Monthly Archives: May 2012

Is Beauty Fair and White?

Standard

Ad for Fair and Lovely Skin Cream

Beauty is “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight” (Oxford Dictionary, 2010). Those who are considered beautiful are perceived to have good qualities, greater employment suitability, higher income, and greater popularity. .Beauty can also be equated with youthfulness and is perceived differently in certain societies and cultures. This is why some women experience so much inner conflict with it.

Throughout history, the whiteness of a woman’s skin has been an empowering and disempowering function within Asian cultures. In the Confucian Doctrine of Threefold Obedience, it states women were subordinates to their fathers as girls, to their husbands as wives, and to their sons as widows. Since women had little control over their lives in the past, the ability to whiten their skin, allowed women to liberate themselves from the control of men by increasing their social status through work and marriage. However, the whitening of skin has also disempowered women by placing large amounts of pressure on women to follow the standards of beauty, in order to gain acceptance.

In the past, whiteness equated being part of the upper class who did not have to work in the sun like the poor people. Even though time has passed and there are more indoor jobs available for women, the stereotype of what a fair skin means, has not changed. Those women who have it are seen as more beautiful, successful, and worth noticing than someone with darker skin.

 

 

I have a daughter who is eight-years old. Last year, she was started modeling professionally and has already been in different print ads. Whenever we go to auditions, she constantly receives comments about her long silky hair, unique dimples, and attractive almond-shaped eyes. She is beautiful on the outside, but she is also attractive because of her charming personality and soft heart toward hurting people.

Though she usually has Korean classes on Saturdays, I allowed her to stay home last week to spend time with her father and just hang out. She played in the yard, went swimming, and even learned to ride a bike. She really enjoyed the time because she had her papa to herself and could spend the day frolicking in the sun.

 When we arrived at church the next day, my daughter and I got out of the car first and walked hand in hand, as she excitedly retold me every detail of the previous day. When we were walking closer to the church, there were a group of women who were talking and enjoying the fresh air outside before service was about to start.  As we were passing them, they all turned and gasped at my daughter. One woman loudly said, “She looks like a little black child.” Another woman scorned me for allowing her to play in the sun and not putting enough sunscreen on her face.

When my daughter heard these things, she immediately covered her face with her hands and then hid behind me.  As we walked away quickly from these women, I could hear them still discussing their disapproval of her skin color and complaining how I should have done a better job of maintain her whiteness, especially since she was “more beautiful pale-skinned.”

Instead of heading to her Sunday School classroom, my daughter went to the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. I stared at her and felt my mind running with what to say to her about what just happened. Yet, before I could open my mouth, she looked at me and said, “I think my skin color is beautiful and it makes my cheeks rosy. What is wrong with those ladies?”

 

 

Our culture and the thoughts of others have made it challenging to be ourselves and feel good about it. Just like my daughter, we shouldn’t worry about what others think, and compare ourselves to what is considered a beautiful woman in society. True beauty lies in our spirit, the part of us that God sees and feeds. The sooner we take a stand and accept who we are, and are happy with how God created us, the sooner we will see past what others think and truly understand how we are unique and beautiful.

 

The Calling of Motherhood

Standard

Every morning, I drop the kids off at school and then head over to Starbucks for my latte. I go there so often that my husband jokes, he is ready to buy stock in the company. On this particular morning, the barista decided to ask me questions like what I did for a living, if I was married, and what I did to celebrate my ten-year anniversary. When I remarked that my husband and I could not go away to celebrate our anniversary because of our children, she gasped loudly and then told me how she went to Europe last year and just came back from Africa last week. Though she has been married for twelve years, she never wants to have children because they “get in the way of life” and probably won’t be much fun when they become teenagers.

I took a sip of my latte and left the restaurant. I felt deflated and wondered about my own life.

There are many women who have the same mindset as the woman from Starbucks. To these individuals, children are not viewed as important since they limit a person’s ability to go out and have a good time.

 

Motherhood is a calling that many women are blessed with from God. Through children, mothers can teach, love, defend, and lay down their lives for another human being. Isn’t this exactly what the gospel teaches Christians to do?

To lie down one’s life, does not mean that a person’s dreams need to die with it, or life holds no future during the mommy years. Freedom may be put on hold for a bit because the baby needs to nap or eat, but these life stages are only temporary and are all part of high calling of motherhood.

 

The Bible clearly states how children are valuable to Jesus. He loved them and moms are commanded to do the same by bringing them up in the Lord. In Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank), Rachel Jankovic offers the following encouragement to moms:

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

 

In contrast to what culture says is important, Jankovic writes,

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.

 

Motherhood is hard. It’s sacrifice. There are many days when I have to cry out to God for help. He gives me enough strength to make it through each day.

Though motherhood feels like a job, it is a calling. It is the highest calling a mother will ever have.

 

Image

 

 

 

Racism: A Continuing Dilemma

Standard

Image

On Tuesday, I woke up excited because I submitted the final grades for my spring semester classes and it was my first day of summer vacation. I dropped the kids off at school and was planning to spend my day at Starbucks with my laptop. As I was driving to my destination, thoughts were oozing from my head and whenever I reached a traffic light, I busily scribbling my thoughts down, so they could not be forgotten.  I was so inspired and could not stop giggling to myself as I was singing with the radio.

Few moments into writing an introduction for my next blog post, a car speed toward me and had two passengers who were yelling words that I could not understand. As I stared at them to see what was wrong, they came closer to my car and threw garbage at my windshield. When I tried to speed away, they continued to chase me and threw more things out the window. As I turned to look at their faces, I was able to clearly understand their spirited words of “chink” spoken over and over.

I was stunned. Were they talking to me? Had I done something to cause such anger? As I sat in my car and was digesting the events that may have lead up to this event, it suddenly dawned on me that I am who others perceive me to be. No matter how much education, skills, or how I try to form a new identity, I will always be labeled by my group identity.

Growing up, I have had encounters that demonstrated how people viewed me as a racial type. When I had my first job at a college, my co-workers, who felt they knew me well, would try to genuinely connect with me by saying, “it reminded me of you,” and then talking about Karate Kid movies or a recent trip to the Asian portion of a museum. When I was in college, a good friend of mine who just finished Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, said she understood me and the Asian people better from reading the book. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to be judged by his character rather than the color of his skin, but in these incidents, I was not judged by my character because it was only about the color of my skin or my image.

Some people believe skin color does not matter or they do not see color when they look at a person. Yet, look at churches that are heavily segregated or studies that show children perform better academically when they are taught by individuals of the same race. To shut one’s eyes to these truths is to ignore how minorities are the fastest growing group in America.

When the issue of race is involved, people will often shape their information from their own experiences, family, culture, values, and beliefs. If one ever felt racism, he may believe that an individual, who comes off a certain way, is a particular type of person. Because of this, it may cause him to avoid or to make assumptions about a person and his situation.

It can even be a seed of bitterness because he is so wounded by an offense. When this occurs, it takes root in the heart and can turn one of two ways. It can be acknowledged and forgiven, in which case the heart heals and becomes stronger than it was before, or it can go the other way, where the offense is unforgiven and grows into bitterness. This is dangerous because it can lead a person to become what wounded him.

Michael Morris, a professor at Columbia University’s graduate school of business, has conducted fascinating research on culture and how others view different races. Professor Morris and his colleagues have found that people’s views operate like Transitions lenses: They activate, automatically, whenever they encounter triggers like pressure and stress. For this reason, they cannot be controlled, but can be managed through learning and asking questions that will help lead to the truth.

When Morris showed a photo of a person standing in front of a group, the Asian executives concluded that the person standing alone was an outcast. This is because in Asian cultures, community is widely viewed as the key to success. When the same photo was shown to American executives, they concluded that the person standing alone was the leader. To Americans, individual effort is the key to achievement.

Answers cannot be found until people acknowledge that various views exist when looking at race and culture. By doing this, hidden biases can be confronted and racial knowledge can be expanded.  On the same note, since race is a controversial topic even if one is careful, someone can get offended from the discussion.

In a culture where many do not consider the Bible, a moral compass, it is difficult to find agreement in what is right and wrong. Yet, instead of being guided by “Political Correctness,” Christians need to take a stand and be the salt of the world (Matt. 5:13) by preserving values and moral principles and making a contribution to the development of life. We are also to be the light of the world (Matt. 5: 14-16) by being torch bearers in this dark human race. Shining not to make ourselves look good in front of others, but so others will see our bearing of fruit, good deeds, and praise God.