By Chloe Sun
Last week, I had the opportunity to teach a class of Taiwanese-Brazilians at a Chinese-Portuguese seminary in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The trip also included visits to speak at two different immigrant churches. The makeup of those churches in Brazil was similar to the immigrant churches in North America in that they have 2-3 different services comprised of two or more generations of Christians, and they speak two or more different languages. Also, the faces at the immigrant churches in San Paulo are primarily Asian faces. In a sense, although I didn’t speak Portuguese, I felt quite at home. When I was walking on the streets of San Paulo with people from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds, it struck me that I did not feel out of place because of my Asianness. No one stared at me or looked at me differently because of the way I looked.
This experience reminded me of another trip to Paris a few years back where I also had the opportunity to teach and speak at four different churches. In Paris, I also had felt that I was not that different from everyone else even though I was Asian. I didn’t feel that I was looked down upon because of how I looked or how I spoke broken French.
The Asians I met in the churches in Paris are Asian French and the Asians I met in San Paulo are Asian Brazilian. I wondered to myself, What makes an Asian American unique and different from the other two groups of people? I soon realized that what sets an Asian American apart from Asians in other countries is that Asian Americans are not being seen as an integral part of this country. Many of us are still considered “outsiders” or “foreigners” simply because we look different. Some Americans still ask me “Do you speak English?” as if it is a legitimate question, but both the French and the Brazilians did not ask me if I spoke their language when they first saw me. The diverse nature of those cultures, enabling them to accept people as they are rather than based on race and color, makes me marvel. Could that picture ever be realized here in the States?
Chloe Sun, PhD., has been teaching Hebrew Scriptures at Logos Evangelical Seminary since 2004. Her research interests include culture, gender, and identity issues in the Old Testament, Asian American Interpretations of the Bible, and Wisdom Literature. She lives with her husband and son in Southern California.