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Photo by Kamil Kaczor

Greetings, readers! We hope you have enjoyed our last several months of blogs reflecting on Daniel Goleman’s five components of EQ (Emotional Quotient).

For the summer, we will be embarking on a short series reflecting on the themes of Ethnicity, Generation, and Gender, or the acronym EGG for short, coined by Young Lee Hertig, executive director of ISAAC. As an introduction to our series, below she shares her own reflections and thoughts on how the themes of Ethnicity, Generation, and Gender play complicating and intersecting roles in her own life, vocation, and identity as an Asian American woman in leadership.

–Joy Wong, editor and administrator of aawolsisters.com


By Young Lee Hertig

They say that more than 70% of communication is nonverbal and that the messenger determines the message.  In other words, the medium is the message.  This means that a triple marginal medium of EGG (Ethnicity, Generation, Gender) such as myself poses multiple challenges of misconstrued messages.  As a minority/woman/generational ‘misfit,’ people relentlessly reduce me to such categories.   For example, a new staff member at YMCA started greeting me in Korean both when I entered and exited.  I just smiled at the beginning, but it got to be too much after a while, though this young black lad thought he was being hospitable.  The YMCA is a place where I just want to go in and get exercise and not be pegged by my ethnicity.

Strangers often look shocked when they find out that I am a “Rev Dr,” not just an “ethnic woman.”  You don’t get to be seen by your professions dominated by white and male.  Almost daily, I notice contrasting experiences between me and my gray-haired white male husband in the way people perceive him and me.  There’s a huge image gap in the way a triple marginal woman is perceived by people.  To document the sharp perception gaps, even when my husband was a student, people treated him as a professor and/or a pastor whereas I, as a faculty, was treated as a student.  I was even told by a colleague, “You have the wrong hair color.  You might want to dye it gray!”  To this day, my hair remains mostly black at my age!

Another example came from a man who appears to be white at a church I was visiting.  From behind where I was sitting, the man suddenly asked, “Do you speak Tagalong?”  “No,” I replied.  Then he started telling me all of his ethnicities — quarter Dutch, quarter that…..”  to locate my ethnicity.    The Bible class was about to start and I simply said, “I am an American” which baffled him.  These social interactions are taking place in Southern California, not in Mississippi.

Regarding generational differences, I am a generational misfit moving across multiple generations in my daily interactions. Sometimes I connect more with the millennials, and other times, with the boomers.  Defying the magnet of the similarity-attraction, expressed often with phrases such as “our very own,” this does not apply to my life as I am restless when pegged to belong in one category.

Yet, the challenge remains in such an intersectional space:  How do we negotiate when we juggle EGG simultaneously?  Sometimes I choose ethnicity at the expense of my gender, and other times, I see women clergy choosing gender equality in the Caucasian church at the expense of ethnicity.  In English Ministry settings, the generational divide between 1.5 and 2nd is also striking.  In diverse Pan-Asian American settings, I also noticed how complex and fluid EGG dynamics play out in communication. As a generational misfit, I often notice the same generation tends to give more credence to their own generational messengers.

Gender differences and messenger issues were displayed raw during the 2016 presidential campaign.  While watching the 2016 presidential election, what was notable was the double standard between male and female candidates.  For example, the male candidate got away with offensive remarks whereas the female candidate’s words were parsed and scrutinized for being too smart and assertive.  This means the measuring stick for the woman was softness whereas the man’s was toughness.  In no way am I advocating for equality to be synonymous with sameness when it comes to gender equality.  Rather, I want to see more of a fairness in judging female and male leaders when the messenger matters more than the message.  About 36% of Americans dismissed Clinton’s message as they disapproved the messenger, a trailblazer, who for the first time carved out an image of female presidentialness.  The question I have is, how do we leverage differences of EGG without being penalized for deviating from the norms defined by the dominant groups?

There seems to be no tribe on earth where I feel full belongingness as the multicultural person that I am.  Just like many TCKs (Third Culture Kid), I feel belongingness in a multivocal space that intersects with EGG.

Rev. Dr. Young Lee Hertig is executive director and a founding member of ISAAC (Innovative Space for Asian American Christianity) and AAWOL (Asian American Women On Leadership). She teaches in the Global Studies and Sociology Department at Azusa Pacific University and is an ordained Presbyterian clergy as well as a commissioner of the Presbyterian Church USA to the National Council of Churches Faith and Order.

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