What's your "Voice"? Do you even know? Today Kathy Khang helps us listen in and find our voice - each one of us - and then to use our voice in community with each other.
Voice is Identity, Not a Brand
By Kathy Khang
Despite what social media gurus will tell you, your voice is not part of your personal branding or there to expand your platform. You are not a brand. You and I are created in God's image, the imago Dei, which means that we can reflect and communicate God's healing and beauty into hopeless, broken, hurt, and empty spaces. Our voice is meant to be and bring good news.
And because we are uniquely created, our voices are also different. We take on the influences and nuances of our social location, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual identity. It's not only that my voice literally sounds different than my husband's - there are many differences and similarities between us that create our unique voices.
Peter is male and I'm female. We are both ethnically Korean and we both experience racism. He has never experienced sexism. He has birthright citizenship in the United States and I'm a naturalized citizen. Peter's father immigrated to the United States after the Korean War to complete his undergraduate studies in Michigan. My parent and I immigrated almost ten years later; my father had two engineering degrees upon arrival but first worked as a busboy. Peter served in the US Air Force and is now a dentist. I was a journalist and am now in vocational ministry and a writer. We both are parents to our three amazing children, but he and I parent differently and relate differently to each child.
No one would try to convince us that because we are married or because we are both Korean American we are exactly the same and therefore should say the same things the same way. However, that is exactly what we are experiencing in our churches and in the United States today. As a Korean American immigrant woman who is married and the mother of three, I can't help but speak out against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and a host of other issues of injustice. This need to speak stems not only from my personal experiences but also from who I am and where I grew up - in proximity to people who experienced injustice. Even when I was in a place of privilege such as a private four-year university, I experienced what it was like to be a minority student while living with students far more privileged than me.
I can't use my voice to teach the story of Queen Esther the same way a white man would because our minds and hearts encounter the story from such different starting points. I often have heard male pastors gloss over the selection of a new queen or portray it as an ancient version of the Miss Universe competition. Women are more likely to be aware of the sexual exploitation and power dynamics implicit in the story because we live in those same dynamics today. And as an immigrant woman of color, I have always been drawn to Esther's dual identity. I find that to be the core of the story, whereas someone from the majority culture may not dwell on that because they are the baseline for what is considered to be "normal."
Our unity in Christ does not erase diversity. Our unity in Christ affirms and even demands diversity for the flourishing and stewarding of this world. Our diverse voices allow God's truth to be told in many ways. What an opportunity we have not only to understand individual differences and the beauty and power of diversity but to also listen, learn, and love the diversity of others and their communities.
Kathy Khang is a speaker, journalist, and activist. She is the author of the recently released book, Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How To Speak Up. She has worked in campus ministry for more than twenty years, with expertise in issues of gender, ethnicity, justice, and leadership development. She is a columnist for Sojourners magazine, a writer for Faith & Leadership, and a coauthor of More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith. Connect with her at www.kathykhang.com or on twitter @mskathykhang.