Kathy Khang

Kathy Khang

Kathy Khang, a columnist for Sojourners magazine, is the author of the forthcoming book Raise Your Voice and co-author of More Than Serving Tea (InterVarsity Press, 2006). She blogs at www.kathykhang.com, tweets and Instagrams as @mskathykhang, posts at  www.facebook.com/kathykhangauthor, and partners with other writers, pastors, and Christian leaders to highlight and move the conversation forward on issues of race, ethnicity, and gender within the church. Kathy also has worked for the past 19 years with a national parachurch organization.

Posts By This Author

Opting Out of the Black-White Binary

by Kathy Khang 04-25-2018
A Korean American on filling in the gaps of our collective history.
Ongala / Shutterstock

Ongala / Shutterstock

THE CIVIL RIGHTS movement. #BlackLivesMatter. Racial reconciliation. It would be easy for me to imagine the words of Eliza in the musical “Hamilton” and sing, “I’m erasing myself from the narrative.”

At first glance, those statements, movements, and conversations might be mistakenly boiled down to division and brokenness between two Americas—one black, one white.

But I’m neither. I’m “yellow.”

I didn’t choose to erase myself in history, but it’s what I learned. Asian Americans weren’t erased from American history as much as we just didn’t exist in the Plymouth Rock story of East Coast immigration, with its emphasis on Europe’s poor and hungry “huddled masses.” We learned that “assimilation” was as much about becoming “white” as it was about becoming “American.” We learned that the civil rights movement was a fight for equal rights for black Americans, with little connection to “others” like myself. There was no category for someone who looked like me unless it was Oriental, chink, or gook—racial slurs I first heard as a child on suburban playgrounds (and still hear as an adult), slurs tied to a history and wars I knew very little about. In America, race is a social construct divided most simply between black and white.

I also learned that the best I could hope for was to become a model minority, an “honorary white” who would never be considered a “real” American.

So I just didn’t become one. In an act of rebellion, I chose not to become a naturalized U.S. citizen until a few years ago. In the process I learned what it means to opt into a binary conversation with a different, clear, defined perspective. I needed to learn who I was, created as a Korean-American woman carrying God’s image. I needed to learn that Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Esther weren’t blue-eyed or blonde.

Keeping the Faith in Trump's America

Six accounts of resistance and healing in the era of Trump.
Jmaggiophoto / Shutterstock.com

Jmaggiophoto / Shutterstock.com

"In the wake of this election, the role of faith communities is imperative," writes Jim Wallis in "Resistance and Healing." With this in mind, we asked a few Christian leaders how followers of Jesus can best practice resistance and healing in Trump's America. Though varied, the responses we received have a common theme: Christians must stand in solidarity with the vulnerable. Now and always. —The Editors

Resistance is Holy Work

by Brittany Packnett

RESISTANCE IS HOLY WORK. Resistance is what it means to tell the truth and defend people in public, even—and especially—when it is inconvenient, dangerous, and uncomfortable.

What truths must we tell? We must tell the truth that the entire world is not white, straight, Christian, cis-gendered, American-born, male, or able-bodied, and that those of us who aren’t matter just as much as those of us who are. We must tell the truth that rhetoric and policies that encourage violence against those same people is not of God and not of the freedom we espouse. We must tell the truth that if all of us were truly created equal, then the cancer of xenophobia makes all of us sick—and that none of us are truly free until we are all free.

We did not lose an election as much as we validated and normalized a way of life that is beneath our humanity—and, therefore, which requires our resistance. The Christ I serve did not sit idly by in times like these—for in eras like this one, inaction is a sin. Inaction perpetuates this latest wave of hate just as much as if you painted a swastika yourself. Hate should never be welcome in our homes, at our tables, in our worship, or in our country.

It is holy to resist such things. Holy resistance means calling out that hate by name and casting it out of where you are—of where you want God to be. Casting it out means no longer making excuses that your grandfather just talks like that because he is elderly; it means withholding your tithes and membership from those places that will not be safe havens and sanctuaries for those persecuted under potential new rules of law; it means challenging the notion that we stitch together a false unity rather than acknowledge the explicit danger many of us are now placed in.

Holy resistance means praying for those who persecute—but protecting the persecuted. Christians must be people of moral conscience, those who conscientiously object to hatred, division, racism, and sexism as unashamedly as we claim Christ. The call to be in the world and not of it was for such a time as this—we must be the light that shines on injustice and calls out our humanity to replace the evil we see.

Resistance is holy work. That makes it our work.

More than a New Group of Friends

by Kathy Khang 04-25-2018
Your new black, white, Asian, Latino, or Native friend doesn’t give you a pass.

THERE IS THIS unsightly patch of spider veins behind my right knee. It started out years ago after my body had carried to term the weight of three pregnancies and endured the recovery associated with childbirth. A little spider vein turned into a few, which turned into a patch that eventually went from simply visually unappealing into painful and bulging.

I had hoped an injection would take care of both the pain and the patch of blues and greens. However, after closer examination via ultrasound, I learned that a larger vein, which to my untrained eye had nothing to do with that painful patch, was actually the key to treatment. We couldn’t start on the surface. We had to dive deeper.

Now there’s an analogy.

It hasn’t been enough for the church in the United States to talk about racism and sexism. Building relationships across racial divides is good, but it isn’t enough. Your new black, white, Asian, Latino, or Native friend doesn’t give you a pass. Sure, it’s a great photo op or church story, but deep down inside it will take more than everyone making a new group of friends.

It hasn’t been enough to talk about unity without addressing the cost of uniformity. It hasn’t been enough to research the most segregated hour of the week and then quote Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The unsightly and painful patch of damaged veins goes much deeper and requires far more than a single injection. The brokenness of the church requires surgery—amputation, transplant, transfusion, or a combination of all of the above. The healing of the church requires a Jesus that is not dressed in Sunday best because there never was such a thing.

Distress Signal

by Kathy Khang 04-25-2018
If your world doesn’t feel like it is turning upside-down, maybe you aren’t watching carefully enough.

The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
—U.S. Flag Code

IT SEEMS RATHER odd that a normal part of my catching-up-at-the-end-of-the-day conversation with my partner is discussing the whiplash of political events. Leaks are not conversations about the sink. Notes are not to be turned into the teacher. Tapes are not our latest vintage find. They are all political subjects and part of the ever-evolving new normal. And just as spring was forcing its way into bloom, it was announced that Officer Betty Shelby of the Tulsa (Okla.) Police Dept. was found not guilty of first- degree manslaughter in the shooting death of unarmed Terence Crutcher.

Easter People in a Good Friday World

by Kathy Khang 03-23-2018
He is risen, but has anything changed?
FOR ME, THE lasting image from Parkland was that of two women hugging, one still bearing the mark of the cross on her forehead. It was Ash Wednesday, the day the church prepares herself to understand and live into the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, entering Lent through prayer, repentance, and the practice of other spiritual disciplines such as fasting or abstaining. The photo captured a sense of urgency, fear, relief, grief, and deep love. I cannot get that image out of my head.
 
We’re now in the season of Easter, when Christians have broken their fasts—alcohol, chocolate, the internet, meat—and are done greeting one another with a call and response of “He is risen!” and “He is risen, indeed!” The woman whose picture I cannot forget—her ashes will have long been wiped away, but what of her fear and grief and possibly anger? What did she choose to give up for Lent and was that promise to abstain replaced with something else in the wake of the violence?
 
The 17 victims will have long been memorialized, but what will have been done for the survivors’ guilt and trauma? Will we have tried to guess at how long is long enough to wait before starting conversations about gun control, mental health, and policy changes? How will our country change, if at all? And what is God’s invitation to us? Is God asking us to a longer season of repentance? Action? Both?
 
Right now, I feel in my body and in my prayers the dissonance and difficulty of claiming to be Easter Sunday people living in a Good Friday world, because I am not sure anything will change. I am not sure that any legislators, national or local, will propose and pass any legislation, any changes that will protect children from someone (most likely a young white man) plowing through the school with an assault rifle.

The Irony of 'Craftivism'

by Kathy Khang 01-23-2018
Throughout history, embroidery and sewing have been women's work, girls' work, the work of the poor.

MY MEDIUM OF choice is usually words. My activism often takes the shape of a column, sermon, or talk, a march or protest, lobbying representatives, attending meetings “to be a voice,” and voting. But recently, I took on activism with a needle and went back to a hobby of mine to bring my words to life: cross-stitching.

Through the miracle of social media, I was connected to Alicia Watkins—who offers back-stitched pithy sayings, and images of microbes, through her Etsy shop, including a pattern to stitch “Nevertheless, she persisted” on a tiny piece of fabric. Tiny stitches formed the letters and communicated what many women across the globe do, through a type of art form that is often disparaged as “women’s work.” Watkins and I are not alone. Shannon Downey of Chicago calls the activity “craftivism,” and through it she raised more than $5,000 in November 2016 to combat gun violence.

The irony is not lost on me. It’s actually what I love about needlework. Textile art, embroidery, sewing, darning—across time and space they have been women’s work, girls’ work, the work of the poor. Nowadays we can sell the work online and get paid through PayPal, never actually connecting in real life, not even through a middle-person. But I was taught to sew because clothes and socks were not as disposable as they are now, 40 years later.

Dear White Santa

by Kathy Khang 11-30-2017
I would like a white people intervention.

NOW THAT WE can say “Merry Christmas” again (Did we forget to thank you for this? Thanks. No, really. Thanks a lot.), I wanted to cut to the chase with my wish list this year. It’s short.

I would like a white people intervention. Please get as many white Christians—progressive and evangelical—in the same room for a cleansing flood of white tears, some deep breathing and healing prayer, and time to plan to dismantle white supremacy. As just one of several million Asian Americans, I can only do so much to keep educating white people about the system their ancestors—who did or did not enslave people or benefit from slavery (by the way, all Americans who aren’t African American benefitted from the evil of slavery)—created and continued to adapt and adopt.

When We Expect Too Little of the Church

by Kathy Khang 09-18-2017
How to get beyond 'faux hope.'
kleuske / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

kleuske / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

SOME PEOPLE SEEM to relish being described as “prophetic voices.” I’ve never enjoyed being called that. Old Testament prophets seem rather lonely and cranky, and, despite some of the things I write, I am not cranky after I have my coffee.

I wanted to write this column with more levity, more joy, and more hope. My first upbeat draft didn’t feel quite right, a bit forced, but I submitted it—trying to honor the deadline and ignoring my gut that was telling me the words didn’t match my heart.

Hours later, white supremacists marched at the University of Virginia carrying Tiki torches and shouting Nazi slogans.

3 Steps to Repairing Community

by Kathy Khang 05-15-2017

Image via Wes Dickinson/Flickr

Repairing isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s rarely as straightforward as we hope for. And sometimes it’s downright costly, or worse, impossible. If the church wants to be a part of repairing entire communities, we need to be willing to do at least three things: Gather the experts, put in the time, and give and live sacrificially.

The Woman Who Spoke When Jesus Was Silent

by Kathy Khang 03-31-2016

Christ Healing a Bleeding Woman. Public domain image

Sometimes there are no advocates, no allies, no other choices but to be the one to take a risk with no guarantee or promise of success, of justice, of healing.

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