A Quick Primer for Christians Engaging in Dialogue About Race

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October 19, 2017 by Kyle

As a person of color who is up on social media I observe a ton of online conversations around race and the Christian faith. In a spirit of edification, I want to offer five quick thoughts on discussions surrounding race and the church–hope that it is helpful:
1. The use of personal anecdotes within a discussion about systemic/systematic racism often times fails to appreciate the scale and history of the problem of race within society.
2. A quick retort of “just forgive” does not consider the ministry opportunity available to the church to participate in the responsibility to reconcile. We (the church) need to ask the question–“what does it look like to be made whole?” The process of racial restoration for the evangelical church goes beyond a sermon, posting scripture verses or a “why can we just…” FB post. The damage associated with racist ideology permeates to the core of an individual and will require more than a simple Bible study. Here are several resources that help to connect the dots on how the church birthed racist ideology:
  • Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Race: A Theological Account by J. Kameron Carter.
  • The Christian Imagination by Willie James Jennings
3. Some folks involved in the discussion surrounding race need to put in some work prior to engaging around this topic–particularly with online discussions. There’s a ton of resources available–here are a few written by white scholars:
  • The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  • Wages of Whiteness by David Roediger
  • The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward Baptist.
  • Doctrine of Race by Mary Beth Swetnam Matthews
4. When discussing the issue of race we must understand ‘corporate responsibility’. If we’ve benefited corporately from a system (e.g., Redlining, creation of suburbs, etc.) then we are responsible to at least acknowledge that it exists. Often times false equivalents are used to shut down counter arguments and to claim, “I’m a victim too”. The result is that racialization is never addressed as a sin to be repented of and therefore reconciliation remains elusive. We may believe that we are absolved of any responsibility to empathize and/or repent because, ‘my ancestors had it rough too…’
5. Poverty is not the only by-product of racial oppression. One can be rich and still experience racism and one can be poor and still experience privilege.
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