Everyday Dismantling

This may have to be a regular “feature” once I figure out a blogging/writing rhythm/schedule. In the meantime, I thought I would compile my responses to my FB friend Preston’s question:

What are some practical, everyday ways we can work to dismantle privilege that both are simple, clear things to do and don’t burden PoC (people of color) with the expectation they be our (unpaid) teachers?

Note: When I read privilege in this context I assumed “white privilege” which in it of itself causes some people to walk away or disengage because this is the land of opportunity, bootstraps, and immigrants.

  1. Pay us. I cannot tell you how many times my friends and I have sat on panels to talk about our experiences and expertise and not get paid. We sometimes have to ask if our conference fee will be covered or if meals are covered. (I was a panelist at The Justice Conference last weekend and was not paid. Why did I do it? Because sometimes we (as in ALL PEOPLE OF COLOR) realize there are so few of us being represented at said conferences that we do it, at cost to ourselves and families, to make a point.
  2. Spend a year, or a month, reading only authors of color. Double down and read only women of color authors.
  3. Take a closer look at those conference line-ups and consider how many platform speakers are PoC. The same goes for the list of bloggers, writers contributors to communal blogging sites, major Christian on-line and print magazines.
  4. Let your $$ dismantle privilege by not going to those conferences that only feature PoC as panelists. Instead, go somewhere PoC are leading and speaking…if you can find them.
  5. If you make decisions at church, invite and pay POC, particularly WOMEN. And if you don’t make those decisions, considering joining the board that does.
  6. Use your influence to spread the word about non-white speakers, bloggers, writers, preachers, speakers, trainers. I love my white Christian writer friends but you and I have to go way back before I’ll promote you because there are so many more white Christians being published for many systemic reasons that also are difficult to break down.
  7. Support businesses owned and run by PoC. My parents’ dry cleaning business helped me and my sister through college and helped pay for my big, fat, Korean wedding and made dry cleaning super cheap for me and a select group of friends.
  8. Engage your crazy, prejudiced, racist friends (especially the ones who also love Jesus) and call them out on their crap. I will say that I tend to extend a ton of grace to my elders of all colors and stripes. My older relatives still refer to “us” as “Orientals” but if one of you, dear readers, said that I would remind you that I am not a rug. When people say things at the family gathering or post something on social media, remember it’s an invitation to engage and dismantle. Why? Because white people in conversation with white people aren’t pulling out the race card. The what? You know. The race card – the thing people of color pull out whenever we try to dismantle privilege. We make it about race. Anyone have extras? I’m out.
  9. Read about this country’s messed up history. Not the pretty version we all learned in school that mentions slavery and war but the deep stuff that reminds all Americans – birthright Americans like my kids or naturalized ones like me and my parents – that America has a pattern of genocide, colonization, taxation without representation, internment camps. Read about the wars America fought on foreign lands and how privilege carried over in places like Vietnam and the Korean peninsula. Do you know the story of the Hmong? No? Google it. LEARN! You don’t even need to love Vietnamese food or a Korean friend to go to the library and read.
  10. Consider your own language and defense mechanisms critically. I do not like being called out on my stuff because I like to be right. I get it. What I am realizing is that my white friends are seriously afraid of being called a racist. Being afraid of being a racist and being called a racist are serious. Being afraid you will be (and you will be) profiled because of your skin color or your family name, being afraid that “obeying” the police and running will still put you physically in danger? That’s serious serious. When someone calls you out on something, listen before you start defending and excusing yourself.
  11. Don’t assume what you do and how you do it is normal for everyone. That is how everyday privilege shows up. What does that mean? When you go to someone’s house for the first time do you bring a gift? Do you take off your shoes? When  you host guests do you prepare just enough food or enough food for others to take home a plate? When your church hosts a potluck what are the key dishes you think everyone will know and love? (My kids had never seen deviled eggs until 7 years ago. They thought I said, “devil eggs.”) Do you assume July 4 and Memorial Day are big picnic weekends? What does a “normal” New Year’s Day look like for you?
  12. Listen and be observant. Sometimes the POC around you, especially your friends, are dropping freebies left and right. A sigh. Suddenly scribbling notes in church or during a movie. Going silent during a conversation when she is normally or was just fully engaged. Or speaking up. You don’t have to ask her right then and there what is going on. Do your friend thing and if that is appropriate do it. Otherwise, wait and bring it up later. The point is, there are many everyday moments you can be aware of how white privilege can impact POC.

What, dear readers, would you add to the list because certainly there are more than a dozen ways to break down and dismantle a system that goes back 200 years.





  1. Tammy Perlmutter June 12, 2015

    Thank you so much for this, Kathy. I appreciate your honesty and conviction, it is truly refreshing. I am so sorry about the justice Conference thing. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about it which I am still processing. I was disappointed I couldn’t attend your panel, but the socioeconomic privilege being supported meant I couldn’t afford another $100 for the pre-conference.

    I would love this to be a regular topic.

    • Kathy Khang June 12, 2015

      I understand the disappointment, on so many levels. How is a conference on justice charging so much $$ and then adding the cost of a pre-conference where so many of the folks who are living the realities whether through life and/or vocation are donating time and expertise and still call it a justice conference is beyond me.

      If you can believe it, I am still processing my attendance at and participation in The Wild Goose Festival last year. And now I am adding the Justice Conference to it.

      I wish we had time to talk (and grab a photo), but I’m hoping and praying our paths will cross in real life again soon!!

  2. Sabrina June 13, 2015

    Hi Kathy,

    This is my first visit to your site. Point #3 really struck home with me because it’s one of the reasons why I started blogging. I found many Christian sites, but it seemed rare to find others that looked and me and could write from a similar background that I have.

    Thank you for your points and for sharing your story. I plan to read more of your writing soon.


  3. John Loppnow June 13, 2015

    Thank you Kathy another great post. I am seriously taking this to heart.

    I can easily read PoC and share their writings. That is a good word for me.

    I am adding this common prayer of mine.

    “Jesus, what do you want me to know about this?”

  4. Esther June 17, 2015

    Thanks, Kathy! I think there are 200 hundred ways. I’ve recently been blogging/tweeting less and trying to work one on one in the predominately white community where I live. Along those lines I could add: ** Listen and believe what people of color tell you. Just because it wouldn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen. ** When you hear about very upsetting things be intentional about not blaming or attacking the message bearer. Instead mobilize your upset to address the actual source of the upsetting things. ** Go ahead and address people who are like you, because like listens to like. ** Learn not to expect cookies or admiration from POC for speaking out. ** You don’t have to use Facebook. It’s harder and possibly more effective to work right at the children’s birthday party. (Or as you said, on the church events board) ** Don’t fall for the idea that if you are constantly speaking out about racial justice that’s because you’re angry and maladjusted. Some people will put that on you. Go read or hear some good liberation preaching and you’ll be okay again.

    I don’t know. Just thinking out loud. It’s good for me to mark out the things that I can do, so I do them more. Thanks for your leadership, Kathy!

  5. daisy June 19, 2015

    Thank you for the insight. As a white woman who only became aware of my own privilege a couple years ago, I really love reading things like this. That bring people together and that educate. I have been feeling so heavy with everything that has been shown in the media this last year(now that I’m paying attention) and I know to be silent is wrong. But what to do, how to speak up about issues I don’t fully understand nor can relate to has been both baffling & intimidating. Anyways, you mentioned reading. Do you have any authors or titles to recommend? Thank you

    • Kathy Khang June 19, 2015

      So grateful you are reading, learning, asking, wondering. It is scary, isn’t it?

      As for a list…well, you’re a week ahead of me! I’ll be posting next week with some suggestions and lists from other friends. Please come back 🙂

  6. Andrea June 19, 2015

    Hi – I’m a long time follower of you both and trying to do the things you describe. My question is about the liberation preaching. Can I go to, say, the local AME church on Sunday as a gesture of support and caring, and also to follow Austin Channing Brown’s recommendation to sit under the authority of a POC preacher, or is that a presumptuous imposition into a safe space at a sensitive time? I want to go but don’t want my presence to be another aggression. (As an aside, I have been trying for weeks to answer this question on my own because I know it is my responsibility to learn and research but I still don’t know. ) Thank you all for all of your words for so long.

    • Kathy Khang June 20, 2015

      Andrea, thank you for your honesty. Do you have any friends at the local AME church? Are you planning on attending regularly or is this a one-time thing? I doubt your presence will be received as an aggression by the congregation as a whole, and though I am not a member of an AME church or even a predominantly black congregation, I suspect our black sisters and brothers aren’t going to be surprised if a whole bunch of new visitors of different shades of skin show up on Sunday because of what happened in Charleston. Grief and guilt make us all do some crazy, brave things. What I have learned as an “outsider” in American culture is that I need to make sureI know how to explain myself when someone asks why I am doing what I am doing. So, are you going because you feel guilty and now you can’t not act? Own it. And yes, you may offend someone. You are going to make mistakes in this journey. Big, huge, humiliating, hurtful mistakes. I wish I could give you an easy answer, but the honest answer would be simply: I DON’T KNOW because this Sunday is and isn’t about us. Does that make sense?

      • Andrea June 20, 2015

        Thanks Kathy; those are great thoughts. The truth is I have no friends or colleagues who aren’t white. I am in the #1 whitest profession in America – veterinary medicine. I live in an all white barely-a-town and work in a mostly white bedroom community. I go to an all white rich mainline white-saviory church. My kids’ school is overwhelmingly white. These things are horrifying to me. So, I’m not even ready to move into phase 1.2 of dismantling white privilege although it is my most pressing personal concern right now. It’s not so much that I feel guilty; I believe that white privilege isn’t my fault but is absolutely my problem and it’s up to me, as a white person, to work to dismantle it.

        I was at the Justice conference this year (was on that Amtrak train that crashed into the bacon semi so I missed the first day). I heard so much about giving up my privilege but I don’t know how to do that when my entire existence is 100% segregated. It seems like a first step would be participating in a group where I am in the minority. For many months I have been considering whether I could attend or join a black church as a long-term committment and was planning to start in the fall when the after-school program that I’m involved with starts up (in a black church). Do the events of this week give me that explanation that I need (as you mentioned) if somewhat asks why I’m doing what I’m doing? Am I using a tragedy for my own personal development and gain? Is it enough of a reason to say that I am seeking community with people of color? Even that feels dehumanizing or objectifying. Maybe the reason is that my own church isn’t responding to injustice in any meaningful way and is probably perpetuating it, so I need to find one that is. In any case, I’m going to go on Sunday, and keep going, and try to learn from my mistakes. Thanks again so much for your thoughts.

  7. […] when it comes to combating racism in this country. Here are just a few recent examples (here, here, and […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *