“Race-conscious discipleship” needs to continue throughout the week, she said. And May’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month observations need to go beyond celebrations and enjoying AAPI cuisines.
“We are plagued by these stereotypes of the model minority and perpetual foreigner,” she said.
On top of that, Reyes said, Asian American women are seen as “easy targets.”
“I think there’s something within the psyche of our U.S. American society that if Asian women are targeted, there’s not going to be much pushback. There’s not going to be severe consequences from that. And I think part of that is wrapped up into these stereotypes of Asian women as meek, as passive, as unassertive and also both physically and socially powerless,” she said.
Stop AAPI Hate recorded nearly 11,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans between March 2020 and December 2021. Of those, about 62% targeted women of Asian descent, including the shootings in Atlanta and the recent shooting at Hair World Salon in Dallas, which police say may be connected to two previous drive-by shootings at businesses run by Asian Americans.
For many Asian American women in ministry, the challenges are compounded, speakers shared at an Asian American Christian Collaborative panel discussion called “Seeking Understanding: The Lived Experiences of Asian American Female Pastors” held late last year at Apostolic Faith Church in Chicago.
They’re experiencing the uptick in anti-Asian racism and the trauma of shootings targeting Asian women, said Yulee Lee, senior director of staff culture and diversity, equity, inclusion at the Fuller Youth Institute. And, like so many clergy, they’re feeling the exhaustion of leading their congregations through the COVID-19 pandemic, oftentimes navigating largely white, evangelical and mainline spaces.
All that comes on top of the implicit and explicit messaging many have received denying their calls to ministry.
“Asian American female pastors have encountered a lot of challenges in the church context, and we carry an emotional toll and trauma as a result. And so this is the backdrop. This is the norm for us,” said Lee, who said she emigrated with her family from South Korea to Idaho when she was 3 years old.
Liu, the co-pastor at Life on the Vine, shared during the event the challenges she has faced in ministry, and her experiences were echoed by a number of her fellow panelists
She grew up in a Chinese church, she said, where women did just about everything but preach: collecting and counting the offering each week, making sure announcements were made during services, teaching children and youth.
While she believed God was calling her to pastor, she couldn’t picture it, she said. Maybe she could be a pastor’s wife. Maybe she could lead worship or a small group at a church, or a parachurch ministry.