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We need to talk about race

Date Thursday, 9th July 2020

Preached by Esther Kwan


When I was asked to write this blog, I had a decision to make: either hold back and pretend everything is okay, or make myself vulnerable. I chose the latter and hope it would help us to recognise that racism touches all aspects of our lives. All I ask for is your empathy as a brother or sister in Christ.


Growing up in Hong Kong – a former British colony – my parents adopted racist ideas, namely that white British culture is supreme. This is evident in their cultural and linguistic preferences – for example, that English is the preferable language (my Cantonese is that of a 6-year-old) and that classical piano is the cultural status symbol (colonialism; Eurocentrism; cultural racism).

My earliest experience of overt racism was when I immigrated to Canada. We had just moved to a new neighbourhood and were greeted with racist graffiti all over our garage door. The message was clear – I was a foreigner and did not belong simply because I was Chinese. This is why the question “where are you from?” can often be problematic: it challenges and calls into question people of colour’s citizenship and sense of belonging (overt racism; racial power).

I remember going to elementary school and envied all the white kids. After all, majority of the movie stars, politicians, hockey players, Barbie dolls, and Disney princesses were white. I adopted the racist ideas that the standards of beauty and success were premised on being as white as possible (colorism).

Whilst in Israel, unlike white expats, I was racialized as a poor migrant worker who would sell her body to earn extra cash on the side. This took the form of men following me in cars and openly groping me in public (classism, sexism, and racism – intersectionality).

I later moved to the UK to study. My first day at university was marred by my Rector’s suggestion that people like me should be discouraged from “socialising only with other Chinese students”, whilst my white peers’ friendship groups were never called into question. Racism continued when drunk undergraduates made crude, racist jabs at me (“go back to China, you chink!”). The UK isn’t the utopia that my parents have thought it to be (overt racism; racial stereotyping).

At my first job after university, racism manifested itself in more covert and insidious ways. There are too numerous to count: when my colleagues mistake me for the only other Chinese woman in the building and thus denying me the individuality that is afforded to white colleagues; when I receive stares for sounding too aggressive or that I am surprisingly assertive given assumptions that I should be a docile and subservient Chinese woman; and when white colleagues receive recognition for the same ideas and their voices are heard in the board room instead of mine (tone-policing; Orientalism; micro-aggression).

And finally, at The Globe Church. I remember the first few months, I was given blank looks by some – or they simply ended the conversation abruptly and moved on to chat to others – whenever I was being too “expressive”. In so many ways, I do not conform to the white British middle class norms at Globe. Do we include all individuals in our activities and conversations? Do we only socialise with people like ourselves? There is always a danger of cliques forming within our church.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Anger, frustration, despair have plagued me over the past three decades, as it’s a constant battle to stay hopeful amidst the racism I witness and personally experience every day.

With the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter protests, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities, the consequences of racism have reached a boiling point that can no longer be ignored.

Is there hope for racial reconciliation?

This past Sunday, I was reminded of my hope found in the gospel. We should be a church that is united by our passion for lifting up Jesus’ name above all else. We should also be a church that overflows with hope in knowing that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour who has cleansed and reconciled us to God.

The sermon followed the church-wide discussion on racism. I am encouraged by the number of individuals who dialled in to the call, as well as the Globe Church leadership who opened the space to lament, discuss, and pray through racism’s impact on our church body and society.

This is only the start of the conversation. Hopefully you will join me in future discussions of this in the context of the church, and what we can all do to be anti-racists in our thoughts and actions.