Many years ago, one of my former bosses pressured me not to hire a specific person because of his ethnic background, but I hired him anyway because he was the most qualified candidate among other job applicants. His skin color did not matter to me and, frankly, did not even register to my thought. One of my heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. did not do what he did simply because he wanted to stand up for his own kind of people only. He did it peacefully, with his deep conviction and understanding how God views each human being. When I lived in Chicago, I was a fan of Michael Jordan because of his breathtaking basketball skills (“Fly like Mike!”), and again his skin color did not register to my thought.
One point in my career, I had multiple employees in my organization who had Korean heritage, but that was not because I handpicked my kind of people but simply at that time they were the best candidates out of a couple of dozen candidates our team interviewed together. Now, here in South Florida, I happen to be the only Korean-American in my work place, but enjoy working with amazing colleagues from over 20 different countries and ethnic backgrounds. Again, they are there because of their merits and passion, not their ethnic backgrounds. Of course, sometime a position may require a specific language skill to serve a certain market.
This year’s NBA season, Jeremy Lin, a young NBA player of New York Knicks, was a phenomenon here in America, and possibly some other parts of the world too. Some may liked him because he happened to be an Asian-American (he is a US-born Taiwanese descendant.), but what he did on the game floor are what came down to, not his ethnicity. And, technically, there is nothing wrong with some Asian-American children to look up to Jeremy because they can relate to him, just like some other athletes are role models for those kids with similar ethnic backgrounds.
I did not vote for President Obama in 2008 (because of my own disagreements with many of his policies), but he became the President of United States of America because of his competence, superior campaigning, and ultimately our democratic process. Again, his ethnicity wasn’t the focus, although it was historical that he was the first African-American President of USA.
If one of my kids were to get a major surgery and I were to look for a surgeon, his religion and skin-color won’t matter much, but only his track records and competence will.
Looking at other people based on who truly they are (not based on their skin color or ethnicity) is not easy. Prejudice can be very subtle now these days. Not just majority against minority, but even among minority ethnicity groups too. Many times this comes in the forms of innocent-sounding jokes, and ignorant and insensitive comments at work places, churches, circles of friends, schools, etc. This is not just happening here in USA but all around the world. For an example, many multicultural families in South Korea suffer social inequality and prejudice. Simply because of their religious beliefs, certain people get persecuted in many countries. Some American judicial courts and school boards are very hostile toward one religion, and they single out that particular belief among other religions under the name of “tolerance” and “hate-crime”. What an irony!
This issue fundamentally comes from human’s crooked heart. Unless we daily and deliberately make a choice not to take a part in this, none of us are immune to this. Maybe I am too sensitive, but to be honest, I even do not like those stereo-typing so-called “blonde jokes”.
One of our family values is: Be proud of your Korean heritage but do not become narrow-minded. Korea has such wealth of culture and history that we need to cherish and even study. However, as Christians we need to see and love people beyond skin colors, social backgrounds, and economic status. I want my kids and next generations to cherish and be proud of who they are. But that pride is not about superiority in comparison to others, but simply your own acknowledgement of your unique identity as God’s gift and purpose for us on this earth.