On Jan. 18 and 19, Covenant hosted Dr. Alexander Jun, a professor of higher education at Azusa Pacific University and member of the PCA’s racial reconciliation study committee. He presented two lectures “A Place at the Table” and “Now Hold On.” Students, faculty, staff and locals gathered at the Kirk to listen and ask questions.
Jun is a Korean-American, born in Virginia and well-aware of the stereotypes associated with his Asian heritage. His lectures were funny, candid and thought-provoking. At the first lecture, he told a story about a giraffe with a beautiful home who invites an elephant to visit, and when the elephant struggles to fit inside the giraffe-shaped house, declares the problem to be the elephant’s weight and suggests he lose some. He likened this to the way many minority groups or people trapped in a broken system feel—like an elephant stuck in a house made for a giraffe.
Here’s a brief overview of some of the topics he covered:
The problem, as Jun presents it, with tone policing is that we essentially tell hurting minority groups we can’t hear them if they don’t speak or act a certain way. It’s an approach that says, “I can only listen to you if you’re not shouting.”
This is problematic because injustice does and should make people angry, and like the man who touches a hot pan, scream. Jun suggests, instead of tone policing, we become better listeners. That may end up being learning to listen to very uncomfortable things, but it is a step toward reconciliation. Jun told us that once your friends of color start telling you about microaggressions that you have said or even actions that have hurt them, that’s probably a sign you’re developing a deeper friendship.
The question often comes up: As a white man or woman, what do I do with my privilege?
“If one of my female colleagues calls me out on something I said that was sexist, I confront the problem and apologize – but I don’t walk around feeling guilty that I’m a man. What good does that do? I also don’t go around apologizing to every woman that I meet,” said Jun. He went on to say that it’s also important to recognize broken systems that exist in our world, that elevate some groups and mistreat others.
So what do we do if we're in a bubble?
“[These ideas are] not a liberal-left-ish agenda – it’s biblical,” says Jun. He encouraged those who live in predominantly white, majority culture groups to read, if nothing else, and really educate yourself on the many race issues our nation is facing.
And, he encouraged us to use the privileges that we have. People expect for someone of color to start the conversation about racial reconciliation; they’re probably not going to expect the white person to do it. We can reach into those circles in unique ways.
He also reminded us that this looks different for everyone. While some may join protests, or serve at an inner city school, one example he gave was of the president of a university who started a book club based on books about race and the hardships of being a minority in America that his friends of color suggested he read. He was able to start conversations in a place where they wouldn’t have otherwise happened.
Jun is featured in the book Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church, along with thirty other church leaders in America, which considers issues of race and how Christians should approach them. He is also the author of Recognizing and Serving Lower Income Students in Higher Education.
To hear more from Dr. Jun, you can also check out his Facebook page, Race and Justice in Higher Education.