This week we launch our weekly series of “One in the Spirit” blog posts with this reflection by the Reverend Peter Huang.
Divide et impera, or “divide and conquer” in English, has been a tried and true strategy for war and governance in history. When those in power pit opponents against each other or sow distrust and hostility among others, conquest becomes more feasible. At its core, divide et impera is at odds with our Diocese of Los Angeles’s One in the Spirit initiative, which focuses on “increasing our capacity to expand relationships and deepen connections across differences in order to strengthen our shared commitment to follow Jesus.”
Recently, The Gathering hosted a panel conversation and discussion on “Your Liberation is Our Liberation: Why Black Lives Matter to APA Christians” that illuminated the impact of divide et impera. The Gathering – a Space for Asian Pacific American Spirituality, is a ministry of our Diocese for Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) that seeks to address issues at the intersection of APA experiences, identity, and spirituality.
So, why haven’t Black lives mattered to Asian Pacific Americans? Why wouldn’t people of color – Blacks, Indigenous, Latinx, APAs, and others – come together in solidarity as marginalized people to fight for racial justice? Some of the conversations centered around how APAs being touted as the Model Minority was a racialized strategy by a white-dominant society to divide and conquer: pit minorities against each other as a way to not share power.
Dr. Ezer Kang, one of our panelists, shared that having a “model” group meant other groups become inferior.
As a Taiwanese/Japanese American growing up in the US, I remember being told that APAs were the “good” minority because we achieved in school and society and we never caused trouble like the Black and Brown folks did. Essentially, I was told to “not be like them” and assume that as long as I played by the rules, I can advance in society. The promised benefit of the Model Minority myth is that APAs are often seen as “white-adjacent,” sharing the privileges when being white enough. The Model Minority myth has driven a wedge between APAs and other POCs.
So how might we as Christians work toward One in the Spirit’s vision of “promising to respect the dignity of every human being; refusing to submit to our era’s division and polarization; and challenging systemic oppression in all its forms”?
Acknowledging and undoing anti-Blackness in our communities is a first step of this work and, especially as followers of Jesus, toward being one in the Spirit. For APAs, this means working against Black stereotypes and labels that divide us and working on dismantling divisive structures and narratives.
Listening intently to each other’s stories also moves us forward so that whatever we do comes from firm foundations of relationships. I have been especially grateful for the work of Canon Suzanne Edwards-Acton, also a panelist at the event and chairperson of the Program Group on Black Ministries. She has been a friend of The Gathering as a frequent participant and contributor at our events. Her ongoing presence and interest in our ministry have created opportunities for imagining shared ministry opportunities between our groups. Her partnership is both healing and hopeful.
Suzanne exemplifies the truth that being one in the Spirit means showing up and being present to and for each other. Would that we might all be inspired to go and do likewise.
For more background on “Your Liberation Is Our Libertation” visit the event page:
A live recording of the event is available on youtube: