Jesus for Revolutionaries: A Blog About Race, Social Justice, and Christianity

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hope from the Hood: the Christian Community Development Movement and the Metro CDC in Compton

My last blog shared about the dark reality of racial segregation in the United States.  Time for some hope.  From the hood. 

Unknown to most people, there is an amazing movement of Christian Community Development in the United States.  Thousands of  Christians of all colors and stripes and denominations are living and laboring in urban communities throughout the U.S. in the name of Jesus.  Many are from urban communities, and others relocate to serve humbly alongside existing urban churches.  Another important goal is to help raise up indigenous leaders to transform the city.  To learn more about the Christian Community Development movement check out:

As an illustration of Christian Community Development, I’d like to share a story of hope from Compton.  This story involves a young man and rising leader named Chris, some friends of mine who have lived and served in Compton for the past two decades, and the Metro Community Development Corporation (  Here, in their own words, is their recent story of hope from the hood. 

"Chris grew up in Compton and faced many challenges as a youngster such as foster
care, a gang lifestyle and poor education.  After high school, he became involved with our Construction/Discipleship Program, growing in his relationship with the
Lord and earning his contractor’s certificate.

On one occasion, Chris bid a job calling for a 20ft beam to be installed in an attic. As they were discussing the job, the client revealed that he was the director of a security organization within a major retail mall.  In the end, Chris told the client that he would be willing to install the beam for FREE if the client would interview him for a job with his security firm. The man agreed.  After a third-party interview, Chris was hired the following day and  has full time employment with benefits! Now he has the dignity of being able to provide for his new wife and daughter.

Driving the security vehicle around the parking lot is one of his functions.  To do so, Chris needed to provide proof of having a valid driver’s license by the end of the year.  Unfortunately, he owed $800 for an outstanding traffic ticket he incurred as a teenager.  This amount would not seem horribly overwhelming to you or me, but for Chris, this might as well be millions!  His ordinary resources are just too limited and if the fines weren’t paid, he’d lose this job.

However, through the resources of Metro CDC, another option presented itself.  Chris was able to sell one of our donated cars, and not only pay off his debt, but keep his job as well.  He is one of our Courageous Leaders, a family man growing in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ."

To learn more about Metro CDC, or to help support the training and mentorship of young leaders like Chris by donating a car, go to:

In much hope!
Robert Chao Romero


Monday, January 21, 2013

Segregation Today: An MLK Day Reflection

I write this post today in honor of the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  When I have conversations with secular activists and activist Christians who have fallen away from their faith, I become very thankful for Rev. King.  Thousands (probably millions) of social justice minded individuals in the world today have rejected Christianity because of the way in which it has been misrepresented over the centuries by countries and people who said they believed in Jesus but who went ahead and segregated people based upon the color of their skin.  I love pointing to Rev. King as an example of a follower of Jesus who challenged this misrespresentation of Christianity in the United States for the world, and generations, to see.  As a prophet of God, he told America that segregation was unbiblical and that “Jim Crow” was a violation of God’s truth.

“Jim Crow” refers to the historical time period in between the abolition of slavery in 1876 and the official dismantling of legal segregation in the United States in 1965.   During the era of Jim Crow, white society in America felt that it had the moral and legal right to segregate African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, South Asian Americans, and others, from itself.  This segregation was complete from cradle to the grave. It involved housing, education, health care, public spaces like parks, pools, restaurants, movie theaters, and hiking trails, and even mortuaries and cemeteries!  If you were Latino in Pasadena during this time period, for example, you were even restricted in the days you could enjoy God’s mountains!  As part of Jim Crow, laws banning racial intermarriage remained legal on a national level until 1967. Can you imagine what it was like to live in America during this time period? It makes me so sick to even think about it.

What makes me even more sad was that the vast majority of Christians remained silent during the battle to end segregation in the United States.  Even worse, some Christians actually twisted sacred Scripture to justify racial segregation.  Thankfully, there were very notable exceptions of Christians who stood side by side with Rev. King and denounced Jim Crow segregation as unbiblical and antithetical to the message of Jesus Christ. Under the leadership of Rev. King, they preached the simple biblical message that all humans beings are created equally in the image of God (Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”), and are therefore worthy of equal treatment in all aspects of U.S. society. 

On this MLK Day, I celebrate this amazing legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a follower of Jesus, who, together with millions of other lesser-known but no less important revolutionaries, brilliantly upended Jim Crow segregation in the Name of Jesus Christ.  As we celebrate the second inauguration of our first Black president today, I imagine that Rev. King must be smiling from heaven.  I know I am.   

Although “de jure” (legal) segregation ended some 48 years ago in the U.S., “de facto” (in fact) racial segregation is still prevalent today.   Jim Crow segregation produced unequal conditions of housing, education, health care, legal services, etc., which have not gone away despite the official end to segregation in the 1960’s.   Jim Crow segregation produced segregated neighborhoods, schools, health care systems, etc., which have continued to replicate themselves to the present day.

Public schools attended by millions of beautiful brown and black children are vastly inferior to those in rich suburban neighborhoods within the same school district.  These same children and their families lack access to quality, affordable health care and legal services, and have few parks and safe public spaces in which to play and just be a kid. The majority of Latinos and African Americans in the United States today continue to experience the invidious lingering effects of Jim Crow segregation.

Lest you think I’m just some radical ethnic studies professor and liberation theology pastor, let’s take a look at some staggering statistics which bear this out:  1 out of every 3 valid legal claims of the poor in California is never heard in court because no attorney will take their case (because they can’t afford to pay); stated another way, 2/3 of the legal services needs of the poor are unmet in this state and it would require $394,100,000 per year to close this profound “justice gap.”

To make matters worse, 16 million kids currently live in poverty in the United States.  With regards to educational access, 8% of low-income students graduate from college sometime within their lifetime vs. 87% of students from affluent communities who will graduate from college by the age of 24.   Out of every 100 Chican@ students who begin elementary school, only 8 will graduate from college, 2 will go on to earn a graduate or professional school degree, and less than 1 will earn a doctorate!  Sadly, similar statistics can be reported for African Americans.  In 2005-2006, only 47% of African American male students graduated from high school.   In 2007, only 56% of African American high school graduates went on to attend college, and in that same year the college graduation rate for African Americans was only 42%.

As for healthcare, close to 50 million people are currently uninsured in the United States.  1 in 4 children go without healthcare in our country, and more than 23 million kids go without adequate healthcare in any given year.   About 30 percent of Latino and 20 percent of African American children lack a regular source of health care, and brown kids are almost 3 times more likely than white kids to lack  sufficient healthcare. 

Millions of Chican@s, Latin@s, African Americans, Native Americans, and others, are still segregated from equal opportunity in the United States.  As followers of Jesus we have an affirmative obligation to advocate on their behalf and to work in His name to transform the inequitable socio-economic and political policies and structures which reinforce this exclusion.  If we don’t, then history, and, most importantly, God, will judge us.  Let’s learn from the mistakes of the millions of Christians, who, half a decade before us, failed to speak up against Jim Crow segregation.  Let’s follow the example of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, though an imperfect man, sounded a magnificent clarion call for biblical equality in Jesus’ Name.

Much inspired,
Robert Chao Romero


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Biblical View of Cultural Diversity

Now with that mixed-race biblical meandering aside, on to the truth that has set me free.  Even if you are not a mixed-race individual I think you will find that what I’m about to share meaningful because it provides a biblical framework for understanding “diversity.”   This biblical model of diversity seeks to address the question:  What is God’s purpose behind what we call “race,” “class,” and “gender”?
Here it is:   I am made uniquely in God’s image, and I am His child. 
Every individual uniquely reflects the image of God.  The Bible teaches that “God created human beings in his own image” (Genesis 1:27 NLT).  Every person holistically reflects God’s image in terms of his/her:  (1) individual personality, gifts, talents (Psalm 139: 13-16); (2) cultural heritage (s) (Revelation 21:26) ; and (3) gender  (Genesis 1:27).    In other words, when you look in the mirror you are staring at a beautiful and unique reflection of who God is.   This uniqueness encompasses all of who you are—your personality, gifts, and talents; your ethnic background (s), and your gender.  Together, these traits make you uniquely you.  You are beautiful, special, and unique, unlike anyone that has ever lived or ever will walk this earth.   By God’s design, you are valuable and uniquely reflect who He is to the world. 
One of the most beautiful declarations of our inherent individual value and worth to God is found in Psalm 139:  13-16:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

         It may come as a surprise to many of us, but our cultural heritage(s) are critical components of the unique reflection of God’s image within each of us.   By God’s design each of us is given a cultural heritage that helps make us who we are.   In other words, our ethnic background is not an accident!  God gave it to us!  In his famous speech to the Greek Areopagus, the Apostle Paul reminds us of this truth:  “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. “(Acts 17:26-27).   And so, it is not an accident that I was born in East L.A. to my Mexican father and Chinese mother.  It is not coincidence  that I grew up in Hacienda Heights, spent time in the Bay Area, and now live in Los Angeles.  This has been exactly determined for me by God.  The same is true for every person reading this book.  God given you your unique cultural heritage!  Whether you are Chinese, Korean, English, German, Mexican, American, Armenian, African American, Indian, Native American, or any variation of any of these ethnicities, this is exactly how God has determined it to be.  Your parents might not have realized it when you were conceived, but God has sovereignly determined what ethnicity and nationality he wanted you to be. 
Not only has our cultural heritage been given to us by God Himself, but the Bible teaches that our various ethnic cultures are viewed by God as “treasure” which will last forever!  The inherent and eternal value of our national cultures is described in Revelation 21:  22-27(NIV):
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.  The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

This passage states that the “glory and honor of the nations” will be brought into the New Jerusalem for eternity (According to the Bible, the time will come when all things are made new, and all the evil, pain, and suffering of this world will be wiped away.  This new world and order of things is represented by what the Bible calls the “New Jerusalem.”   In describing the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:4-5 states:  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.   There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!”).   What is this “glory and honor” that John is speaking of?  It is interesting to note that most evangelical Bible commentaries completely overlook this text.
The word “glory” which is used in this passage can also be translated as “treasure” or “wealth” of the nations.   Surely John is not describing literal currency or national government coffers.  I believe that he is talking about the cultural treasure or wealth of the different ethnic groups of the world.   This cultural treasure includes food, music, dance, literature, architecture, etc., as well as the unique cultural personalities of the world. 
The first category—food, music, dance, etc. is quite obvious.   Every ethnic group has it’s unique food, musical styles, literature, dance, etc. 
The second category deserves more explanation.  Have you ever noticed that different cultural groups possess different personalities?  I have experienced this first hand because of my own cross-cultural heritage and because of my cross-cultural marriage.  As previously stated, I am of Mexican heritage on my father’s side and Chinese on my mother’s.  My wife is of Midwestern, German-American heritage.  
When I attend a family gathering on my father’s side of the family, I observe distinct types of humor, ways of relating to one another, attitudes towards life, etc.  The same with my mom’s family.  I have especially noticed this to be true during my past four years of marriage to my lovely Midwestern wife.  For example, I’ve noticed that German-Americans tend to be very time-oriented and financially practical.  If we are even five minutes late in preparing for an event I can visibly see the anxiety levels of my Midwestern family members rise.  From a Latino perspective it is “relationships” which matter more than being on time for an event.  So, if I’m engaged in a deep conversation with someone it is of a higher cultural value to me to stay in the conversation and be a little bit late to my next engagement rather than to cut off the conversation and appear rude. 
In Mexican culture it is also appropriate to “lavish” gifts upon loved ones and friends regardless of the cost.  This is seen as a way of showing love, respect, and deference.  You could say that one the Mexican “love-languages” is giving.   In Midwestern culture, lavish giving can actually be frowned upon as waste.   Nice gifts are valued and appreciated of course, but beyond a certain point it becomes culturally inappropriate.  
I actually learned this lesson first hand when I met my wife’s family for the first time before we were married.  I had made the long journey to Indiana for the annual meeting of the Christian Community Development Association and thought that that would provide me with the perfect opportunity to meet my future in-laws.  In anticipation of our meeting over lunch, I went to the airport candy shop and bought mounds of expensive Godiva chocolate to give to my future in-laws.   Without thinking about it very much, my Mexican side was coming out.  I thought to myself:  “I want to make a good impression and I want them to know that I care.  I’ll be generous and spend lots of money by buying them good chocolate.”   Erica was a bit uneasy when she found out because she thought that my generosity would be interpreted as “waste” and the absence of frugality.  I was shocked!  From my cultural vantage point such lavish giving should have made a positive impression and should have been interpreted as warm generosity.  (I ended up giving them the chocolates and it turned out fine!)
What I’ve learned from my different cross-cultural experiences is that every culture—Mexican, Chinese, Taiwanese, Egyptian, German, Midwestern, etc.—uniquely expresses different aspects of God’s heart.  As exemplified in the lavish giving of Mexican culture, God is very generous and gracious and sometimes gives us more than we can hope for or imagine (Ephesians 1:7-8, 3:20).  No eye has seen or ear heard what God has prepared for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (1 Corinthians 2:9).  Relationship is also at the core of God’s heart.   The divine Godhead relates to Himself in a beautiful mystery that we cannot fully comprehend (Matthew 28:19). 
At the same time that this is true, I learn much from my Midwestern family about God, too.  I joke with my wife that I’m familiar with about 80% of Midwestern culture by virtue of my American heritage.  About 20% though is almost completely foreign.  This 20% can sometimes make me feel like an immigrant even though I was born in the U.S. and have lived here all my life.   
I learn from them the values of industry and frugality (and starting a savings account for your child when he/she is 3 months old!)(Proverbs 6:6-11).  I learn about discipline in our personal relationships with God (1 Corinthians 8: 24-27) and about the importance of individual relationship with Him (Revelation 3:20).   (The food is also pretty good too!)
To use another example of what I’m trying to convey, I like to use the example of Mambo Cologne by Liz Claiborne.   Trying to capitalize upon the J.Lo Ricky Martin craze of the early 2000’s, Executives at Liz Claiborne set out to develop a cologne which captured, in all bottle, the “essence” of what it meant to be Latino.  They hired researchers to find out what made Latinos unique and what positive cultural qualities they possessed.   Among other things, their research revealed that Latinos were “spicy,” “sexy,” and passionate, and that they were also family-centered.    Drawing from their research, Liz Claiborne then set out to create a cologne fragrance which expressed these distinctively Latino qualities.   The result was the “Mambo” perfume line, “an up-tempo twist of bergamot and zesty lime, mediterranean herbs and spices [which] raises the pulse and turns up the heat. A festive tandem of french clary sage and thyme is embraced by exotic, masculine floralcy, and an ultra-sensual fusion of cinnamon leaf, cumin and heart of cedarwood.”   In 2007, Claiborne released a spin-off cologne--MAMBO MIX—which features an added blend of “spicy oriental fragrance.”   As a Chinese-Mexican, Mambo Mix is perfect for me.  Maybe it captures my unique “essence” and can be called the first  “Asian-Latino” cologne (ha). 
At first glance, the example of Mambo perfume seems silly.  How could someone even attempt to capture the essence of what it means to be Latino in a perfume bottle?  Also, Liz Claiborne’s so-called “research findings” about Latinidad are just a bunch of crazy stereotypes.  Despite the inaccuracy of Liz Claiborne’s stereotypes, I believe they are driving at a profound biblical principle about Latinos and about cultural diversity in general.   They realize that Latinos, and all ethnic groups of the world, possess distinct cultural “treasure and wealth” according to the biblical principle expressed in Revelation 21: 26-27.   
More about a biblical view of culture and diversity next week!
Thanks for tuning in to this especially long, but hopefully meaningful, post! 

In God's diversity,
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mixed-Race in the Bible ("Chino-Chicano" Part II)

As an expression of my multiracial struggles, I used to wrestle a lot with the issue of marriage.  I used to say to myself:  “If I marry someone who’s Mexican, then my kids will be 75% Mexican.  They’ll have a solidified racial identity.  If I marry someone who is Chinese, then they’ll be 75% Chinese, probably look mostly Asian, and then they might have some identity problems.  If I marry someone who’s Anglo, then my kids will probably look Latino, even though they’ll be only 25% Mexican.  But they’ll have the last name Romero, so they’ll probably just pass as Latino.”  I can’t believe I used to think this way!
         In my heart I knew that this was not the right way to be thinking about marriage.  Every time I went down this path of reasoning I would end up deeply frustrated, practically to the point of tears.  This is led me, one day in law school to cry out to God and say, “God, please help me to understand the topic of race from Your perspective!”   The answer to that prayer is what I hope to share with you in the next several blog posts. 
After many years of wrestling with my mixed race identity, I feel that God has given me peace, healing, and a deep security in my unique identity.  I have discovered a biblically-grounded understanding of race and ethnicity which allows me to be a whole-human being, and which allows me to understand, celebrate, and accept all of who I am.  Thank  You God.  I hope that I might be able to share this understanding with you now, and that what I share might help bring healing to many individuals who have gone through, or are going through, the same struggles I have experienced as a mixed race individual.
As part of my journey of coming to understand my mixed race identity, I have come to learn that I am not alone.   According to the 2010 census, there are nearly 7 million mixed race individuals in the United States.   My home state of California has a mixed race population of 1.6 million.  By 2050, moreover, it is projected that 70 million, or nearly 20% of the U.S. population, will be mixed!   I’m also not alone as an “Asian-Latino.”  According to the 2000 Census, there are more than 300,000 Asian-Latinos in The United States and 60,000 in California alone!  Based upon my own experience and these compelling statistics, I am convinced that a biblical understanding of racial identity is now more important than ever.   
Before sharing the biblical framework of race and diversity which has brought me so much peace, it’s worth noting that there are many prominent biblical examples of interracial marriage and mixed race individuals!  Moses, for example, arguably the most important spiritual leader in all of the Old Testament, was married to a Midianite named Zipporah (Exodus 2:21-22).  Their first-born son was mixed-race and his name was Gershom.  We are later told in the book of Numbers(12:1-2) that Moses’ siblings Aaron and Miriam criticized him because of his interracial marriage and used this as a basis to question his spiritual authority: 
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this.

          Bible commentators give several explanations for this passage.  According to one interpretation, it is said that in calling Zipporah a “Cushite” (or in other translations, “Ethiopian”), Aaron and Miriam may have been taking a racist jab at her for being dark-skinned.  They also could simply have been being racist against her because she was not an Israelite.  In any event, the Bible is clear that God “heard this” and that he severely punished Aaron and Miriam for their spiritual disobedience and their racist slight (12: 9-13):
The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “Please, God, heal her!”

And so there were serious consequences for being racist against Moses for his interracial marriage—“the anger of the LORD burned against them,” and Miriam was struck with leprosy.   Apparently England and the United States didn’t read this passage too closely when they allowed anti-intermarriage “miscegenation laws” to exist in North America from the 17th century until 1967. 
         In addition to Moses, Zipporah, and Gershom, other prominent interracial families include Joseph, Asenath, Ephraim and Manasseh; Judah, Tamar, and Perez; Salmon and Rahab; and, Boaz, Ruth, and Obed.  Like Moses, Joseph is one of the giants of the Old Testament and one of the biggest heroes of the book of Genesis.  He married the Egyptian Asenath who was the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.  Their sons, Ephraim and Manasseh were adopted by Israel as sons entitled to special inheritance in the Promised Land.   Through a series of messy human events that’s too complicated to explain here, Joseph’s brother Judah had a son named Perez with his Canaanite daughter-in-law Tamar!  Judah and Perez play important parts in the genealogy of Jesus. 
Speaking of Canaanites, Rahab was the famous Canaanite prostitute who protected the spies before the Israelites conquered Jericho.   Rahab married a prominent Israelite named Salmon, and they had a son named Boaz.  Boaz married—yes, you guessed it--Ruth the Moabitess.  Ruth has a whole book named after her in the Bible.  She is considered a heroine of the faith because she selflessly followed her mother-in-law Naomi back to Bethlehem after her husband Mahlon died, and in those days that was basically like resigning oneself to a life of poverty and alienation.  Because of her extreme faith and fidelity Ruth attracted the favor of Boaz and became his wife.  Their son Obed was the grandfather of King David, the “man after God’s own heart” and the most famous king in all of the Old Testament.  And the Davidic line traces directly to Mary and Joseph and JESUS!   And so, Jesus, the King of Kings has at least four “Gentile” women and several generations of mixed race heritage in his genealogy.  As a mixed race individual I feel like I’m in good company!

More soon,
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Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Chino-Chicano": A Biblical Framework for Diversity (Part I)

I’m a “Chino-Chicano.”   I was born in East Los Angeles and raised in the small town of Hacienda Heights.  My dad is an immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico and my mom an immigrant from Hubei in central China.   The Romeros lost their family fortune during the Mexican Revolution by siding with Pancho Villa, and eventually immigrated to El Paso, Texas.   They moved to East Los Angeles in the 1950’s and   we’ve been here in Southern California ever since.  My mom’s family immigrated to Los Angeles from China via Hong Kong and Singapore in the 1950’s.  My maternal grandfather, Calvin Chao, was a famous pastor in China who launched the first Chinese branch of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  The Chaos fled their native land because my grandfather was on a communist “hit list.”  As an interesting side note, my Mom’s family traces directly back to the founding emperor of the Song Dynasty!
Growing up “mixed,” I had a lot of struggles with racial identity.  I was very proud of my Mexican heritage, but at a young age got sent the message that being Chinese was a bad thing.  On the first day of first grade a kid walked up to me, pretended to hold an imaginary refrigerator in his hands, and said, “Here’s a refrigerator, open it up.  Here’s a coke, drink it.  Me Chinese, me play joke, me do pee-pee in your  Coke.  Kids are so mean.   I was so scarred by that event that I denied my Chinese heritage for the next 18 years.   Once I even remember telling a friend that my mom was our housekeeper because I was embarrassed that she came to pick me up from school. 
To make matters worse, Hacienda Heights, or at least the school I attended for elementary school during the 1970’s and early 80’s, was mostly white.  (Ironically, today Hacienda Heights is basically half-Mexican and half-Chinese.  If I grew up there today I would fit in perfectly).  As a result, I also wrestled with other types of self-hatred and a deep desire to fit in with my blond peers.   Not only did I not want to be Chinese, but I did not want to be Mexican as well.  I can remember being called a “beaner” and feeling like I did not fit in because I was not white.   In fact, I can distinctly recall two blond kids playing with one another (while I stood alone) and saying to myself, “She’s playing with him because they both have yellow hair and I don’t.”
These racial identity struggles followed me into my adulthood, and they are, in part, what have driven me so close to God over the years.  I’ve often asked myself:  Am I Mexican?  Am I Chinese?  Am I American?  Where do I fit in?   I love spending time with my Mexican family and friends, but yet I feel incomplete if I do not also spend meaningful time with my Chinese family and immersing myself in Chinese culture.  When I’m with Latinos I’m usually accepted as one of them because I “look Mexican” and can usually “pass.”  Many people have walked up to me on the street and started speaking Spanish because I am tall with dark wavy hair and tan skin and can grow a pretty good beard.  
         Although I look Mexican to many people, I definitely get categorized in other ways as well:  Are you “Filipino”?  Are you Hawaiian?  Are you Middle Eastern?   Are you “Chinese with a tan”?   Although I don’t usually mind being categorized in these ways, as any mixed race person will tell you, it’s sometimes painful to be labeled something that you’re not. 
         I can really identify with the following poem, called “Clueless,” by Chicana/o Studies professor Rudy Guevarra.  Guevarra is a fellow “Asian-Latino,” and his poem captures the frustrations that we as mixed race individuals often feel as a result of being misunderstood and mislabeled.  He is a “Mexipino” (Mexican-Filipino) from San Diego, California.

“What's it like to be me you ask?
better yet,
what are you?
so many times
I hear this phrase
from those who don't know
what I am…

I am your illusion, your reality,
your future…
Mestizo you call me,
but what the hell is that?
does that include all of me?
my Asian, Indian, African, and Spanish roots?
can you see my multidimensional character?
the complexity of my being,
my existence
which thrives on the ignorance of the masses
I am the Filipino you once despised
the one you hated,
the Mexican you abhorred, ignore,
and continue to attack
but wait
what if I was both?
could you deal with the double reality
of my presence…

I may be foreign to you,
even threatening
but so many times
I can be invisible too
my illusion masks my inner thoughts
but not what I see
and it sure as hell won't cloud my sanity
I know who I am
see my genetic, cultural, social,
and political identity
is often in question
but it's all the same to me…”

Thanks for reading. More to come.  Please spread the word about this series to one of the other 9 million mixed-race individuals living in the U.S.  today!

Much love,

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