The Mental Health Impact of Marginalization at Work - Josephine Kim

This month is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. This is our third and final episode in a special series on mental wellness. Guest Dr Josephine Kim talks about the cultural and social factors that impact mental health and work for marginalized groups.

Dr Josephine Kim is Senior Lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a National Certified Counselor, and affiliated faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is an internationally known scholar, speaker and consultant who lends expertise on diversity, inclusion and mental health issues to Fortune 500 companies, schools, and other organizations.

She is also the founding executive director of Mustard Seed Generation, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate Asian Americans on issues of spirituality, cultural and racial identity, intergenerational conflicts, cross-cultural advocacy, mental health, and career development issues. You can find out more about Mustard Seed Generation at

We’d like to thank the H.E. Butt Foundation for supporting this series. You can find out more about their work by visiting

Scripture References

  • Isaiah 58:6

Additional Resources

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Transcript - The Mental Health Impact of Marginalization at Work - Josephine Kim

Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.

Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work.

LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace.

MR: I’m Mark Roberts.

LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.

This month is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. This is our third and final episode in a special series on mental wellness. We'd like to thank the H.E Butt foundation for supporting this series. You can find out more about their work by visiting

Our guest today is Dr. Josephine Kim. She's here today to talk about the cultural and social factors that impact mental health and work for marginalized groups. Dr. Josephine Kim is a Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a licensed mental health counselor, a nationally certified counselor and affiliated faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital. She's an internationally known scholar, speaker, and consultant who lends expertise on diversity, inclusion, and mental health issues to Fortune 500 companies, schools, and other organizations.

LA: Dr. Josephine Kim is also the founding executive director of the Mustard Seed Generation, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate Asian Americans on issues of spirituality, cultural and racial identity, intergenerational conflicts, cross-cultural advocacy, mental health, and career development. You can find out more about Mustard Seed Generation at Dr. Josephine Kim, welcome to the Making It Work podcast.

Josephine Kim: Thank you so much for having me.

LA: So I'm gonna call you Jo in our conversations because you said I could. And... [chuckle]

JK: I love it.

LA: And also because I wanna bridge the two areas of this conversation about mental wellness, which is there is a formal organizational nature that we need to talk about when we talk about mental wellness in relation to work. And there's also such a personal nature of how mental wellness impacts us at work. But I would like to start by asking you, kinda take a high level view, why do you talk about social factors when you're talking about mental health and wellness?

JK: I love this question, and it's one that really takes up a lot of our attention, or at least it should and yet I don't think it's something we often think about and associate with an individual's mental health. But it really is about where do we locate the problem? One's mental health really cannot be fully explained or understood just by looking at the individual. Certainly your personality, your life experiences, your familial surroundings, environmental factors, all of those things are really important. And also, mental health really sits right at that nexus or the intersection between all of those within community and within individual factors, plus all of the external systemic, again, environmental factors that really weigh on the person. And so in order to fully comprehend, I would say the vastness of somebody's mental health, we really do need to look at the social factors.

LA: That... Thank you very much. You answered my question. That is a big picture view of, we have to look at the social factors when talking about mental wellness. I wonder if we could now bring it back kind of to the microcosm and could you give an example maybe of a mental wellness issue that plays out in the workplace?

JK: Oh, in the workplace, I think it's so... For example, like we can look at the structural or the systemic issues of a workplace. So let's say I'm the only person of color who walks into my workplace, and the spaces that I have to navigate, was it designed for people like me? If I go to the workplace cafeteria or the cafe, can I find something that I actually enjoy eating, for example? That can be quite silly. But if that's a daily experience where I have to go and kind of put aside my own affinity and the things that I actually enjoy and want to eat in lieu of just having something 'cause you're hungry and you just need to fill yourself. If I walk into a space and I don't see people who reflect back to me the facets of my identity, essentially the messaging is quite important in this work.

The messaging I'm getting is that people like you maybe don't belong here. And so things like imposter syndrome, you can imagine how that's rampant in a lot of workplaces where you are the sole of anything of any identity in that workplace. So things that are reflected back to me, it makes me think of as self psychology, Kohut would say, we need certain things to actually thrive and enjoy life and to fully participate. Things like, this idea of mirroring that somebody can reflect my worth and my value back to me in the spaces that I have to work and live and socialize and learn and grow and do all of those things. Also this idea of a twin ship that I can walk into a space and just have somebody merely by reflecting, again, let's say I'm Asian American and there's another Asian looking person in the space, immediately I feel an akinness to them, this twinship.

And then of course looking at people who are in leadership positions and positions of power. Do they also reflect facets of who I am because then you really feel like somebody has your back, you also have somebody that you can aspire to. This idea of, wow, if that person was able to do this and end up in the C-suite, maybe that's a possibility for me. But if you never see that, if those things are never reflected back to you, then you can imagine then you might suffer through, again, imposter syndrome, the sense of belonging that somebody gets from feeling like they're an integral part of a community. That you actually are missed when you have a sick day. People notice. That they actually take the time to maybe pronounce your name correctly because they realize how important those things are to your sense of wellbeing and sense of belonging. We also know things like sense of belonging or a lack of sense of belonging, really is a direct pathway to mental illness. And again, we're not talking about showing up to a space and being there for 30 minutes and never coming back, we're talking about day in, day out, six to eight hours with the same people in the same corridors. So imagine all of the cumulative effects of all of that.

LA: There's so much to unpack there. There's so many different directions that I wanna go through, both for thinking of my own experience, but that of so many of our listeners in the workplace. But I wanna bring Mark you into this conversation. And I wonder what struck you most in Jo's explanation of the way that our sense of belonging in the workplace really has an impact on our mental health?

MR: Well, yeah, I just, I was fascinated by your explanation, Jo 'cause I think it makes so much sense. And honestly, what I was thinking is how easy it is for those of us who are more in the majority wherever we happen to be not really to think about that. Ironically and oddly where I experience this a little bit now, I tend to be a lot older than a lot of the people I work with. And I can feel some distance. Now there's still... The relationships are good, but in a tiny way, I can feel it. Like if something comes out in the font, it's way too small. [laughter] So I think in a strange way, I'm sort of in this season of my life as a White man, but older, sensing some of what you said but then I think, oh, for so many people, as you say, it's day in, day out, it's years at a time, it's institutions that just have never really thought about these things. And part of what... And then of course I go to the faith side, which I know we're not quite there yet, but I think, oh my gosh, we as Christians have such an opportunity, a responsibility to be sure, but an opportunity to think about these things and address them and learn and ask. So anyway, I was just... I was really tracking with you and I'm grateful for this conversation.

JK: I love what you just said, Mark, about just not having to think about certain things 'cause that's exactly what privilege is, that you actually do have a choice of either thinking about and dwelling upon something or just kind of ignoring it because it really doesn't impact you on a personal level. And I think as Christians, that's the hard task that we have for each of us. How do we share this privilege, first of all? How do we give a lot of it away? How do we invite others into this privilege so that they too can partake, and also just fully realize whom it is that they were meant to be? I do think all of these, what we can commonly just categorize as oppressive experiences and oppressive structures and systems, I do think there's a way that it quenches this life out of someone, where it really does prevent them I think from fully actualizing or fully becoming, even realizing all of their talents and skills because skills they're not... Simply because they're not afforded the opportunity to really maximize those things that maybe other people are so easily, so easily have access to.

LA: Now, you mentioned some of the physical effects earlier that having lack of mirroring, a lack of sense of belonging can lead to hypertension, stress. Could you talk a little bit more about the link between the mental wellness and the physical effects that really might slow someone down in the workplace?

JK: Oh, it's unbelievable. And oftentimes I think we tend to compartmentalize and separate our physical bodies and our mental wellbeing and our spiritual wellness, but I think we all know they're pretty interconnected. So if we're not doing so well spiritually, then actually maybe emotionally you're not doing so well either. We've all been sick physically, whether it's the flu or whatever it might be. And you also realize when your body is worn down, you really don't have any desire to be glorifying God or reading the Bible or fellowshipping with anyone. So these are so interconnected. And so when there are oppressive experiences, let's say for example, racism what we know is that it literally changes your physiology, it changes your DNA, it becomes encoded into your DNA. And so your body really does suffer. Is it any mystery that people of color, for example, African Americans in this nation die of heart disease a lot more and more frequently than anybody else? Is that a coincidence? Of course not.

There are documented and researched empirical evidence that really shows a direct connection. Experiences of racism, for example, lead directly to mental illness as well as physical illnesses like heart disease, heart attacks. There's also this anticipatory, oppressive experience. And so you almost become conditioned to expect that you're going to have some sort of oppressive act done to you, whether it's through words or actions. And I think even that causes enough of an anxiety. Remember what anxiety is. We all, every single human being wears anxiety on their bodies. It is the only way it manifests. So what happens when you're anxious? Heartbeat is raised, the heart rate is going fast, your breath is much shorter 'cause you're trying to just get enough breath in your lungs, your pupils dilate.

You really do get kind of that flight, fright, freeze type of reaction. And imagine if that's your normal life. Every time you go to work, you almost have to brace yourself, and your body is just going off the charts on all of these things I just described. And you can't calm down until you actually leave your workplace either because of real racism that exists, all of these other oppressive experiences, or even just the anticipation of them can have the same effects. And so you can imagine, again, if it's day in and day out, and that is how your body is conditioned to behave or react in certain spaces, then yeah, certainly it'll definitely, most definitely end up in some sort of a physical outcome.

LA: There's a parallel from scripture that's really jumping to my mind. Something I'm really thinking of as you're talking is this story of a healing that happens to a woman who is having an issue of blood. So this is in Luke chapter 8. I have it as verses 43 to 48, but towards the end of chapter 8 in Luke. And why it jumped into my mind is because there are components in that healing story of both physical and emotional and also discrimination, all of which Jesus addressed in his healing. So this is a woman who had a physical issue that doctors couldn't heal, but because of this physical issue, she was seen as unclean to the rest of her community.

So there was also a community exclusion issue going on. So the woman in this story, which you may remember, Jesus is in a crowd of people and she comes up behind Jesus and she doesn't say, Jesus, can you heal me? She doesn't like ask for help, she touches the side of his cloak, like as if this is all that she feels like she can access from Jesus in this moment. And she experiences complete healing in that moment. So it's a small story from the Bible, but I feel like it might be a window for those of us of faith to think about some of these issues of exclusion as it relates to both physical and mental wellness.

JK: We're finding more and more that one of the greatest detriments in the workplace is something that equates to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Any ideas what that might be?

LA: Well, we're not allowed to smoke cigarettes in the workplace anymore, so it can't be that. Mark, do you have guesses? [laughter]

MR: I know something that's related to it, but I don't know that it's this. So I do know that there's increasing research that says certain kinds of thinking poorly about yourself, especially among older people, if you internalize ageism, that's similar to that, but I know there's some other research. What is the one you're thinking about? 'Cause you've got me intrigued now.

JK: Yes. [laughter] It's called loneliness.

MR: Oh, the latest surgeon general's report. Yes.

JK: Yes. It's loneliness and it's the effects of loneliness at the workplace, that social isolation we've been talking about. It's equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And what studies are showing is that your memory retention actually declines. Your IQ goes down. Nevermind all of the social and emotional impacts. So this idea of being lonely at the workplace is quite significant. And so it reminds me of what you're talking about, this being excluded, not being included. And remember, racism and oppression is very subtle and high class these days. Meaning people are very smart about how it comes across. It's no longer about always using negative like racial slurs and that type of thing, but it could be when you're up for a promotion, they find every reason to not promote you.

It could be that you have to work 20 times harder than somebody else to be recognized in the same way. It could be that anytime you do something well, you're a credit to your race as if you're some sort of exception to your people, [chuckle] all of these things which can be considered microaggressions. For someone like me who's Asian American, having to prove my Americanness all the time because of the stereotype that I'm this perpetual foreigner, and you never belong here simply because of your phenotype, never mind that other people like me have been here for generations, centuries to be very exact. And so all of these things again, and that loneliness, it's really having a deep impact on, yeah, our colleagues and peers.

MR: Again, this will certainly be from a place of privilege, but I would want to say, wait, haven't we gotten better? There's a part of me who wants to say that, but I'm aware then of research and I'm sure you are too, you might well have done it, that would say that if you... Like you take a dossier and you submit it without any racial markers and you submit it with racial markers, that in general, people who are White, tend to do better, men tend to do better than women. And you see this, you just think, ah we've come a ways, but there's a long ways to go and to see that. And partly, and I expect we'll get to this, but part of what I wanna say is, okay, so what can we do to help? 'Cause some of these things are big and structural, and we may not have a lot of. And the folk of who have particular authority and power and influence can work with some of that, but I'm also thinking here just in terms of my ordinary life or the place I work or the people I manage, or... What can we do to not perpetuate those things and to learn to do better?

JK: And that is the great task before us. And it's difficult because we're talking about nearly 500 years of European colonizations all over the world. And it really doesn't matter where you come from, we've been fed the same Kool-Aid over and over and over again. And so even me, I can perpetuate White supremacy as an Asian person because I was told certain standards and certain languages are above others and all of these things. And so all of that to say, we all have our work cut out for us, but that's I think where the work lies. It's in the wrestling. It's a constant wrestling in your mind to remember to think about these things, especially for those of us who might have different privileges 'cause again, you don't have to think about it and that is your privilege.

I think as Christians, we're also called. In Isaiah 58, it comes to mind where it says... It talks about true fasting. And what is true fasting? Well, it's removing the chains of oppression. It's removing the yoke of injustice. It's letting the oppressed go free. And if we really take that seriously, then every waking moment, it's almost like we have to make the unconscious conscious in our minds. I wanna bring up Kahneman who talks about Systems 1 thinking versus Systems 2 thinking where one way to mitigate our bias 'cause we all have them, we're so socialized in the thinking of people as categories. We're so good at when we see an apple, that's a fruit. When we see a cow, that's an animal. When we see black skin tone, that's Black. We just do this so quickly and it's automatic.

So oftentimes Kahneman would say we're living and pretty much existing in the Systems 1 thinking where it's quick, where it's kind of thoughtless, it's the default way of kind of thinking and going about the world, but he really says, no, we need to engage our Systems 2 thinking, which is much more deliberate, it's much more critical, it's much more conscious. And it takes longer, it takes more effort. It's checking and double checking. Wait, is that really what I'm seeing here? Why is it that when that one colleague walks into this room, I always have this reaction? Why is it that when I had a glimpse of this one colleague in the elevator, I just didn't wanna get on? These are all things we need to really unpack for ourselves and that takes work, and it's uncomfortable and it's ugly because we realize our simple nature. And we also realize how driven we are by what makes us comfortable and what makes us look good.

JK: I would say practically too, if you are in positions of power at work, sometimes it's as simple as recognizing that there are cultural differences and cultural norms, and cultural standards are different. In some cultures, most of the western world, we value people who are verbal, who can dive into discussions and be very articulate and eloquent in the way they communicate, but there is a whole half of the world that doesn't value words and spoken language. Imagine that. So if your way of thinking about leadership and leadership potential is how somebody engages in dialogue, well then that pretty much tells you who's going to be up for promotion and who's not. And so that also means as leaders, we need to create various opportunities for people to participate in lots of diverse ways, not just through, let's say verbal language.

LA: I wonder if there's an example either from your research or from your own work experience, if you're willing to give one, where the interactions in the workplace felt challenging in this way and maybe there's something that individuals could do to change it. 'Cause I wanna give our listeners an example of this is what an example of this might look like in the workplace, and then this is how you could change that interpersonal dynamic.

JK: Sure. And this happens to me all the time because I teach graduate students, and so much of our learning comes from the discussions and the dialogues. And so one thing we're learning is that anytime we say, okay, who has a great idea? So you have a prompt, and then we open up the floor to see who's going to contribute their great ideas, that always is going to then be a nice prompt for like the heavy disclosers, the people who are going to want to talk, the extroverted person, again from the western context who really values the spoken language. So automatically, we're kind of setting it up as a advantageous stage and platform for those people. And so what we find and what a lot of business schools and business research is also showing us is that it actually is more effective and more inclusive if we can say, okay, everyone take about two, three minutes, jot down your ideas, and then we'll go around and make sure everyone gets to speak to their ideas. That really evens out the playing field and removes some of these biases that yeah, we don't even know that we're actually perpetuating.

MR: That's fascinating. It would probably be that those that would speak up fast might even have a little more wisdom if they took a couple of minutes to think. The thing I've discovered in teaching online, which I was not initially super excited about 'cause I love the engagement in the classroom, but I have found that online conversations also help with this because yeah, because people who might not speak up much in class feel I think a greater freedom to participate when it's a dialogue online. It's not just that it's like a Zoom conversation, it's when you're doing discussion groups and stuff where people are writing back and forth.

LA: Even the chat function on a Zoom conversation though can be an equalizing force. Because if someone is unable to speak over another person who's dominating the conversation, the ability to add, actually the research shows this, here's a link, put that in the chat of the Teams chat or Zoom chat, that actually does have a big equalizing power.

JK: Oh, completely. And if we think about the international global folks whose, for example, English is not their first language or their native language, it's completely equalizing because oftentimes we don't realize... In the USA, we don't realize how people learn English in other countries, it's usually through written language first. And so oftentimes their written ability is going to be much more fluent than spoken ability, like the fluency orally. And so again, that chat, they might be able to feel much more comfortable, adding to the chat versus actually unmuting and speaking. I also think those emojis do something as well. There's just so many parts I think of the virtual world that we didn't realize we were missing and can certainly use to kind of flatten, again, the playing field in many ways.

LA: Jo, first of all, I'm just so floored by the depths of your knowledge and research on this topic that for people of privilege, we don't have to think about every day when we go into the workplace. And for people who are marginalized, are forced to think about it or experience it every day. And so there's this disparity of wellness, even as a baseline going into work. Can you talk a little bit more about that disparity? And I don't wanna say whose job it is to address it, [laughter] 'cause that's a loaded question. But talk about the disparity in terms of for when we wanna create a healthy workplace, what is the burden on each caring individual here to level the playing field?

JK: Yeah, I think that burden almost always should fall on the person in position of power because all of these things, it's really about creating a climate and a certain culture at your workplace. It's not one of these things where you try on for a day and then that's it, which is why I personally do not like multicultural days. Whether it's in a school or a workplace where people dress up and you bring food and then it's over in an hour, and then you can check off that you did such a thing, in some ways, that actually harms the climate because in many ways, we're minimizing somebody's culture and the richness of their traditions and all of these great things too, just objects or food, there's value in that and...

LA: It's not a consumable like...

JK: Exactly.

LA: Equality is not a consumable. You can't eat it and then be done.

JK: Yeah. And one of the most crucial questions that we can always ask ourselves is for whose benefit. So when you do these multicultural fairs, really for whose benefit is it? It's usually for the consumer, as you said. [laughter] For people who get to taste all the glorious food and go, ooh, ah, and then be done with it. But if we really care about for whose benefit are we making these efforts, is it that we want these sustainable long-term effects and really trying to create a climate and a culture where people can come in fully as who they are, not check very vital pieces of their identity at the door. But all of it is not only welcomed and tolerated, we move away from the word tolerate because let's be honest, what do we tolerate in life? It's like migraines and sinus pains and traffic in Boston.

Yeah, [laughter] but we actually are saying, you know what? Not only is this welcomed, if somebody were to say to me, gosh, Jo, I know you're Korean-American, and not only is that welcomed in here, but in fact we feel like if you don't bring that in, we would be missing out and something would be lacking in the work that we're trying to do. So it's really using that as a foundation for somebody's existence in any workspace. If we can get to that level, how glorious would that be when somebody could just come to work and not worry about, make sure you don't do this, or make sure you don't say it this way, or make sure you don't smell like your ethnic food, or make sure that you respond if somebody mispronounces your name, but it's still up to you to know that they're talking to you. [chuckle]

So it's on so many levels. Think about the mental capacity that eats up in a person. You're so busy worrying about these types of things that honestly, I can't even get to the task I'm supposed to do for the day. And so if we can remove those types of things, but it does mean that people in positions of power who are of more privileged than others 'cause we're all privileged and oppressed in different ways. But in those spaces, whoever's in position of power, can I also just say it starts with taking honest, authentic inventory of our lives, especially if we're Christ followers. Because this isn't something you can turn on and turn off when you get to work. It means that I need to take honest inventory of who it is that's in my life, who it is that I allow myself to dine with, who it is that I confer with and fellowship with. And if I don't do this on a daily, like hourly basis, how can I expect myself just to get to work and all of a sudden be able to do this? Just doesn't work that way. And so I do think it's a kind of a life changing paradigm shifting worldview kind of altering way of being that I think God is calling us to do, especially in this day and time.

LA: It's so funny, Jo. I was gonna ask you, my next question for you was gonna be, how has your faith informed your thinking about mental wellness for marginalized groups in the workplace? You already started to answer that by saying, who do I eat with? Who do I fellowship with? Which are words that people of faith use to describe deep connection because they come from stories in the Bible of Jesus eating with people, sharing meals and sharing fellowship with marginalized groups. I wonder if you could just talk a little bit more about how your faith inspires your work every day pursuing this research and teaching about mental wellness for marginalized groups.

JK: Oh, it certainly informs it. I can't say I'm always the best at it, [laughter] but that's the notion of grace. Those of us who know that we need it the most, we're going to be the ones to be able to extend that grace 'cause we know, we realize just how much we actually need that grace. And so I do think it inspires pretty much everything that I do. In my classes because I'm at a very liberal institution, I may not necessarily talk about God in the way that I teach, but I'm always really moved when I have students come up to me and say I just want you to know it comes through in your teaching, even though you're not saying those words or you're not because that's really where I teach from. And if at the end of the day I could say that I extended God's love into the content of what it is that I'm teaching, also in the way that I interacted with students or supported them in some way, then I think I fulfilled the the calling that I've been called to do in this position.

But yeah, it inspires my work because I also realize human limitations that if it were up to us, of course we're going to discriminate, of course we're going to be prejudiced, of course we're going to be self-serving. That is just the way, that is our human nature. On this side of heaven, that is our reality. And I think that also means knowing that and acknowledging it every waking moment, just as I acknowledge the privileges that I've been given, as well as the oppressive experiences that I have to deal with on a daily basis as well because of all of these different identities that we embody. Yeah, that just allows me I think to be able to extend grace because again, I know I need it. At the end of the day, we can disagree on so many things about the Bible or about who God is, but I don't think anybody will debate that God is love. And ultimately that is really the premise of who he is and that we're all made in his image as well. And so how dare I take somebody else who's made in God's image too and not treat them with the honor and respect that they deserve?

MR: I just thinking in my own life where my faith has really helped me has been not only in very much the things you have said, but also in the community of Christians where we can help each other. Really, the first person who ever helped me to begin to look at racism I had was actually my... A Chinese American woman who was my InterVarsity leader. And when I was in college, and in a very gracious but firm way, she would show me things of what I was saying, and it was shocking to me. I was horrified. Because if you had asked me when I began college, are you racist? No way. There's no racist bone in my body. And just throughout my life, I've had people with whom I've had enough relationships. So it's the learning that comes in a trusting relationship where you can be honest. That's been really important to me, and still is in this season of my life. As I continue to try and learn about things, I find it helpful when it can be a brother to brother, brother to sister conversation in love and grace, as you've mentioned, where we can listen differently and see people in different ways and learn maybe to see a little more like Jesus, I guess, really.

JK: Yeah, and we're living in a time where before I would have students who would say, well, if the marginalized communities don't share their stories, how are we ever going to learn? But we live in this moment in time where there's so many resources at our fingertips that if you really have the desire to learn that you really have no excuse, and I think that's kind of a blessing in itself. But I love what you're saying that we do need that accountability. Even for someone like me who's been in the thick of all of this work and scholarship for the better parts of what, 20 years, still there are moments I'm like, wow, I still do that. In my community, for example, there's colorism, which is you're in the same ethnic racial community, but there's still discrimination based on skin tone.

And Koreans are infamous for this. And I remember being so shocked when my son was going to be out in the hot sun in 90 degrees for about three or four weeks of outdoor camp. And can I tell you, I lost sleep thinking about how dark he was going to get. And it was shocking to me to realize, my gosh, the internalized racism, the internalized colorism, the internalized discrimination that I was embodying and now manifesting and passing on to my son where we started with 30 SPF, went to 50, I was searching and surfing the web for 100, and really celebrated when I found it. And it wasn't until my son who was 10 at the time turned to me and he said, mom, it's okay if I'm dark. I like it. And it kind of jolted me to a point where I was like, my gosh.

It became so all consuming and I really had to unpack that for myself. But I share that story to say the work never ends and there's always work to do. And I also wanna say that it's not just White people. White people too are victim to a society that keeps you blind to the richness of culture and diversity and all of these wonderful things. But that we're all culpable because we've all internalized the White middle class standards of existing and being in the world, and we all have very stern measures of what's right and what's wrong. And I think for Christians, we have an extra dose [chuckle] of that sternness. [laughter]

LA: Well, one last question for you 'cause you did bring it to the work that you're doing today, which is very exciting to me. I'm wondering if there's a project you're working on now that you're particularly passionate about that you'd like to share with us.

JK: Oh, there are so many things, but I'll share this. For me, it's a lifelong learning when it comes to the African American community. And honestly, I got into that scholarship because I thought, as an educator who's either teaching African American students or teaching everyone else who's going to now serve African American communities, I thought it was so wrong of me to stand up there and try to teach about something that I really didn't know much about or I could speculate about, but I couldn't say like name things for sure. And so I did do a deep dive. I would say the better parts of my past two decades, I've studied African American history as an Asian American woman. And it's been amazing looking at the parallels. But I mentioned that because that's an ongoing project for me, and it takes... It's only right that I do this as an educator. As an accountable educator who's going to take my calling seriously.

And I use that to say, just as I do this, I also then would invite other people to think about Asian American history and Asian American issue, to think about the Latino, Latina communities, to think about the immigrant populations, the refugee populations. Think about the Jewish, the Palestinians. I think we need to do this work. Oftentimes it's so easy just to talk about as if we know all of these things, but until we can say I've invested the work and the heart and soul that really it deserves, I don't know if we can continue these conversations and actually shift systems.

So the ongoing work for me is at the individual level, there's so much room still to grow. Interpersonal level, shifting systems is a big one for me because as a counselor, a big part of my work is advocacy, and they go hand in hand. It's not just about what happens in a practice room with one client, but it's really about shifting the larger systems, understanding that it's those types of things that keeps certain communities vulnerable and puts them in a box. And again, going back to that true fasting, that's exactly what we're called to do.

But more concrete things, yes, Mustard Seed Generation is a pet project and has been for a long time where we really look at mental health in Korean American communities where it's so stigmatized and just not talked about very often. But really, that stemmed from looking at the communities, looking at all the hurts and the wounds. For example, the Korean War, just short three years where 5 million casualties died, so if you think about the generational trauma that's been passed on, whether it's poverty, whether it's just grief and loss that's continuing, of course immigration being an extension of that grief and loss, everything that you leave behind and the ties that you cut off.

And really thinking about how it is that on a holistic scale, we can bring wellness. That just talking about mental health and emotions and social aspects is not enough, that just looking at our physical health is not enough, but all of it needs to happen together, including our spiritual wellbeing. It's almost like when you're physically hungry, Leah, you can sit there and read a book for two hours, but you're still famished. Isn't that right? Mark, if you're spiritually hungry, you can go watch a movie, you can go exercise, but you're still spiritually hungry. That means we have to feed those dimensions in the way that makes sense for that dimension. And that's what Mustard Seed Generation does. We try to feed all of those components, recognizing that that's how God created us. It's a direct reflection of who God is. He's social, he's emotional, he's a moral being. He's spiritual and he cares about our physical and our mental and all of that when in conjunction, leads and takes steps closer to wellness and health. We have actually seen amazing things happen in communities.

MR: Oh, that was awesome. [chuckle] No, seriously, that's the greatest wrap up to a podcast ever. I'm serious. Thank you. That's just a great encouragement and yes, so thank you for wrapping up that way.

LA: Dr. Josephine Kim, it has been such a pleasure talking with you today. Thank you so much.

JK: Honor is all mine.

MR: Yes, thank you.

JK: And thank you for reminding me of how valuable this work is. Thank you for that.

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