White boys will be boys: Kavanaugh, #MeToo and race

White boys will be boys: Kavanaugh, #MeToo and race

The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, speaks at Greater Grace Church in Florissant, Mo., on Aug. 17, 2014, during a rally for justice for Michael Brown, an unarmed teen shot by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer. Photo by Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Brett Kavanaugh crisis has been a crucible for questions about sexual behavior and women’s equality. But Thursday’s drama on Capitol Hill, and evangelical Christians’ responses to it, also reveal much about the racial problem at the heart of white conservative Christian America.

A number of white evangelical pastors publicly insist that the rape allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and other recent victims are simply “irrelevant” because Kavanaugh was a 17-year-old boy, too young to be held responsible for such actions if they occurred at all.

Franklin Graham, who has said he believes Kavanaugh’s denials of sexual assault, also dismissed the claims against him as political maneuvering.

“It’s just a shame that a person like Judge Kavanaugh, who has a stellar record, that somebody can bring something up that he did when he was a teenager close to 40 years ago. That’s not relevant,” Graham told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Boys will be boys, as the saying goes.

Many white conservative voices have asked that we give Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt. By not extending this same courtesy to his multiple accusers, these pastors make clear that they don’t consider combating gender violence a priority in this country or in the churches they lead. Although Ford has testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this nation has a long way to go in believing women’s voices concerning sexual violence.

Yet Kavanaugh’s case is not just about the inequalities associated with gender and how women are made responsible for violence committed against them. This issue also reveals the fault lines between white conservative Christians and black communities.

White conservative Christian preachers such as Franklin Graham might pause to wrestle with the uneven racial histories that portray young black boys (and girls) as responsible for a myriad of social problems, even when they are innocent.

In this country, in short, black boys can never simply be “boys.”

Consider 14-year-old Emmett Till, lynched by a vicious white mob over allegations involving sexual assault of a white woman in 1955 in Mississippi. Worse, it took decades for white political leaders to decry his lynching.

There are still Emmett Tills today, who are murdered without due process.

Consider Mike Brown, an unarmed black teen who was fatally shot in the middle of the street for looking (and supposedly behaving) like a “monster” (the words of Officer Darren Wilson).

Consider the life of Botham Jean, gunned down in his own home by Officer Amber Guyer only to be met with rationales that he resisted the commands of an off-duty officer who broke into his house. Even more horrific, his house was searched after the shooting and new rationales for his death emerged, including the argument that he had marijuana in his home and was therefore a threat, inviting his own demise.

Consider Dayonn Davis, a Georgia teen who was tried as an adult for stealing a $100 pair of shoes and received a five-year prison sentence.

Being a child in America is unequivocally tied to race. Being a black child in America is perilously unsafe. These uneven histories demonstrate that white boys can be treated as children, while black boys are tried as menacing adults.

White conservative political leaders appear to be equally appalled that they have been “forced” to hold hearings on whether the allegations against Kavanaugh are true. During Lindsey Graham’s meltdown during Thursday’s hearing, the senator stated that “immaturity does not equal criminality.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., points at Democrats as he defends Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2018. (Tom Williams/Pool Image via AP)

This is a privilege that is not accorded so many black boys and men. What excuses Kavanaugh from being called to account, to determine if indeed his alleged actions caused trauma in the life of a 15-year-old girl? Kavanaugh desires to be chosen for one of the highest positions in our nation. Why shouldn’t a fair and proper investigation be conducted in light of these serious allegations?

The answer is plain: Conservative voices want to give Kavanaugh a pass because he is a white man who will represent their interests.

The kind of sexist and racist logic that pastors such as Franklin Graham espouse is reckless and demonstrates that the racial gap in our country is sadly denied. We cannot heal. We must call out the demons of white privilege that allow white men to be considered innocent from the very start while ethnic groups such as blacks in this country go on trial even after their own blood has unjustly been spilled.

Most importantly, this entire hearing is a symptom of a much deeper problem in our country, in which entire groups of vulnerable and marginalized people stand to be stripped of fundamental rights and liberties.

We should be concerned about what Kavanugh represents: a doubling down of white evangelical Christian America in the face of growing ethnic, gender and religious diversity. With Kavanaugh’s appointment, women stand to be denied access to reproductive justice. Immigrants will continue to feel the weight of white populist anger and state violence. Policies to roll back important health policies will affect the poor. Disadvantaged black communities will experience an ever-growing system of mass incarceration and militarized policing.

As I watched Kavanaugh cry during the hearing, I wondered why his tears were privileged over those of countless vulnerable groups who have been adversely affected under the Trump administration and will continue to be affected by Kavanaugh’s appointment.

Race matters. And an acknowledgment that race matters in Kavanaugh’s case is both an intellectual and spiritual admission that things must change.

(Keri Day is an associate professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religion at Princeton Theological Seminary. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

30 Years of Christians in Hip-Hop

30 Years of Christians in Hip-Hop

What up, y’all… can you believe it? Thirty years of Christian men and women rockin’ mics and reppin’ the name of Christ.



I keep having to say that to myself and to others, not only to remind myself that this particular segment of what we call the Christian music industry has come a long way, but also to inform other people that it didn’t start with Lecrae. Seriously, few of the mainstream music journalistic outlets that cover Lecrae and/or the Reach Records / 116 Clique movement ever take the time to dig into the scene. It may be new to certain people, or certain places, or it may have made new gains that haven’t been made before, but Christian rap is not a new thing. I know this because I’ve been listening to Christian rap since I was ten, and I’m about to turn 40.

So this is a collection of 30 rap songs by Christian artists that I consider to be significant or meaningful. They’re all good, in their own way… some of them I still bump on a regular basis. Some of them may sound a little dated now, but back when they came out, they were bangin’ (or, def, the bomb, or the hotness, whatever slang was big at the time).

Note that I’m not claiming that these are the best Christian rap songs from the last 30 years, because that’s an argument that can’t be proved. I’m just going with the songs that I feel are or were notable, special, or interesting. To hedge my bets a little, I’m also including a bunch of “honorable mention” titles, which are songs that are just as good and worthy of exposure, but which I just couldn’t write about since I’m only doing one song per year.

Also, I’ve included YouTube links for ease of playing, but when possible, I’ve also included links to purchase the music. If you really want to support Christian hip-hop, support the artists who’ve helped lay the groundwork for the plethora of great hip-hop we have to listen to today.

So without any further ado, take a ride with me into the wayback machine as we celebrate 30 years of Christians in hip-hop…

30 years of Christians in hip-hop


Are today’s white kids less racist than their grandparents?

Are today’s white kids less racist than their grandparents?

Video Courtesy of CNN

In America’s children, we often see hope for a better future, especially when it comes to reducing racism.

Each new generation of white people, the thinking goes, will naturally and inevitably be more open-minded and tolerant than previous ones.

But do we have any reason to believe this? Should we have faith that today’s white kids will help make our society less racist and more equitable?

Previous research has had mixed findings. So in order to explore more fully what white kids think about race, I went straight to the source: white children themselves.

In my new book, “White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America,” I explore how 36 white, affluent kids think and talk about race, racism, privilege and inequality in their everyday lives.

The limitations of survey data

Before beginning my research, I looked at what previous studies on the racial attitudes of young white people had found.

According to some researchers, we do have reason to be hopeful.

Using survey data, they found that young white people are expressing less prejudice than generations before them. For instance, white support for segregated schools – a traditional measure of racial prejudice – has dramatically decreased over a 50-year period. And surveys show that younger whites are less likely to express racial stereotypes than older whites.

But a second group of researchers disagreed. They found that whites today simply articulate racial prejudice in new ways.

For example, according to national survey data, high school seniors are increasingly expressing a form of prejudice that sociologist Tyrone Forman calls “racial apathy” – an “indifference toward societal, racial, and ethnic inequality and lack of engagement with race-related social issues.”

Racial apathy is a more passive form of prejudice than explicit articulations of bigotry and racial hostility. But such apathy can nonetheless lead white people to support policies and practices that align with the same racist logic of the past, like a lack of support for social programs and policies designed to address institutional racism or an indifference toward the suffering of people of color.

Other researchers question the ability of surveys to capture honest responses from whites about race-related questions or to describe the complexity of whites’ perspectives on race.

As useful as surveys can be, they don’t allow us to fully understand how white people explain, justify or develop their views on race.

What the kids are saying

In order to better understand how white children think about race, I interviewed and observed 30 affluent, white families with kids between the ages of 10 and 13 living in a Midwestern metropolitan area. Over the course of two years, I immersed myself in the everyday lives of these families, observing them in public and in the home, and interviewing the parents and the kids. A few years later, when the kids were in high school, I re-interviewed a subset of the original group.

These children had some shared understandings of race, like the idea that “race is the color of your skin.” But when I brought up topics like racism, privilege and inequality, their responses started to diverge, and there was more variation than I anticipated.

Some kids told me that “racism is not a problem anymore.” But others told me in great detail about the racial wealth gap, employment discrimination, unequal schooling, and racist treatment of black kids by police.

As an 11-year-old named Chris explained:

“I think that the white kids, since they have more power in general in society … disciplinary actions aren’t brought down as hard upon them. But when it’s, you know, a black kid getting in trouble with the police … I think people are going to be tougher with them, because, you know, [black kids] can’t really fight back as well.”

Although some of the kids had much greater understandings of the history of racism in America, others flattened time and lumped all of African-American history together, while also mixing up names and dates.

One 11-year-old named Natalie told me:

“Racism was a problem when all those slaves were around and that, like, bus thing and the water fountain. I mean, everything was crazy back in the olden days. … But now, I mean, since Martin Luther King and, like, Eleanor Roosevelt, and how she went on the bus. And she was African-American and sat on the white part. … After the 1920s and all that, things changed.”

When it came to the understandings of privilege and inequality, some kids made comments like, “There’s no such thing [as privilege]. Everyone gets what they deserve in life, if they work for it.”

Other kids disagreed, like 11-year-old Aaron:

“I think [whites] just kind of have the upside. … And since much of society is run by white people anyway, which is an upside, more white people are, you know, accepted into jobs, so they get the upside. So, yeah, I do think they have the upside.”

I also found that many of the children expressed forms of racial apathy. When a black teenager was shot and killed by a police officer in the community, 16-year-old Jessica told me that she “did not care” about black people being killed because they “obviously did something to deserve it.”

But some kids, like 16-year-old Charlotte, had a very different reaction:

“It should all be stopped. There is actually a problem and a system that allowed this to happen. … Technically, legally, what that officer did was ‘okay’? It’s like, well, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe killing black people shouldn’t be legally ‘okay,’ you know?”

The importance of a child’s social world

Why such stark differences among these kids?

It wasn’t simply a matter of these kids repeating the views of their parents.

I found that their perspectives were shaped less by what their parents explicitly said about race and more by the social environments these kids grew up in – and how their parents constructed these environments.

Decisions parents made about where to live, where to send their kids to school, which extracurricular activities to enroll them in, where they traveled and what media they consumed work to create what I refer to as a child’s “racial context of childhood.”

Within this racial context, kids developed ideas about race by observing and interpreting what was going on around them. And because of important variations in these social environments, the children made sense of race in different ways.

In this sense, my work builds on existing scholarship on how children develop understandings about race and racism in the context of family, place, early school experiences,elementary and secondary schools, child care and even summer camp.

All of these aspects of a child’s social environment play a role in shaping how they learn about race.

Are white kids less racist than their grandparents? My research with kids doesn’t give us any reason to believe that each new generation of white people will naturally or inevitably hold more open-minded and tolerant viewpoints on race than previous generations.

Dismantling racism in the United States will require more than just passive hope.The Conversation

Margaret Hagerman, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Mississippi State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Why black women’s experiences of #MeToo are unique

Why black women’s experiences of #MeToo are unique

Video Courtesy of NBC News

In April, a 25-year-old black woman named Chikesia Clemons was violently arrested by police at a Waffle House restaurant in Alabama.

A video of the arrest that went viral shows police pulling Clemons from her chair and throwing her to the floor. In the process, her breasts are exposed and her dress rides up in the back. When she attempts to cover her breasts, the two officers on top of her threaten to break her arm for “resisting.”

Clemons’ experience is not uncommon. In the U.S., black women are not afforded the same regard for bodily privacy as white women.

Another example: In an investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department, the Department of Justice found that the Baltimore Police Department frequently engaged in unjustified strip searches of African-Americans. In one instance, Baltimore police conducted a strip search of a black woman, including an anal cavity search, on a sidewalk in broad daylight and in full public view. The woman’s pleas to not be forced to disrobe in public were ignored. Her offense? A broken headlight.

While the #MeToo movement has been successful in bringing down several high-profile assailants, critics continue to argue that it has been monopolized by middle- and upper-class white women, particularly white Hollywood actresses. This, despite the fact that a black woman, Tarana Burke, created the Me Too campaign more than a decade ago. These criticisms reflect the fact that black women have experienced sexual violence differently than white women.

As a philosopher of race and gender who has written about sexual harassment, I offer historical context on the ways that black women experience sexual abuse, often by the authority of the state, as a way to think about black women’s contemporary experiences as the kinds of experiences that #MeToo should address.

In this Dec. 8, 2017, file photo, Anita Hill and Fatima Goss Graves join a discussion about sexual harassment in Beverly Hills, Calif. The sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh recall Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas in 1991, but there are important differences as well as cautions for senators considering how to deal with the allegations. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

History of black women’s bodies on display

As early as the 17th century, European men wrote travel narratives about their trips to West Africa to capture, enslave and trade African people. Their writings offer a window into how they perceived African women and what they thought primarily European male readers would find titillating.

In particular, their descriptions of West African women’s style of dance played a role in shaping European perceptions of black women’s sexual immorality and availability.

These travel accounts were the popular media of their day and offered some of the first reports of continental Africa to average Europeans. For example, Frenchman Jean Barbot wrote of African men and women “knocking bellies together very indecently” while “uttering some dirty mysterious words.” Meanwhile, naval officer Abraham Duqesne characterized African women as desiring the “caresses of white men.”

Because African women differed from European women both in attire and bodily movement, European travel writers regarded African women as sexually available and immoral. European settlers carried these attitudes to the United States where enslaved black women were subjected to violent sexual abuse and forced nudity as routine social practice, in ways that would have been unthinkable toward white women.

Sexual violence and the father of gynecology

A statue of J. Marion Sims. ‘The Father of Modern Gynecology’ stands on the Capitol grounds in Montgomery, Ala., Jan. 25, 2006. AP Photo/Rob Carr

By the 19th century, treating black and white women differently was firmly entrenched in society. Nowhere was this more evident than in the practice of J. Marion Sims, the physician widely regarded by gynecologists as the “father of modern gynecology.” The convention of the period was for physicians to conduct gynecological examinations of white women with averted gazes while the patients remained as clothed as possible.

However, Sims also conducted medical experiments on enslaved black women that ultimately resulted in a technique to repair vesicovaginal fistula, an opening that can develop between the vaginal wall and the bladder or large intestine, sometimes as a result of childbirth. The enslaved black women were stripped completely naked and examined on all fours, as Sims and other physicians took turns using a specially created speculum that enabled full viewing of the vagina. Private citizens were also allowed to watch these experiments and they, too, were invited to witness the full exposure of enslaved women’s vaginas.

Sims conducted his experiments without anesthesia, despite the fact that ether was known and in use by the time he performed later surgeries. Black women were denied anesthesia on the grounds that black people did not feel pain in the same ways that white people felt pain, a perception that still exists today. For example, one study found that when people viewed images of blacks receiving painful stimuli, like needle pricks, they responded with less empathy than when they viewed similar images of white people in pain.

Sexual violence in a court of law

In New York in 1925, another historical example shows how black women’s exposed bodies have been treated with indifference. Kip Rhinelander, a member of New York’s high society, was set to wed Alice Beatrice Jones, a working-class biracial woman. Their union drew national attention.

Although New York did not legally prohibit interracial marriage as other states did at that time, society strongly disapproved of interracial marriage.

Once their marriage was made public, Kip filed for divorce on the grounds of fraud. The salient question in the divorce hearing was whether Kip knew that Alice was black at the time of their marriage.

In order to answer that question, Alice’s attorney suggested that Alice bare her breasts in front of the all-white male jury, judge and attorneys in order to prove her racial identity. By viewing the shading of her areolas and legs, he said, the jurors could assess whether Kip – who had admitted to premarital sex with her – should have known her racial identity.

The judge directed Alice to follow through. Neither Alice Rhinelander’s tears nor her connection to a prominent white family could save her from the indignity of forced nudity in front of strangers. Ultimately, the jury decided that Alice was, in fact, “of colored blood” and that she did not conceal or misrepresent her racial identity.

The past is present

The hostility to black women’s bodily privacy and dignity in these examples isn’t accidental. Rather, it is part of the history of how black women have been cast in U.S. society.

In the Sims and Rhinelander examples, the legal status of enslavement and weight of the court validated the coercive display of black women’s bodies. The Department of Justice found that the Baltimore police used the weight of their badges to force compliance with public strip searches. Likewise, in the Waffle House example, although Clemons’ initial exposure may not have been intentional, the police responded to her cries and her attempts to cover herself by using their authority to threaten her with further harm.

This is a unique form of sexual violence experienced by black women. The convergence of race and gender in black women’s lives has created the social conditions in which black women are coerced and often expected, under threat of punishment by the government, to suffer the exposure of intimate body parts.

Race and gender converge in black women’s lives and have created the social conditions under which black women are coerced and expected to suffer the exposure of intimate body parts, or else face punishment. If movements like #MeToo are serious about combating sexual violence, then they have to also understand these practices as sexual violence.The Conversation

Yolonda Wilson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Howard University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. .

Battle lines form over social justice: Is it gospel or heresy?

Battle lines form over social justice: Is it gospel or heresy?

Clergy and faith leaders march to counter protest the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. RNS photo by Jordy Yager

An old question has recently found new energy among Christians.

“What does the gospel have to do with justice, particularly social justice?”

Justice has been a frequent topic these days — in the face of a stream of cellphone videos capturing instances of police brutality, conflict over the presence and future of Confederate monuments and racially charged responses to the nation’s changing demographics.

Christians, both as people of faith and citizens of this country, have pondered what to do in this current social climate. They have called for Christians to join or start movements for change as an explicit expression of discipleship and obedience to the prayer that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

And they have called for the church to make amends for the racial divisions of the past and present.

Others take a different view.

Where some see calls for biblical justice, they see heresy.

This week a group of Christians published “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel,” a response to what they call “questionable sociological, psychological, and political theories presently permeating our culture and making inroads into Christ’s church.”

The statement comes just after a short blog series posted by well-known Christian preacher and teacher John MacArthur, warning of the dangers of social justice.

MacArthur calls social justice a distraction from the gospel.

“Evangelicalism’s newfound obsession with the notion of ‘social justice’ is a significant shift — and I’m convinced it’s a shift that is moving many people (including some key evangelical leaders) off message, and onto a trajectory that many other movements and denominations have taken before, always with spiritually disastrous results,” he wrote.

MacArthur is one of the initial signatories of The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, which echoes his blog posts.

While Christians from many traditions, races and ethnicities have displayed a concern for social justice, it is a topic that particularly concerns black and brown folks. We have endured a long history of race-based discrimination that did not simply disappear after the March on Washington, the passage of the Civil Rights Act or the election of the nation’s first black president.

The Rev. Pamela Lightsey, center, leads advocates from the Black Lives Matter movement as they disrupt proceedings of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. The demonstrators marched into the plenary session chanting slogans and gathered around the central Communion table. Photo by Maile Bradfield, courtesy of UMNS

Statements that dismiss social justice send a message that the ongoing marginalization many minorities still experience and struggle against is of no concern to their fellow Christians.

Or to God.

Or to the Bible — despite ample scriptural evidence that demonstrates God’s concern for the poor and the powerless and anger toward those who create oppressive conditions (Amos 5:24, Micah 6:8, Psalm 103:6, Isaiah 10:1, Luke 1:52-53, Luke 4:18).

Although much about this statement needs discussion, I will highlight one section in particular.

It reads: “We affirm that some cultures operate on assumptions that are inherently better than those of other cultures because of the biblical truths that inform those worldviews that have produced these distinct assumptions.”

The best word to describe the assertion above is “ethnocentric.”

Who gets to decide which cultures and which assumptions are closer to biblical truth? For most of American history, white Christians have claimed that privilege. That privilege is now being challenged.

I’m tempted to refute the recent statement on the gospel and social justice point-by-point — showing how it falls short of the Bible’s call for justice. But I think our time would be better spent on other pursuits. There’s too much work to be done — work that will be delayed by endless debates.

Here’s my advice.

Many of the people who authored and signed this statement have large ministries and platforms.

Avoid them.

Find other authors, preachers and teachers from whom you can learn. People like Austin Channing Brown or the podcasters and bloggers at Truth’s Table or The Witness, where I am a contributor. Or read Howard Thurman, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Bryan Stevenson, James Baldwin or the other writers who have explored issues of justice.

If the supporters of statements that dismiss social justice as a distraction from the gospel headline a major conference, state your concerns to the organizers. If nothing changes, then don’t go.

If they do an interview on a podcast, find another episode to listen to. If they write more blogs to state their case, share other ones instead.

Statements like these are a distraction. They siphon off energy and attention that could be used to create new organizations and initiatives that help bring about justice and equality.

Instead of writing a rebuttal to the statement on social justice, why not write a proposal for a new scholarship to help underrepresented groups go to college and stay out of debt? Why not donate money to support ministries run by and geared toward racial and ethnic minorities? Why not research a cause and find out how you can get involved?

Refusing to give more attention to the people who oppose social justice is not a statement on their standing with God. This does not mean they are not sincerely attempting to follow Christ. It does not mean that they have not said helpful things on other topics in the past.

It simply means that in this case, they have made statements so troublesome that we must register our objections in visible ways.

Christians should never give up hope that people can change. Yet going back and forth, especially online, about social justice with those who see it as a dangerous intrusion into the church often does not alter anyone’s opinions and may lead to more frustration.

In the end, I think more people will be persuaded to change their minds about social justice by looking at the fruit of the people who engage in it rather than by arguing on social media about the validity of doing so.

Half a century after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, it’s easy for people to claim that they would have been among the protesters and marchers and those who risked it all for the cause of justice. Well, the struggle for civil rights never ended. Now is your chance to get involved for love of God and love of neighbor.

(Jemar Tisby is president of the black Christian collective The Witness and author of the forthcoming book “The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism.” The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

Are You Afraid to Raise Your Voice?

Are You Afraid to Raise Your Voice?

For some people speaking up when they know they’re right, or when they see an injustice, is just part of who they are. They feel compelled to take action. Not me. I spent a big part of my younger years screaming inside about things that frustrated me at work, church, and even in my personal life, but the outrage never escaped the audience in my head. In real-time, I was just sitting there…silent…paralyzed with fear over whether I would be hurt professionally or personally if I faced the conflict head-on and said something out loud. I was well into my thirties before I realized how liberating it can be to use your voice while fighting for a cause bigger than yourself.


Raise Your Voice by Kathy Khang.

That’s why Kathy Khang’s latest book, Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up, resonates with me. Khang offers practical advice and forward-thinking leadership from a Christian perspective on how to find your own personal voice for the good of the community and sharing God’s Word — particularly when race, ethnicity, and gender are at play. But even for her, it took time to get to the place where she is now.

“As a Korean American woman, I really wrestled with whether or not it was appropriate to raise my voice, whether I had anything worth saying,” Khang says. “Maybe if I had something worth saying, would anyone listen? Would anyone care?”

Khang, a columnist for Sojourners magazine and a writer for Duke University’s Faith & Leadership, the online magazine of leadership education at Duke Divinity, talked with Urban Faith about her new book, the politics of race and evangelism, being a woman of color with something to say, and why many people don’t speak up.

You mentioned that finding your voice has been part of a 10-year process. Can you tell me more about what you were struggling with and how your faith helped you push through it to complete the book?

 This wasn’t, you know, a 10-year process in my twenties. This is my late thirties, early forties, where I’ve already been a professional journalist. There aren’t a ton of examples of Korean-American, Asian-American women, women of color in safe circles writing books. There are more now, but definitely not when I was in my formative years. And those were not the authors I read to shape my faith, to shape my Christian worldview. Those books were all written by white men, by and large, and a lot of white women. And so, I just had to really work through why is it that I feel like I have nothing worth saying when clearly there are tons of people who have no problem figuring out that they have something to say. Having to walk through that with myself and with God. Spending time listening to God with the help of a spiritual director and some great Christian mentors, and supervisors who were encouraging me and saying, “You know, you do have something to say.”

If you could go back in time and talk to the 24-year-old you, what would you tell her about race?

I would say to her, “Keep doing what you are doing and learning vocationally.” So in my twenties, I was a newspaper reporter and I’d say ‘Don’t be afraid of talking with your editors and fighting for the story or fighting for the wording because it matters.’ I think there were a lot of times where I thought, ‘Well, this isn’t the fight I wanna fight.’ And there’s wisdom to that. But I think that there were other times where I was just so worried I would get fired. I would also tell that 20-something self that it’s important to care for yourself in order to care for your community. I learned that later — the idea of being a self-sacrificing Godly woman is communicated in various ways in different cultures and in different churches. I certainly felt it. I wish I had heard that more consistently in my twenties to encourage me, you know?

What is it that is holding people back from speaking up and being who God called them to be?

Fear. And some of that fear is rooted in a fear of a failure. For me, I’m a bit of a recovering perfectionist. I would encourage people to not only think about the cost of speaking up and raising your voice, but also the cost of continually remaining silent. What does that do? What does that say about what you say you believe in? What does that do to your soul and who God is encouraging you to become?

You’ve been outspoken about racism in the church, especially on social media. How we can come together when we see the world so differently?

You raise your voice mindful of the backlash. I don’t wanna be overly dramatic, but I also don’t want to ignore the fact that I know many, many people of color, myself included, and particularly women of color, who speak out against racism in the church and we get the most horrifying and disgusting responses. You get an email. You get a direct message. You get a tweet back at you. I will be very honest, I’m not sure on this side of heaven we will see a time where that gap is fully bridged. However, I think it is very important that the work is not left up to people of color to raise their voices. We need teachers, preachers, authors, artists to continue to speak into those spaces, to call that out and to present the various alternatives. What would this world look like? What would the church look like if we were able to bridge that divide? What will the world and the church look like if we do not? Because it can’t be left to people of color. We need our white allies and we need them not to be afraid of making mistakes and offending and screwing up.