Monday, March 05, 2007

Youth Specialties makes public apology for racist content

Over the last week I've been following various Asian American blogs regarding a recently published Zondervan/Youth Specialties skit book. The book included a skit that perpetuated some horribly racist stereotypes of Asian Americans. Soong-Chan Rah (professor at North Park and one of my authors) brought the issue to light and has been working with Youth Specialties and Zondervan to resolve the issue.

To the amazement of many, Zondervan and Youth Specialties have acted quickly and justly. They have frozen all copies of the book and intend to destroy all existing inventory. They are publishing a new edition replacing the offensive sketch and are offering to replace copies for anybody who has the original.

Most significantly, this weekend Mark Oestreicher (president of YS) posted a public apology on his blog, and the Skit Guys have also apologized. In cases like this of public sin and offense, apology and taking responsibility must be equally public. So I am very impressed with how fully they have responded and owned up to this whole situation. I sent Marko an e-mail earlier in the week, and I just got a personal response interacting with my message. He said that he's been grieving over the fact that Asian American kids may be present in youth groups where the skit is performed, and he is appealing to youth pastors out there who have the book to please, please not use the skit.

To me, this is a huge, significant contrast with the Rickshaw Rally VBS curriculum fiasco a few years ago, where the offending publisher basically stonewalled, dismissed and ignored the outcry from the Asian American church community. (See Soong-Chan's chapter in Growing Healthy Asian American Churches or Ed Gilbreath's Reconciliation Blues for more on the story.) Kudos to YS and Zondervan for a much more constructive approach for racial justice and healing. They have provided the church with a positive model of how to move forward.

9 comments:

Mark Goodyear said...

Wow. Marko's apology and the Skit Guys apology are pretty amazing to read.

Maybe I'm just being a jerk here, or maybe I don't understand publishing, but the silence from Zondervan struck me as very strange.

Marko takes all editorial responsibility. Yet the book is published and distributed by Zondervan. On their site, nothing.

Al Hsu said...

Yep, Zondervan's silence is deafening. It seems like they're letting YS take the heat for it and are distancing themselves from it all. My guess is that they're hoping it'll all go away soon, but I think that eventually they're going to have to make some sort of statement about their role.

Mark Goodyear said...

In the meantime, they're still selling books. Of course, it will be the new and improved version, but still. Skit Guys and Marko come out looking like pretty humble here. Zondervan, not so much.

Then again, it's easy to sit at my keyboard and throw stones. Maybe the best response to this situation is just to examine my own feelings and attitudes about race.

L.L. Barkat said...

I just read about this over on Every Square Inch. It was grating just to read the text!

Still, it never ceases to surprise me how "culturally insensitive" I can be, even in my own family, as I deal with learning about the depths of another person's heart. Sometimes, all human interaction feels like a confusing cross-cultural experience to me.

L.L. Barkat said...

Sorry, that link is

L.L. Barkat said...

Okay, now making a simple comment is starting to feel like a confusing cross-cultural experience. One more time...

L.L. Barkat said...

I give up. For some reason, the link is landing in the date and time spot.

http://everysquareinch.blogspot.com/

thecuttingtruth said...

Al, since you are an Asian American in the Christian publishing world, I was wondering if you might want to chime in on what has been called Skitgate part II. You can find it on my blog: http://www.xanga.com/thecuttingtruth

Al Hsu said...

cuttingtruth - I saw emergingtruth's post about it and just commented on Camy's blog. Anybody out there interested in seeing her post (and my comment), go to http://camys-loft.blogspot.com/