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.
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.
Sometimes Alfred Wilson still has to take a moment to collect himself after he pulls open files at the law firm where he works and sees Heather Heyer’s handwriting.
“I get choked up and have to gather myself before I talk to the client,” said Wilson, who hired Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal killed nearly a year ago in a car attack during a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The rally that left Heyer dead and dozens more injured proved to be a watershed moment, both for the racist, fringe “alt-right” movement, and for the city itself. In the year since, many residents like Wilson say the wounds haven’t healed. Others say the violence has laid bare divisions over deeper issues of race and economic inequality and what should be done to move forward.
“One of my hugest gripes with last year with the people of this town was that people, mostly white folks, kept saying, ‘This isn’t Charlottesville,'” said Brenda Brown-Grooms, a local pastor and activist. “I wonder what planet they live on. This is exactly who we are.”
A Charlottesville native, born in the segregated basement of the University of Virginia hospital, Brown-Grooms said white supremacy was present in Charlottesville long before the rally and is the “elephant in the room” the city now must deal with.
Activists have pushed leadersto address the city’s legacies of racism and slavery, its affordable housing crunch and the police department’s relationship with the black community, among other issues, since the Aug. 12 rally.
The event was one of the largest gatherings of white nationalists and far-right extremists in a decade. Many participants dressed as if they were headed to battle, shouted racist slurs and clashed violently with counterprotesters. Meanwhile, authorities largely stood by on the fringes of the action near a downtown park with a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that the city wanted to remove.
The crowd was eventually forced to disperse but a car that authorities say was driven by a man fascinated with Adolf Hitler later plowed into a crowd of peaceful counterprotesters. The day’s death toll rose to three when a state police helicopter that had been monitoring the event and assisting with the governor’s motorcade crashed, killing two troopers.
In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, State Police keep a handful of Confederate protesters separated from counter-demonstrators in front of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. Pressure to take down America’s monuments honoring slain Confederate soldiers and the generals who led them didn’t start with Charlottesville. But the deadly violence that rocked the Virginia college town a year ago gave the issue an explosive momentum. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
Responding in part to calls for a closer look at stop-and-frisk policies that disproportionately affect black residents, the city established a new Police Civilian Review Board. The city also has approved funds for affordable housing and workforce development.
Meanwhile, there’s been a churn in leadership. The city attorney took a new job, the city manager’s contract was not renewed, a spokeswoman quit and the police chief, 50 at the time, retired after less than two years on the job.
The five-person city council has two new faces, and the group picked a different mayor, Nikuyah Walker, a black woman who ran as an independent in the staunchly Democratic town and was previously one of the council’s strongest critics.
Walker has clashed publicly with other council members on multiple issues, such as hiring an interim city manager. She recently took to social media to criticize the candidate, the way he was selected and her fellow councilors’ behavior.
The council’s drama doesn’t seem to affect most residents, who “just go on with our lives and watch with quiet amusement,” said Charles “Buddy” Weber, an attorney and longtime resident involved in a lawsuit seeking to stop the city from removing the Lee monument. Weber emphasized that not everyone in Charlottesville agrees on the extent and nature of the city’s problems.
While the city’s been struggling to find its footing, some alt-right leaders are faltering. The rally violence proved a costly debacle for leading figures such as white nationalist Richard Spencer and others who are fighting lawsuits. Many in the movement have been booted from mainstream internet platforms. A few have dropped out altogether.
Only one organizer of last summer’s rally seems intent on publicly marking the anniversary. Jason Kessler, a Charlottesville resident and UVA graduate, sued the city after it denied him a permit for an anniversary event. Kessler recently abandoned his lawsuit, but he vowed to press ahead with plans for an Aug. 12 rally in Washington, D.C.
During an interview this summer, Kessler said he was still “coming to terms” with what happened last year and said he apologized to Heyer’s family.
But he struck a far more defiant tone when a city attorney questioned him last month. Kessler said during a deposition that he had no regrets or remorse about his role and takes no responsibility for the violence.
While Kessler’s plans for the anniversary weekend have shifted, many residents say they’re bracing for some sort of white nationalist presence. Officials and law enforcement authorities insist that whatever happens, they will be better prepared. An investigation by a former U.S. attorney found a lack of planning, poor communication and a passive response by law enforcement added to last year’s chaos.
Michael Rodi, owner of a downtown restaurant-nightclub, told city and law enforcement officials at a forum for the business community that “if we can make this thing fizzle, the rest of the world looks at us and goes, ‘Oh, you’re not Nazi Central.'”
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, who’s spent much of the past year working with Wilson on a foundation named for her daughter, said she plans to place flowers Sunday at the site of the attack that claimed Heyer’s life. But the day should be about more than just Heyer, Bro said.
“I just would like people to focus on the anniversary, not on Heather, but on the issues that she died for — Black Lives Matter, overpolicing, affordable housing, for more truth and the telling of the history of Charlottesville — and to focus on where they need to go as a community,” Bro said.
— Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman in Silver Spring, Maryland, and AP photographer Steve Helber in Charlottesville contributed to this report. Rankin reported from Richmond and Charlottesville.
As I watched a diverse group of activists, beyond frustrated with gun violence in Chicago, shut down the Dan Ryan, one of the busiest expressways in the Chicago area, I felt a solidarity with their cause. Led by Father Pfleger of St. Sabina Church and Rev. Jesse Jackson on Saturday, July 7, thousands of activists from all areas of the city and the suburbs screamed “shut it down” right before they took over all four lanes of the expressway on the northbound lanes from 79th Street to 67th Street.
When I texted a friend of mine, who is very active in her South Side Chicago community, she was a lot less enthused about the event.
“What I don’t get is we’re primarily killing each other. How does marching on the highway reduce crime in our own community?”
I countered that it’s hard to ignore the problem when people practice civil disobedience. Then she responded, “Agreed, but it doesn’t influence or shape policy.”
Thousands descended on the Dan Ryan expressway in an anti-violence march organized by Father @MichaelPfleger of @stsabinachurch. After lengthy negotiations, police opened all inbound lanes to the mass demonstration calling for more public resources to be devoted to the S&W sides. pic.twitter.com/BBfAFMAhPx
A LONG TRAIL OF RUFFLED FEATHERS: In March, New York University students demonstrated against the Chick-fil-A company and the donations it gives to conservative organizations opposed to gay marriage. (Photo: Richard B. Levine/Newscom)
What in the world? What’s going on when in the home of the free a person can’t be brave enough to express their opinion without someone calling for a chicken boycott?
Personally, I don’t like chicken much anyway. I think it’s because my wife cooks it with just about every meal. But, before I talk myself out of supper, let me quickly add that she cooks chicken very well — much better than Chick-fil-A. Still, many people around the country still give Chick-fil-A a first-place ribbon when it comes to fast fowl.
Chick-fil-A’s owners are known for espousing strong Christian values (you can’t get the stuff on Sundays), but now that the company’s COO, Dan Cathy, has restated his well-known opinion regarding same-sex marriage, folks want to chop the company’s gizzards?
People suddenly have something against good fast food chicken (if there is such a thing). No apparent qualms with greasy spoons KFC, or Church’s Chicken, or Bojangles or even Popeye’s. All because some rigid people (and politicians who are often on the lookout for a situation to pimp for votes) believe that Cathy has offended a certain American minority group — the LGBT community.
The black community, which has a long history with and reverence for the proper use of boycotts, ought to be pecking mad about this.
Black folks know all too well about chicken and stereotyping. Still, black folks haven’t cried boycott over being branded lovers of watermelon and “finger lickin’ good” chicken made by “de good ole” antebellum KFC colonel. Black folks didn’t cry boycott over the blatant marketing ploy of gospel singer Kirk Franklin praisin’ and dancin’ for Church’s Chicken or some of Church’s other questionable ads. And do I even have to mention Bojangles Chicken ‘n’ Biscuits? More recently, we blasted hip-hop soul icon Mary J. Blige but then quickly forgave her for singing on a table about Burger King’s new Crispy Chicken Wrap. No BK boycott. And Lord knows if we haven’t yet called for an all-out boycott over Popeye’s “Annie the Chicken Queen,” (some have dubbed her a modern-day mammy), then no one should be calling for one against Chick-fil-A’s stance in favor of traditional marriage.
Besides, perhaps a sign that you’ve grown up as a minority group in America is when your feathers are no longer ruffled by every perceived slight.
Americans, including some members of the LGBT community, who have not joined in the boycott cackling, are displaying common sense. They understand that freedom of speech is a sacred right. Shutting down one person’s free speech (even when we don’t like what they say or believe) puts ALL of us at risk. It also stifles much needed honest dialogue that could lead to understanding, mutual respect and coexistence. The politicians claiming they will block Chick-fil-A from opening stores in their cities know that they are selling wolf tickets with extra sauce. They have no legal basis to do so and their cities would be sued, costing taxpayers millions. Besides, people need jobs and cities need tax revenue.
A boycott is a serious weapon that should be reserved for challenging Constitutional offenses like employment, healthcare, or voter discrimination. Or hate crimes where people were beaten, gunned down, or hung from trees. Or when a child of God feels so bullied and humiliated that he commits suicide.
Cathy’s comments are far away from this coop.
His public relations team mishandled the news and social media onslaught his comments triggered (a fake Facebook account to cover your tracks against the Muppets? C’mon now, people). The error was compounded by the sad sudden death of Don Perry, Chick-fil-A’s longtime vice president of public relations.
Cathy simply offered his personal Bible-based opinion that marriage should be between a man and woman. As long as Chick-fil-A does not discriminate against gays and lesbians in anyway, there’s nothing legally wrong with a businessman sharing his opinion. (A wise business move? Well, that’s another story).
If Chick-fil-A ever does in fact discriminate, the company should be condemned because it would not only be in violation of federal law but in betrayal of the Christian Beatitudes it espouses. In that case, I would be the first to say “no thanks” if my wife ever suggested we hit the Chick-fil-A drive-thru for dinner.
“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a rule requiring that, under state health care exchanges, every enrollee in these insurance plans must pay a $1 surcharge directly into an account for abortions,” Carlson said. This comes after a January HHS directive that would require most religious employers to provide free contraception and other controversial reproductive health services in their insurance plans caused a political and religious fury.
Yale Legal Scholar Says Act Will Survive Supreme Court Scrutiny
But it would be “remarkable” if the Supreme Court struck down the act’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance and “revolutionary” if it struck down the act’s “extension of Medicaid to increase coverage for the poor,” Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, said at The Atlantic. Overturning the medicaid expansion would “throw into doubt the way that modern federal government works with states and it would jeopardize many popular social programs,” Balkin said.
Projected Employer Insurance Dump Could Reduce Deficit
The Affordable Care Act will cause a lot of employers to “dump people on government-run exchanges to get them off their neck,” Philip Klein, senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner, said in an interview with CBN News. But a new Congressional Budget Office report “argues that dramatic increases in employer dumping could reduce, not expand, the deficit,” Forbes “Apothecary” blogger Avik Roy said in a post at The Atlantic. In another post, Roy said the idea that the U.S. health-care system is predominantly a free-market one is a myth. “In reality, per-capita state-sponsored health expenditures in the United States are the third-highest in the world, only below Norway and Luxembourg. And this is before our new health law kicks in.”
President’s Standing With Catholics in Jeopardy
Nonetheless, the campaign of religious conservatives against the act “is taking some toll on the president’s standing with Catholics,” The Washington Post reported. The article cited a new survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that found “the percentage of white Catholics who said the Obama administration is unfriendly toward religion has nearly doubled since 2009, from 17 percent to 31 percent” and, among all Catholics, the percentage rose from 15 percent to 25 percent.
Republicans Have Troubles of Their Own
Republicans have problems with their own alternative to the president’s plan, however. On Thursday, House Republicans “voted to eliminate language in their healthcare reform bill that said the U.S. healthcare industry affects interstate commerce, which Republicans feared could undermine their argument that the Democrats’ 2010 healthcare law abused the Commerce Clause of the Constitution,” The Hill reported.
Prayer Rallies Left and Right
On Friday, pro-life groups held rallies in cities around the country to protest the “unjust violation of our religious liberty by the Obama Administration’s contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs mandate” and, on Sunday, they surrounded the Supreme Court building to pray “that justice may be done in these proceedings” and that “the religious freedom and freedom of conscience will be respected, that there will be no taxpayer subsidizing of abortion, and that the US Constitution will be honored.”
Today religious supporters of the act who want to “help people of faith move beyond cable news interpretations of health care reform” will follow suit by encircling the Supreme Court for prayer during oral arguments. According to The New York Times, their plan originated in the White House earlier this month.
As someone who joined the ranks of the uninsured this year for the first time in my adult life, I’ll be watching debate about the Affordable Care Act closely. I don’t know what the best solution is to the problem of unaffordable health insurance, but like an increasing number of Americans, I need one.
What do you think?
Do you want to see the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted or overturned?