In my four years in Vancouver (1981–1985), when I was studying in Regent College, it happened to me only once. I was on a bus on my way home. At a bus stop, a Caucasian boy, early teens I think, was alighting when he turned back looked at me, and yelled “China man go back to China.” Then he ran down from the bus and pelted away. I am sure he feared for his life knowing that all Chinese, like Bruce Lee, can kill you with one punch. I wanted to yell, “I am from Malaysia, not China”, but the moment was lost.
Truth is, I get the “Chinaman go back to China” call more often in Malaysia when, periodically, some Malay extremist racist group would give Malaysian Chinese the same suggestion. Still, it was quite jarring to see a recent comic segment on Fox News, the Bill O’ Reilly show, where he sent Jesse Watters to New York’s Chinatown to “sample political opinion.”
I was angry when I saw the clip. I am no prude and understand satire but here was a clip that sought to get cheap laughs by making fun of people with all sorts of racial stereotypes. (By the way karate is Japanese, and tae kwon do is Korean, bozo.) I was particularly enraged when the clip made fun of old folks who can’t speak English. Humiliating seniors for cheap laughs? Is that what your mother taught you? I wanted to tell Watters “go back to England, or wherever your forefathers came from.” I wanted to show him some of my Bruce Lee kicks. But then I had to preach on the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37).
Many of us have read this passage many times. We probably have heard many sermons expounding this passage. We all know the Samaritan is the good guy who exemplifies loving God by his generous love for a neighbour in need. What we sometimes forget is that Samaritans were disdained by the Jews. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans as impure, Jew wannabes who were the products of intermarriage between Jews and other races (Ezra 9:1–10:44). They were second-class people who were to be avoided if possible.
I am sure the Samaritans gave as good as they got where inter-ethnic hostility was concerned. So it is incredibly mind blowing that, speaking to a Jewish audience, Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero of the story and shows him generously helping someone from a race that looked down on, and ran down, his race.
There are many lessons from this parable. On the question of eternal life: it doesn’t matter if you are Priest, Levite, or a regular guy. It doesn’t matter what your race is. The one who is truly alive is the one who loves God and who, among other things, demonstrates that love by loving people in need, including people you may find difficult to love. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, coming from a Jesus who tells us that we must love our enemies (Matthew 5:44–45).
I have long believed that racism is the last sin to die. I believe we are all guilty of it to a degree. We have daily reminders of how ubiquitous it is, from the US Presidential debates, the worldwide refugee conundrum, discussions about race and the elected presidency in Singapore, etc. This is a complex issue that resists simplistic solutions. But a Christian perspective is clearer. We believe all human beings are made in the image of God and therefore we are to love all races, even the ones who hurt us.
To love someone is not to condone the evil that person is guilty of. So if I met Jesse Watters, I will lovingly and firmly tell him why I think his Chinatown segment is so wrong. And then I guess I have to take him to a good dim sum restaurant.
“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”
― Mahatma Gandhi