March 25, 2024

Providing a profoundly Christian understanding of anti-racism, Dr. Jonathan Tran, Associate Professor of Theology at Baylor University, gave the Seventh Annual Lecture  sponsored by Christian Unity at Greenville University

Greenville University  reporter Dave Bell writes:

As an Asian-American, Jonathan Tran knows the reality of discrimination in America.

“I came to America at the end of three wars between America and Asian countries – Japan, Korea, and Vietnam,” said Tran, who now serves as an Associate Professor of Theology at Baylor University. “People in America viewed me as perilous … not just a foreigner, but a problematic one. As a result, racism was a daily reality in my life.”…

As a person of Vietnamese descent, Tran said he was impacted by racism, but simultaneously ignored by anti-racism efforts that focused only on righting the wrongs experienced by African-Americans.

“I learned that I didn’t count,” he said. “My experiences didn’t seem to matter. In short, I was marginalized by racism, and marginalized again by anti-racism efforts. I didn’t count in efforts to expand diversity.”

That reality, he said, led him to write his book about racism from the perspective of an Asian-American.

“I tried to convert the pain I experienced into power,” he said. “I wanted to discover more about American racism from the perspective of those on the margins.”

As he researched, Tran found two competing accounts of racism.

The orthodox view holds that racism begins as an individual or personal issue – when individuals hold inaccurate views or assumptions about people of a different race – but then expands to a systemic or institutional practice. Efforts to address that sort of racism, Tran said, often focus on changing attitudes through diversity training.

A second type of racism, he said, is racial capitalism. Under that system, resources and services are denied to minorities, who are then relegated to lives of poverty and oppression, based simply on the color of their skin. Racial capitalism is perpetuated, he said, because “it creates an infrastructure in things like housing and services that conspires against black and brown lives.”…

After the program, Wayman said that Tran used his experiences to challenge listeners to think differently about righting racial wrongs.

“Dr. Tran’s Divine Economy strategy was a timely topic for the Andrews Lecture,” said Wayman…. “He helped us see how the church offers the world a community shaped by God’s economy of abundance and generosity rather than the scarce economies of a world in the grip of domination and exploitation. He helped us imagine concrete forms of life, redistribution, justice, and mercy that indicate ways in which we might become a faithful Christian community.”

To view the video of Professor Tran’s lecture click here.