How To Fight Racism | Reflections & Notes

Jemar Tisby. How To Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice. Zondervan, 2021. (227 pages)


How To Fight Racism, Jemar’s follow up to The Color of Compromise is personal, highly accessible, immediately applicable, and quite hopeful. He is thorough in covering theology, a necessary component of racial justice as theology has played a significant role in racial injustice. He provides articulate explanations of various solutions, including the controversial ones like reparations, the removal of confederate statues, and intentional hiring practices. Jemar addresses directly the need to focus on results, rather than intentions. And the mnemonic—ARC, for Awareness, Relationships, and Commitment—covers the diverse set of possible avenues that may be accessible to readers, encouraging us to reject any “step-by-step” process and simply select an avenue that can be walked in one’s immediate context.

The reader of How To Fight Racism will be exhorted and empowered with a thorough understanding of all the necessary aspects and nuances required in the fight for racial justice. Oh, and read the last paragraph first, and remind yourself of this perennial truth, “Today is the day and now is the time to join this journey toward racial justice.”

EVENT—February 1, 2021

Join me as I host Jemar Tisby (@JemarTisby) for this live, public conversation through @Spark_Church in partnership with The River Church Community and Congregation Etz Chayim.


1. How to Fight Racism

“Something is different this time.” (1)

[*…Black is the preferred term over African American because Black is inclusive of all people in the African diaspora regardless of their affiliation with the United States and connotes the global phenomenon of anti-Black racism.]

I, as well as the countless others who dedicated their lives to the cause of racial justice, felt encouraged, exhausted, excited, and skeptical all at once. (3)

What is clear is that racial progress does not occur apart from these sustained efforts of people who dedicate themselves to fighting racism in all its forms. History demonstrates and hope requires the fundamental belief that when people of goodwill get together, they can find creative solutions to society’s most pressing problems. (3)

How to Fight Racism

The ARC of Racial Justice does not proceed in linear fashion. One does not progress from awareness, to relationship, to commitment—like following the steps to a recipe. Rather, you will grow in each area simultaneously, and sometimes one practice will build your capacity in multiple areas. (6)

The Journey toward Racial Justice

…viewing racial justice as a journey encourages us to think about fighting racism as an ongoing series of steps rather than a final point of completion. Instead of defining success by the results we achieve, we should define it by the actions we take. (7)

Courageous Christianity

I am convinced that Christianity must be included in the fight against racism for several reasons. First, Christians must fight racism as a matter of responding to the past. Throughout the history (8) of the United States and colonialism worldwide, people who claimed Christianity as their religion have been the progenitors and perpetuators of racism. (9)

Indeed, it is as though Christianity, wherever it went in the modern colonies, inverted its sense of hospitality. It claimed to be the host, the owner of the spaces it entered, and demanded native people enter its cultural logics, its ways of being in the world and its conceptualities. – Willie James Jennings

So Christianity must be part of the conversation about racial justice because, in the context of the United States, white Christians often have been the ones responsible for racial injustice. (9)

| Second, Christianity provides a transcendent narrative for why racial justice is important. (9)

Third, Christianity has within it the moral and spiritual resources to rebel against racism and white supremacy. (10)

Civil rights is often seen in social and political terms. We often fail to recognize this movement as one of the most significant faith-based campaigns in American history. – Soong-Chan Rah

Setting Expectations

How to Fight Racism is an exercise in “prophetic imagination.” (10)

The prophets voice a world other than the visible, palpable world that is in front of their hearers. …an act of imagination by word and image that evokes and hosts a world other than the one readily available. – Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

White supremacy is the belief or assumption that white people and their culture are inherently superior to other people and cultures. Or as Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative explains it, white supremacy is “the narrative of racial difference.” While I often use the term racismwhite supremacy encompasses bigotry and racism of all kinds that gives social, cultural, and political advantages to those deemed white. If we want to fight racism, we must fight white supremacy as well. (11)

Others may criticize the practices proposed here as “liberal,” “leftist,” “socialist,” “Marxist,” “Communist,” or “promoting critical race theory.” But such accusations are ahistorical. Some of these ideas for fighting racial justice have been offered for centuries. … Labels used pejoratively like those above typically ignore the continuity of racial justice movements throughout different historical eras. Instead of reflexively rejecting recommendations, test the ideas themselves for their impact on racial and ethnic minorities. Let mutual respect, humility, and solidarity with the oppressed lead you to your conclusions about what must be done to ensure racial justice. (13)

I believe it will be most helpful to read this book in community. (13)

The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression. – W. E. B. DuBois

PART 1: Awareness

2. How to Explain Race and the Image of God

cf. Rhinelander v. Rhinelander

In order to fight racism, we must begin with the fact that race is a socially constructed category that offers certain privileges and advantages to one group which, in the US context is white people, to the detriment of all those who are excluded from that group—that is, “nonwhite” people, or people of color. (20)

Essential Understandings

Race Is a Social Construct

[via: cf. The Myth of Race]

The concept of race in the US context has three distinct features: it is elastic, based on physical features, and has social meaning. … Elastic means that racial groupings are not static or immutable. (21)

People of color have even bought into the social construct of race. Among various people groups, “colorism”—a practice in which people of color discriminate among themselves based on skin color—remains a problematic issue. (22)

This is what a white-centered society looks like. This is why theology is simply called “theology” if it comes from European or white sources, but it is “Latin American” or “Black” theology when it comes from a minoritized racial or ethnic group. (22)

How the Bible Talks about Race and Ethnicity

And he said to the human race, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding’ (Job 28:28)

[via: Here’s the passage in the original Hebrew: ויאמר לאדם–הן יארת אדני היא חכמה וסור מרע בינה]

cf. 1 Peter 2:9; Acts 2:9-11

So even though the Bible does not use our modern racial categories, it regularly records interactions between different people groups. (24)

A Brief Biblical Theology of Race

cf. Gen. 3:20; Gen. 12:3; Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 11:10-12; Psalm 67; Psalm 68; Psalm 117

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s plan for salvation is built on the presumption of human equality and dignity and always assumes a multiethnic character. (25)

cf. Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:6; Revelation 7:9

Diversity is God’s “plan A” for the church. In order to fight racism, people who advocate for racial justice must become aware of the scope of God’s deliverance and the Lord’s all-encompassing love for all peoples. (26)

The Image of God and Race

“I am a man.” – Sanitation worker strike, 1968

“Black is beautiful.” – Black Power movement, 1960s

“It is so beautiful to be black.” – Black Power movement, 1960s

“I am somebody” – Jesse Jackson

“Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.” – Alicia Garza

In theological terms, the phrases “I am a man,” “Black is beautiful,” and “Black lives matter” all express the biblical concept of the image Dei, or “image of God.” (28)

Human beings do not simply have the image of God; we are the image of God.

This image extends to the whole person. … While all creatures display vestiges of God, only a human being is the image of God and is such totally, in soul and body, in all his faculties and powers, in all conditions and relations. – Herman Bavnick

No single people group can adequately reflect the glory of God. Rather, we need the diversity present in the multiplicity of nations and tribes to paint a more complete portrait of God’s splendor. (30)

Racial Justice Practices

Teach What the Bible Says about Race and Ethnicity

…in the fight against racism, it is a good idea to start by teaching what the Bible has to say on the topic. Here are a few guidelines for doing so. (32)

| First, give plenty of lead-up time for whatever course of study you decide to use. (32)

Second, remember to focus on community-building and trust. (32)

Finally, lay out what you’ve studied. (33)

Learn Theology from the Disinherited

cf. Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

Any reformation in the way people think about race and ethnicity from a Christian perspective must include learning from people who have experienced marginalization and oppression. (34)

We all tend to selectively critique theological systems based on our cultural preferences and assumptions. … I believe there is much to learn from the theological insights of Palestinians, indigenous peoples, and Latin Americans, just to name a few. Yet I find it odd that some people seem more willing to learn from the theologies of slaveholders than the theologies of the enslaved and oppressed. The presumed theological and intellectual superiority of European and white sources is itself an example of white supremacy and should be confronted whenever you teach about biblical ideas of race and ethnicity. (35)

Treat Racism as It Should Be Treated: Like a Sin

While few churches would argue against the idea that racism is a sin, most will not deal with it as such. (36)

3. How to Explore Your Racial Identity

Essential Understandings

Racial Identity Development

…social scientists have a name for what it means to discover a sense of one’s race. It’s called racial identity development, and this chapter explains the crucial need for people of all races to critically explore their racial identity and ensure they are moving in a direction toward greater self-awareness and sensitivity. (41)

cf. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, and Other Conversations about Race, by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum.

In it, Tatum defines “racial identity” as “the meaning each of us has constructed or is constructing about what it means to be a White person or a person of color in a race-conscious society.” … Similarly, “racial identity development” refers to “the process of defining for oneself the personal significance and social meaning of belonging to a particular racial group.” (41)

Racial/Cultural Identity Development Model

Source: William Cross, Shades of Black: Diversity in African American Identity, cited in Beverly Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (New York: Basic, 1997), adapted and elaborated by Lisa Sung** (2/2002).

Stages of Minority Development Model Attitude toward Self Attitude toward Others of the Same Minority Attitude toward Others of a Different Minority Attitude toward Dominant Group
Stage 1: Conformity Has absorbed the images, beliefs, values of dominant group. Considers self as “colorblind” and the world as “raceless.” Views the world individualistically and relationally; unaware of significance of group. Identifies with and seeks acceptance among the dominant group, often by downplaying aspects associated with the dominant group. Disinterest; distance.

Co-ethnics may reject him/her because of assimilation to the dominant group.

“Don’t call me __; I’m American.”


“We’re all just people.”


“Just treat me as the individual I am.”


“__ are so uncool.”


“Why do they only stick to themselves?”

Stage 2: Dissonance and appreciating If positive encounter, surprised by perceived differences. If negative encounter, feels devalued and rejected; now unsure of own identity and community. Earlier beliefs about equality, “liberty and justice for all” shaken. Hurt, anger, confusion. May develop an “oppositional” identity, both protecting self and keeping the dominant group at a distance. Invalidating responses result in further disengagement. Openness to reconsidering the significance of ethnicity. “My color wasn’t supposed to matter, but clearly it does matter to them after all.”


“She’s different—how could she be proud of being Black?”

Stage 3: Resistance and immersion Redefining self. Little interest in developing relationships outside the group; outsiders are irrelevant. Joins peer group, which becomes the new social network.


Seeks positive images and history; surrounds self with symbols of identity.

“Black is beautiful.”


“Whites are so uptight.”

Stage 4: Introspection The new identity is integrated into the self-concept and affirmed; a new sense of security results. Willing to establish meaningful relationships across group boundaries with those who respect the new self-definition. The ethnic identity and ethnic social network are consciously embraced. “Say it strong and say it loud: I’m Black and I’m proud!”
Stage 5: Integrative Awareness “Emissary”: sees own achievement as advancing the group’s cause. Prepared to cross and transcend group boundaries as an emissary. Wiling to act as spokesperson and advocate for the group.


Prepared to function more effectively in diverse settings.

“I can learn from both Latinos and Whites.”

[The notes of the original table read as follow: “This model does not suggest that all persons proceed through all stages; rather, it outlines the steps and eventual outcomes of full identity development for those who engage the issues and pursue the process (especially during the college years.). Neither Cross nor Tatum define or distinguish between ethnic and racialized identity. Nor do they use the terminology ‘people of color,’ ‘co-ethnics,’ or ‘racialization’ in their presentation of this model.”]

Stages of Racial Identity Development: White Identity

Stage Self-Perception Stance toward Own (Dominant) Group Stance toward People of Color Typical Perceptions & Perceptions
1. Pre-Contact


Whites pay little attention to the significance of their racial identity “I am normal.” “I’m colorblind.”

“Normal”: no particular culture or ethnicity. Sees self as a person of goodwill, unprejudiced, colorblind. Views persons and the world individualistically and relationally; unaware of significance of group. “Normal.” Sees own community as possessing good-will, unprejudiced, colorblind. Racism is deliberate and over: acts of hostility or discrimination, or hate crimes committed by certain individuals. Disinterest or naïve curiosity about ethnic or cultural differences. “I don’t see color. I treat all the kids the same.”


“I don’t see why they keep focusing on our differences; underneath, we’re all the same.”


“Why do those Hispanics always stick to each other?”


“I don’t think of you as __; you’re just you.”


“Some of my best friends are __.”

2. Disintegration

Growing awareness of racism and white privilege as a result of personal encounters. This new awareness is characterized by discomfort. “How can I be white?”

Earlier beliefs about equality, “liberty and justice for all” shaken. Feelings of guilt and shame about historical oppression and about one’s own status in light of White privilege. Anger. Tempted to distance self from confronting the issues and one’s upbringing and community. My retreat into silence, or may become overzealous. Sees impact of racism in life of associate or friend. May react by trying to dissociate completely from own group and to become “adopted” by people of color.[1] “I’m not like most Whites; I’m a very fair, compassionate person.”


“I can’t stand his racist jokes any longer.”


“I am a religious and moral person, but how do I accept this injustice?”

3. Reintegration


Idealization of Whites and White culture and denigration of people of color and their cultures. “We have the best because we are the best.”

Denial of responsibility for the problems of people of color. Blaming the victim and reasserting the cultural myths of rugged individualism and pure meritocracy. Sides with and justifies the actions of own group and the pursuit of group interest. Hostility and anger directed toward people of color. Negative stereotypes and fear of people of color. “I’m not responsible for society or the hate of a few.”


“Everybody can succeed if they just work hard, so they have only themselves to blame.”


“I don’t know why these parents keep playing the race card.”

4. Pseudo-Independent


The individual gains an intellectual understanding of racism as a system of advantage, but unsure what to do about it. “Let’s help them become more like Whites.”

May develop “aversive racism”: wants the ideals of equality and racial tolerance, yet unwilling to confront own racialized biases and racialized privilege. Tends to overlook and rationalize racializing biases and actions perpetuating White privilege, by 1) denying that prejudice exists, or 2) citing other reasons. May try escaping Whiteness by exclusively associating with people of color; maybe rebuffed by those in the Dissonance or Resistance/immersion stages. Localizes race and race issues in people of color. “Achievement gap has nothing to do with race; it’s all about poverty.”


“Let’s teach Hispanic parents how to be better parents at home.”


“He didn’t mean to be racist. He’s a nicest guy I’ve ever known.”


“What does research say?”

5. Immersion


Marked by a recognized need to find more positive self-definition. Whites need to seek new ways of thinking about Whiteness, ways that take them behind the role of victimizer. “I’m white!”

Wants to develop a positive self-concept as a White in light of the historical and contemporary reality of White privilege. Assumes personal responsibility for racism and understand one’s own role in perpetuating it. Wants to develop a positive self-concept as a White in light of the historical and contemporary reality of White privilege. If successful in forming relationships with people of color, may benefit from their outside perspective and comparison. “I don’t know anything about my ethnicity or culture; I feel a little cheated. Whey [sic] didn’t my family keep alive?”


“If I really start speaking up about racism, I might start losing friends over it. Do I really want to get into with it them?” [sic]

6. Integration


A person incorporates the newly defined view of whiteness as part of a personal identity. The process is marked by an increased effectiveness in multiracial settings. Continued engagement in learning about anti-racism. “I see color and I like it.”

Positive views of European American ethnic identity and of whiteness are internalized. Makes a commitment to oppose racism. Committed to act and advocate for justice for people of color by seeking to dismantle White privilege and by working for full inclusion. Committed to act to advocate for justice and to work to empower people of color for full participation and contribution. “What can I do to help all people see the impact of race in student learning?”


“How can I work with my allies to reduce racial disparities in student discipline?”

[1] e.g. Rachel Dolezal

Racial Justice Practices

Locate Where You Are in Your Racial/Cultural Identity Development

The different phases of racial identity development include: conformity, dissonance, resistance and immersion, introspection, and integrative awareness. In general, one begins with less awareness of racial dynamics and an unconscious acceptance of white people and their cultural practices as normative, acceptable, and even preferred. … Knowing where you are in your own racial identity development can help you name the emotions you are feeling and can move you toward more mature levels of racial awareness. (47)

[Tim] Hershman seems to ascribe to the erroneous concept of “reverse racism,” which is the idea that the effort to address historic racial inequities has led to racism against white people. … But racism is more than an individual or interpersonal attitude. It includes systems, structures, and institutions owned and operated by those who hold the power to make decisions. (49)

Everyone has the capacity to be nasty to other people, to judge them before they get to know them. But there simply aren’t enough black people in positions of power to enact racism against white people on the kind of grand scale it currently operates against black people. – Renni Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race

The goal for everyone is to have a positive view of their racial and ethnic identity, one that does not require assimilation or rejection of culture or experiences, and one that values the diversity of other people. Racially mature people will assert not only that their race is a factor in how they experience the world but also that identity is more than skin deep. (51)

Write Your racial Autobiography

cf. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs, 1813.

In a similar way, recounting your story of race, whether as a member of a marginalized group or as a white person, can also create the kind of positive agitation needed for substantive change. One reason people struggle to talk productively about race is because they have not examined their own stories. (52)

Until we tell the truth about our own racial lives, w will never be able to tell the truth about our collective racial dilemma. (53)

Explore Your Family’s Racial Identity

[via: This section reminded me of the work of Edwin Friedman, specifically, Generation to Generation]

In discovering your family’s racial background, you will learn more about what you believe about race and why. You will more easily see how communities can contribute to helpful or harmful ideas about race. nd you will become more aware of how you can encourage those closest to you to take intentional steps toward racial justice. (55)

How to Teach Kids about Race

The first step in teaching kids about race is teaching (55) yourself. (56)

When talking to kids about race it is often necessary to push through your fears. … Bumbling through a conversation about race is often better than not having a conversation at all. (56)

| You must also realize that talking about race is not a one-time lecture but an ongoing dialogue. You cannot sit down and have the “race talk” with kids;… (56)

But we can’t just talk to kids about race; we have to “show” them about race too. (58)

The best conversations about race intersect organically with what a child experiences regularly in his or her world. (59)

Create a Pipeline of Mental Health Therapists of Color

The paucity of therapists from racial and ethnic minority groups, along with a lag in culturally responsive training materials, means (59) there is an urgent need to diversify both the demographics and curricula of the mental health profession. (60)

4. How to Study the History of Race

cf. “Unnameable Objects, Unspeakable Crimes” by James Baldwin.

Essential Understandings

Why Study History?

History is context. (64)

We need to study history not simply to know more about the past but to know more about ourselves. History is about identity. Rightly remembering our communal stories is a way of situating ourselves within a broader narrative. (65)

Ad Fontes

…the Latin phrase ad fontes—back to the sources—became a rallying cry. (65)

But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations. … Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation. – “Confederate States of America—Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union,” The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy (Yale Law School: Lillian Goldman Library)

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. – “Confederate States of America – Mississippi Secession—A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.”

Racial Justice Practices

Learn from Academic Historians

cf. Black Perspectives blogAfrican American Intellectual Historical SocietyBackstory podcast13th; I Am Not Your Negro

How to Spot Trustworthy History

First, as stated above, you should seek out primary sources. (69)

cf. SSNCC Digital website; Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute.

If you cannot find an original source, then there is good reason to be skeptical of the data. Going to the primary sources enables you to see for yourself the exact words or images related to a particular historical event or person. You can also gauge the accuracy of secondary sources, those analyses that rely on primary sources, by going to the original documents as much as possible. (69)

| Second, you should rely on multiple sources for historical data. (69)

Finally, be wary of any history that casts the story of humanity as one of inevitable progress with clear heroes and villains. (70)

Learn Your Local History

…familiarity leads to invisibility. Sometimes we grow so accustomed to seeing our surroundings that we have to rediscover how to interrogate our environment to glean lessons from the local past. (71)

cf. Unsettling Truths by mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

Take Them Down

Racial justice requires removing monuments that honor racist individuals and white supremacy. … Who does your state honor? Will you lobby members of your state legislature to remove and replace racists? (74)

There’s a difference between veneration and remembrance. We should remember the past, even the most painful parts, but that does not mean we need to venerate those aspects of our history. (75)

The problem with “heritage not hate” as a defense of contemporary Confederate symbolism is that insofar as the Confederacy existed to defend race-based chattel slavery, its heritage is hate. It is the hatred of freedom, of the image of God in Black people, and of unity. There is much to celebrate about the culture and traditions prevalent in the southern United States—Blues music, catfish, Margaret Walker Alexander and much more. [Margaret Walker Alexander (1915-1998) was a Black American poet, novelist, and professor. She wrote the novel Jubilee based on oral history from her grandmother as well as her own meticulous historical research. In 1968 she founded the Institute for the Study of the History, Life, and Culture of Black People at Jackson State University.] Why represent a region and a culture whose heritage you appreciate with the most reprehensible aspect of that place? (75)

Monuments and symbols are about memory—how we choose to remember the past. They are about who gets included and who gets left out of our narratives. … As a nation, we have literally put racists (75) on pedestals while claiming to be committed to liberty and justice for all. A minimum requirement for racial progress is to remove the statues and symbols of racism and to replace them with commemorations of those who fought for the dignity and equality of all people. (76)

Conduct an Oral History

The Oral History Association says oral history is “a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events.” … We need modern-day griots who will take the responsibility to record and share the oral recollections of people. (76)

cf. The Southern Oral History Project (SOHP)

[via: The notation is “Project” even though the website says “Program.” I’m presuming the link above is the right citation.]

Oral history is first and foremost an ethical endeavor. You must honor the people behind the stories. At the most basic level, taking an oral history means you cannot share anyone’s story without their express permission. (77)

Conduct an Institutional History

All institutions that are serious about racial justice should examine their own organizational histories. (78)

How to Commemorate Juneteenth

It wasn’t until June 19, 1865—a full two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate Army to Union forces and two years after the Emancipation Proclamation—that enslaved Black people in Texas heard that the Civil War had ended and that their emancipation would soon be a reality. (79)

Setting aside Juneteenth as a day of remembrance, commemoration, and celebration woulda accomplish at least three goals. First, it would remind Americans that their country was birthed amid the idea and practice that white people could own Black people. … Second, a national Juneteeth holiday would be an opportunity to celebrate progress. (79) … Third, celebrating Black emancipation would also remind us of the work that still needs to be done. (80)

As the commemoration of Juneteeth becomes more common, white people should be careful not to appropriate the holiday from Black people. (81)

The past is never dead. It’s not even the past. – William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

PART 2: Relationships

5. How to Do Reconciliation Right

The Son of God becoming human in Jesus Christ—what theologians call the incarnation—demonstrates the truth that all reconciliation is relational. (86)

We should be careful not to rush past the religious dimensions of reconciliation. (86)

Reconciliation needs a transcendent framework to serve as a guide on the journey toward racial justice, love, and wholeness. (87)

Essential Understandings

Racial Justice Often Begins with Relationships

It is difficult to pursue effective structural remedies to racism if you have little understanding of the personal experiences of marginalized people. Relationships make reconciliation real and motivate us to act. (88)

Conciliation or Reconciliation?

In 1957…US senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina engaged in the longest one-person filibuster in history (over twenty-four hours) to oppose passage o the Civil Rights Act of 1957. …Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which created quotas for immigrants based on race and completely banned Japanese immigrants for nearly thirty years. …the Indian Removal Act [was] signed (88) into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830. (89)

If different races of people have never had conciliation how can they have re-conciliation? One response is to ask, “How far back do you go?” In the Christian story before Genesis 3, there was harmony with God and between human beings. (89)

The Problem with Racial Reconciliation

We lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest, and we recognize that the racism which yet plagues our culture today is inextricably tied to the past. … We hereby commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry. – “Resolution on Racial Reconciliation on the 150th Anniversary of the Founding of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Southern Baptist Convention, Atlanta, GA, 1995.

But racial reconciliation as it is popularly understood and practiced in evangelical Christian circles suffers from three main shortcomings: it misdiagnoses the problem as “separation,” it does not properly address power dynamics, and it does not take gender into account. (91)

Desegregation simply means that people are not excluded from participation because of their race or ethnicity. Desegregation does not say anything about how racial and ethnic minorities are included in decision-making, how much power is shared with them, or how they are supported when exercising that power. (92)

Yet another way in which popular understandings of racial reconciliation fall short is in not addressing gender. (93)

cf. Chanequa Waler-Barnes, I Bring the Voices of My People

Racial Justice Practices

Incorporate Lamentation into Worship

If you have not learned to lament, you have not learned to love. … When love is betrayed and people hurt others because of racial arrogance, it is cause for lament. (93)

Every community dedicated to racial justice should have a canon of songs devoted to lament. (94)

Corporately Confess the Sin of Racism

Racial justice resisters will argue that no one can be expected to repent of racist acts they did not personally commit. But their argument fails based on what the Bible teaches about confession. (95)

As a religious leader of the Jewish people, Ezra understood that he interceded not just for himself but on behalf of an entire people. (96)

While each person is responsible for his or her own choices, one’s moral conscience is formed in relationship with a community of people. This means that all people in that community have a responsibility to examine the boundaries of their bigotry. (96)

How to Acknowledge Your Church’s Racial History

Any church, especially those that have been in existence for a long time, should engage in a process of uncovering and confessing their racial history. (98)

only what is revealed can be healed. It does no service to a community to hide its shortcomings. Failures of racial justice must be faced with humility, truth, and courage. (100)

Confession is not just about you; it is about the people you harmed. …a church has not truly reckoned with its racism until it ceases to hide it. Perfection on race is not a requirement for progress, but honesty is. (100)

How a Church Can Reconcile with People It Has Harmed through Racism

How to Preach about Racial Reconciliation

Milquetoast sermons about all people being equal in God’s sight and injunctions to treat everyone fairly is like going for a swim and calling it a shower. You get wet, but you don’t get clean. (103)

cf. How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon, Frank A. Thomas

Most pastors want to minister to the specific needs of their congregants. But pastors are not mind-readers. Parishioners, at times, need to respectfully bring up their concerns about racial justice with the leadership. (105)

[via: I really appreciated this emphasis on parishioner responsibility. It turns ministry into a true communal partnership, and a relationship.]

6. How to Make Friends

Essential Understandings

Humility Not Utility

A friendship based solely on what the other person can give you and what you can wrest from your connection is not a friendship but a series of exploitative engagements. (108)

Listen More Than You Speak

Race Is Felt

Many people, particularly those in the racial majority, approach the issue of race and racism from a mainly cognitive and intellectual perspective. (109)

A humble person recognizes that racism has wrought untold damage on entire communities. (109)

Racial Justice Practices

Do Your Homework First

Have you ever tried to talk about race on social media? I don’t recommend it. (110)

The person sitting across from you should not be your sole source of knowledge about race. First, they could be wrong or have idiosyncratic views that are not representative of the majority of people. Second, to be treated as the repository of all things racial is an unfair burden to put on anyone. Third, doing research beforehand demonstrates a minimum level of investment in the relationship as you take ownership of your own ignorance instead of expecting someone else to do it for you. (111)

cf. Tamara C. Johnson, “If You Love Me, Do Your Homework”

Can We Be Friends?

How to Meet People of Different Racial and Ethnic Backgrounds

How to Talk to Racial Justice Resisters

[Emma Frances] Bloomfield proposes three considerations to help you evaluate how to approach someone who is misinformed on a particular topic. [Emma Frances Bloomfield, “How to Talk to Someone You Believe Is Misinformed about the Corona virus,” The Conversation, March 17, 2020] (116)

| First, decide whether the topic is worth engaging. (116)

Second, Bloomfield says, “Don’t patronize.” (116)

Third, Bloomfield avises that you offer to “trade information.” (117)

Find Your Community or Make One

7. How to Build Diverse Communities

Essential Understandings

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

If diversity focuses on who is present, equity says who has access to a community’s resources and on what terms, and inclusion speaks to the sense of welcome and belonging extended to each person or group. (121)

We must acknowledge that the mere presence of racial variety does not produce racial justice. (121)

Make a Plan, Work the Plan

A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on an equal basis. – MLK Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

Intentionally seeking out racial and ethnic diversity is not an attempt to exclude white people but to include people who have been underrepresented because of racist beliefs and biases. (125)

Racial Justice Practices

How to Do a Group Study on Race

Build Diversity into the DNA of Your Organization

It is easier to end up with diversity if it is part of your organization from the start. (128)

Build a Case for “Why”

Building a case for “why” explains that diversity, far from being a box to check or just another program to execute, actually enhances the effectiveness o the organization. (128)

Plowing ahead without offering a tailored case for why diversity is a value and should be pursued may end up demolishing more than can ever be constructed. (129)

Assemble the Team

An easy mistake to make is to take action without fully understanding the problem first. (130)

Adopt a Statement on Racial Justice

First, a statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion indicates that the organization’s leadership has thought through issues related to race. Second, it provides an official policy to appeal to if an incident occurs or if a new or existing practice contradicts the organization’s stated commitment to racial justice. (131)

| The problem with a statement on racial justice is that it can become a zombie document. It lives on a website or in a report somewhere, but in practice it is dead. A Zombie document on racial justice has just enough life to give the appearance of vitality, but it provides none of the growth or change that would indicate viability. (131)

Require Applicants to Submit a Statement on Racial Justice

It is not enough simply to hire for diversity; you have to know what ap person believes about race and ethnicity and about their commitment to equity and inclusion. (131)

Hire in Clusters

How to Pursue Diversity Even If Your Organization Remains Homogenous

First, you need to teach the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion because the people there now may one day move on to someplace different. … Second, most homogenous organizations are only mostly homogenous, that is, there are still some Black people and other people of color present, even if only in small numbers. … Third, we should remember there are all kinds of diversity beyond race or ethnicity. (135)

Organize Yourselves

When to Leave an Organization over Racism

It is not true racial solidarity if your support ends the moment you must publicly align with someone who has been publicly maligned. (138)

…there is a season for everything, and moving on could be a sign of maturity and growth. (138)

PART 3: Commitment

8. How to Work for Racial Justice

They understood love as the fire that fueled their adamant demand for (141) change. Love requires the use of power. (142)

Power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, and political or economic changes. – MLK Where Do We Go from Here

Love for neighbor requires critiquing and dismantling unjust systems of racial oppression. (142)

You cannot love your neighbor while supporting or accepting systems that crush, exploit, and dehumanize them – Mika Edmondson

Essential Understandings

Love for God and Neighbor

Love is the fiery heart beating at the center of the urgent call for justice in our world. Love is the energizing force of justice that insists on fairness and equity for all. Love is the motivating factor that demolishes any paternalistic attitudes and builds a posture of humble service. Without love there can be no justice. (143)

Ain’t no such thing as I can hate anyone and hope to see the face of God. – Fannie Lou Hamer

[via: cf. 1 John 4:20]

Fighting Racism Is Bearing Witness to Christ

Some Christians have attempted to insert a wedge between the task of evangelism—proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers—and the task of racial justice. This is a false dichotomy. (145)

Racial Justice Practices

Steward Your Budget for Justice

Host a Candidate Forum

Host a Voter Registration Drive

Utilize Existing Church Documents

Host a Freedom School

Freedom schools taught academic skills and provided several tools necessary to pursue racial justice. (150)

The goal of a school like this is not to inculcate students to support a particular candidate or party but to inform them about matters that affect their lives and instill from a young age a sense of collective responsibility for their community. (151)

Start a Community Development Corporation

A CDC is a nonprofit organization formed to meet the needs of the local community. (152)

Sponsor a School

Every church has the opportunity to pursue racial justice in its local context. How has God uniquely positioned your group to participate in the positive transformation of your community? (155)

9. How to Fight Systemic Racism

cf. Color of Law, Richard Rothstein

Partly as a consequence of City and FPD priorities, many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue. – “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department,” 2.

The reason we face widespread racial inequality today is due to systems—political, educational, cultural, economic—that have been set up to support it. (158)

…just as individuals can act in racist ways, institutions can develop policies and practices that are racially discriminatory. When racist policies of different institutions intersect and interact, they create systemic racism. (158)

Essential Understandings

It Is Not Just About Individual Behavior

cf. From Here to Equality, by William Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen; How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

It Is about Impact, Not Intent

This is a high, often impossible standard because it requires verifiable evidence of a person or a group’s intent to discriminate based on race, something like a recorded phone call, an email, a memo, or eyewitness testimony where the perpetrators demonstrated racist motivations. (160)

Instead of focusing on intent, more attention should be paid to the impact or outcome of an action. If the result of a particular policy is to generate or sustain racial inequality, then such a policy might be racist. Racial justice advocates must recognize that, while intent matters, impact is what is critical in evaluating the fairness of a rule or practice. We must look at outcomes to evaluate whether a policy moves us further toward racial justice or further form it. (160)

What Is Worth Conserving?

Racial Justice Practices

Advocate for Voting Rights

cf. Shelby County v. Holder:

The formula captures States by reference to literacy tests and low voter registration and turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. But such tests have been banned nationwide for over 40 years. – Chief Justice John Roberts

…[t]hrowing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet. – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision. – Justice Diana Gribbon Motz

Work for Immigration Reform

Pay Reparations to Black People

Reparations are not simply about what happened during slavery; they are about the debt owed to Black people for the economic disadvantages created by white supremacy before, during, and since the practice of race-based chattel slavery. (168)

H.R. 40, the “Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act,” … The commission will “examine (1) the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.” (170)

How Individuals and Organizations Can Pay Reparations

Reparations simply means repair. White supremacy has decimated Black wealth and opportunity. No sufficient remedies have been applied. (173)

If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. – Malcom X

Criminal Justice Reform

cf. The Sentencing Project

First, we should abolish the death penalty. (175)

Second, eliminate cash bail and reform or eliminate solitary confinement.

…defunding the police is not just about taking funds away but redirecting them toward more effective measures that prevent the need for police in the first place. (178)

It’s about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions—mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms. It’s about shifting funding to education, to housing, to recreation. All of these things help to create security and safety. – Angela Davis

Promote Equitable Funding for Public Schools

This disparity is often referred to as the “achievement gap,” but some have contended that it is more appropriately termed the “opportunity gap” since students of color have not been afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts. (178)

Equity in public education is the goal. (179)

Much more could be mentioned—racial disparities in healthcare, the disproportionate effects of environmental degradation on communities of color, and continued discrimination in housing and real estate to name a few. … The “commitment” portion of the ARC of Racial Justice requires acknowledging that policies, not just the personal attitudes of individuals, perpetuate racism too. Those policies must be changed in order to promote racial justice. … confronting the interlocking pattern of practices and policies that create and maintain racial inequality is what love looks like in public. (180)

[via: Kendi’s argument—paraphrased—that policies lead to attitudes, not the other way around.]

10. How to Orient Your Life to Racial Justice

Fighting racism does not consist of a set of isolated actions that you take; rather these actions must flow from an entire disposition that is oriented toward racial justice. We have to reposition ourselves spiritually, emotionally, culturally, (181) intellectually, and politically to address the myriad ways that racism manifests in the present day. Racial justice is a lifestyle not an agenda item. (182)

Essential Understanding

Cancel Contempt

Contempt is the poison pill of racial justice. A distorted understanding of personhood leads to feelings of superiority or inferiority. … On the other side, racial justice advocates can quickly become contemptuous of those they view as racists and view themselves as superior because of their enlightenment or “wokeness.” While one side has healthier beliefs about race than the other, contempt is never the answer. (182)

The temptation to look down on others because of their backward views on race and diversity easily descends into disdain and haughtiness. Feelings of contempt dehumanize other people and cause us to replicate the hate we wish to eradicate. So to make racial justice a lifelong pursuit, we must constantly battle against any feelings of contempt we have toward other people. (183)

[via: This is getting harder to do.]

Have This In Mind Among Yourselves

We are all part of the problem. (183)

Fighting racism is ultimately about serving other people from a wellspring of love. A spirit of loving service has to be infused with a spirit of humility that puts the interests of others before our own. (183)

To pursue racial justice, the critical attitude we must cultivate is humility—to listen and learn, yes, but also to admit that we, too, can act in racist ways. … White people must recognize with humility that, although life can be difficult for anyone, their skin color has not added to their hardships. People of color must recognize that, despite their life experiences, they can sometimes get it wrong when it comes to race. (183)

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. – Matt. 7:5

White people must constantly cultivate humility in order to acknowledge their complicity in racism and engage in the process of repentance and repair. Racism is designed to be (184) invisible to white people—this is just the way things are, or this is the “right” way to do things—so when they are confronted by the reality of racism, it can offend their sense of personal innocence. There is no way around this feeling. You have to go through a process of deconstructing the ways white supremacy has skewed your perception in order to see the reality of race more clearly. (185)

| For people of any race or ethnicity, humility is a key attitude in the work of racial justice. It takes humble honesty to consider one’s shortcomings and still pursue the work of fighting racism. Humility allows new information to correct old ideas and leads us to descend from our lofty perches of self-justification to consider how our action or inaction can contribute to racism. Humility undergirds all the actions that orient one’s life toward racial justice. (185)

Keep the Light Switch On

There’s a big difference between a light switch and a smoke alarm. A light switch can be turned on and off. A smoke alarm is always on. Racial justice for white people is often like a light switch. You can turn it on or off whenever you feel like it. But for people of color, racial justice is more like a smoke alarm. It always has to be on just to keep safe and avoid danger. (185)

…remain conscious of race even when you have the option of not doing so. For white people, this demonstrates genuine solidarity with people of color. (186)

Racial Justice Practices

Budget Your Time toward Racial Justice

Just as you have to revise your financial budget so you can make an important investment, you may have to shuffle your time and priorities to make investments in racial justice. …remember that racial justice consists not simply in external action but internal reflection as well. The time you spend thinking, praying, and processing is time that counts toward fighting racism too. (187)

Give Sacrificially

…”Golden Handcuffs,” the idea that one can be so tied to making money and living a materially comfortable life that it becomes a prison preventing you from doing what may be less lucrative but more beneficial to yourself and others. (188)

Be Careful about Referencing Racists

Refuse to Platform Racists

A common word for deplatforming someone or refusing to promote their brand or work is “cancelling.” [sic] Many people decry “cancel culture” as the petulant response of overly sensitive people or as the overzealous response of those for whom political correctness is all-important. … From a racial justice perspective, though, deplatforming or cancelling [sic] does not refer to the person’s very being. It concerns only their work and their influence. If someone openly traffics in racism, then they should not be given the privilege of a large audience or influence. Deplatforming should always make room for change and growth. Everyone deserves a chance to learn and repent. But until that happens, we should consider refusing to platform people who act in racist ways. (192)

Use Your Platform Productively

First, use your platform if the issue directly affects your community. (193)

Second, if a prominent official or leader makes racist comments, it may be time to raise your voice. (194)

Third, if someone from your ideological, political, or religious group is harming the cause of racial justice, consider making a public statement. (194)

Fourth, use your platform for racial justice when an issue or incident grips you and won’t let go. (194)

First, determine your platform. (194)

Second, be public about it. (195)

Third, when you take this stance, do your due diligence to make sure you are saying the right things in the right way. (195)

Finally, prepare for the reaction. (195)

Support Minority-Owned or -Led Businesses

Take Your Talents to Minority-Owned or -Led Organizations

Support Candidates Committed to Racial Justice—Or Run Yourself

Although being an (198) elected official as a religious person can pose unique challenges, there is still a general need (which, of course, includes those without any formal religious affiliation) for people of conviction and high moral standards to run for office. (199)

Reconsider Where You Send Your Kids to School

Ensure Local Schools Practice Racial Justice


Fighting racism is not just about how it changes the world; it’s also about how it changes you. (204)

Fighting for racial justice has taught me more about…me. I am far more fragile than I like to admit. I am subject to the same preconceived notions and judgmentalism that I decry in others. I get tired, frustrated, angry. I have also discovered reservoirs of previously untapped resilience. I am learning to ask for help when I need it. I have gleaned lessons from others about how to long for justice and still have joy a the same time. (205)

To the trepidatious,…the only way to grow is to go. The only way to increase your courage, perseverance, and skill is to get started. … And let me take the pressure off. You will make mistakes. You will stumble and perhaps fall at times. But failure is not in the fall but in whether you stay down. (205)

| To those intrepid travelers…you are already effective. …you have already succeeded because you got started. (205)

We cannot give up. We are people of hope. Hope is not blind optimism. It is a realistic assessment of current conditions with the faith that tomorrow can be different. We are people who believe that a brutal, unjustified murder resulted in a resurrection. We believe that a poor carpenter from Nazareth conquered death and is forming a people who will join in this triumph. Each day that we live is the opportunity to be witnesses to the resurrection life and the coming of the kingdom of God. We pray and work for that kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done, not just in the sweet by and by, but right here and now. The journey for racial justice continues, but the music we hear along the way is not a funeral dirge; it is festival music leading us to a banquet of blessings and a harvest of righteousness. Today is the day and now is the time to join this journey toward racial justice. (206)

About VIA


  1. Thank you for putting this out there. I agree with your opinion and I hope more people would come to agree with this as well.

  2. Fight isn’t the finish of progress, it is the start … I stand with Minneapolis. I trust in us. Change will come.

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