor might be the author’s clear and organized writing style which allowed me to be more engaged with the book, but I think the most significant factor was the content and context of the book. I agree with the author that America is becoming more polarized and divided even though we live in an age of metamodernism now. Even though people are protesting and moving the world towards embracement and acceptance, it seems that discrimination, systematic injustice, and polarization will become more intense.
As I reflected upon my political views and personal principles, I would categorize myself as an unengaged, silent, and voiceless Korean American in the past. I moved to the states back in 1988, and I was ten years old. My first five years in America were spent in Atlanta, Georgia, where I enjoyed hanging out with my African American friends every day. All the kids in that apartment all hung out every day as close friends because racial colors don’t exist when you are young. Then, my family moved into California right after the 1992 LA riot. Since then, I have spent the past 28 years living in different cities all over CA. Asians growing up in CA is a bit different from Asians from other places in the US because there are many Asians and Asian communities, and less discrimination and hatred is experienced in CA (Literally, you can get by every day in K-town without speaking a word of English). And living somewhat comfortably and protected in my Asian community, I grew up unengaged, silent, and voiceless to many racial issues and social injustices. Rather than choosing to have a voice, get to know the issue, and speak out my thoughts, I preferred to be that silent Asian kid who chose not to get involved because it wasn’t my business, and I didn’t care.
The book’s contents took me back to a personal awakening memory I had at a Cru leadership conference a couple of years back. All leaders representing all different kinds of the ministry of Cru were gathered there. I was one of the few Asians representing the small Korean American ethnic ministry gathered among many whites, few blacks, few yellows, and few Indigenous Indians. The conference ethnic demographics were very similar to demographics of the US population – White 65%, Hispanic 17%, Black 12%, Asian 5%, American Indian/Alaska Native 1%. The conference focused on aligning with all the leaders in making the significant shift to a more dynamic and diversified leadership from previous top leadership administration made up of few male Caucasians to now intentionally including couple hundreds of men and women of all colors (young and old) to be involved in top leadership. The conference was excellent, and I learned a lot. Out of the many fantastic keynote speakers, I learned so much from this one African American keynote speaker who spoke on ethnic diversity in America and emphasis on the divide between white and black and how to cross over cultural barriers as a Christian. And I think that was the very first time I started to become more engaged in understanding the historical context of America. The keynote speaker sort of woke me up from being unengaged, silent, and voiceless Korean American.
So much has happened within just the past two years. The polarization in America is visible and spoken out all over the US as every ethnicity struggles through the political divide, black lives matter, stop Asian hate, gender identity, and many more current social issues. The author’s vivid descriptions of the things he experienced in life in the 60s and 70s gave me another opportunity to understand the progress in the system of thoughts in America. Steele wrote, “When I was a boy growing up in segregation, racism was not seen as evil by most whites. It was simply a recognition of natural law: some races were inferior to others and that people needed and wanted to be with their kinds.” Just like Steele, when one becomes engaged, critically thinks about the issues and causes, and makes a voice in the wilderness, the emerging young will wake up from their silent ignorance.