New York Times’ Bestselling author, Jemar Tisby, joins Mark and Rex to discuss his book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore, and your co host Rex Gurney. And on the show today, we are excited to have new york time best selling author jemar tisby. This is the first time we’ve had a New York Times bestselling authors. First time. Yeah. We have we have last time, but the first time but Jemar is the author of the color of compromise the truth about the American churches complicity and racism and wrecks This is really a show that is continuing the conversation right? on race and racism in America and in the church. And what is our role to, to combat that racism and and to choose another way, and Jim Marrs book and this this conversation, I think is so important for us to continue to have, he takes a historical look at how the church has has either been silently involved or overtly. And it’s a look that we have to take to be able to move forward.
Hey, Tamara, thank you so much for joining us on the show. And excited to have you and I thought we start with a little bit of common ground. I was reading your bio. So you’re born and raised kind of in the Chicago area.
That’s right. north of Chicago,
north of Chicago and I and then you did your undergrad at Notre Dame go Irish? Yes, I did. There we go. So I was born and raised in Indiana. Okay, and so she Deanna though I think Yeah, very small town. But I did I did make the pilgrimage up to Notre Dame. And and we’d we went there a couple times on game day, not never inside, but just just hanging out outside. And well, it
is gorgeous here. So even going out there is Yeah. What did you do one time?
It really is the cameras beautiful. One time I was there. And somehow the doors were open. And I walked down. I was with my soccer team actually in high school. And we walked down onto the football field, and just started running around and basically acting like Rudy got kicked out by security.
Oh, that’s great. I don’t think I’ve ever been on the grass of the field. So you had a deeper football experience was that I did. Although I agreed to go I counted it up one time. And between undergrad and the year after I graduated, I got to go to 24 straight home games. Oh, wow. Yeah. I’m from the Mexico. So I have absolutely no.
That’s true. That’s true. pretty helpful on there. But it’s good. Good to have another, you know, Irish fan on the show. Now you’re currently down in the Mississippi River Delta. You’re on the Arkansas side.
That’s right. That’s right. It’s always using two people. I mean, the language is confusing, because it’s called the Mississippi Delta. And then of course, people think of the state, but it’s really about the river. And then right, it spans Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana. So I always have to specify I’m on the Arkansas side of the river, but the delta is a region and a culture all to itself. It really obeys no state boundaries. Yeah,
that’s very true. Well, I must be a little precarious being a Notre Dame fan.
sec country? Yes. Yeah. We were absolutely passionate about football at Notre Dame. And but coming down to the SEC. Wow. Wow. Another World. It is another world. It’s been very interesting. Especially because I have gone to school in Mississippi. And there was a time a few years back when Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi were both ranked. Right, right. Yeah. I mean, heads were exploding. People were walking on air for that couple of weeks. But most of the time, it’s not. It’s not that story of winning. It’s been a nice time since then.
That’s the truth. Well, I’m excited to kind of get into your book, The color of compromise the truth about American churches, complicity in racism. And for me, I’ve loved the book kind of dove into it this summer, and even was did a guy’s group at our church kind of walking through. Yeah, it’s really good. And for me, it’s kind of like I think two key words jump out from that title, compromise and complicity. So I’d love to hear you kind of how you use those two words to kind of frame the story of race and racism in America and the church.
Thank you, thank you for leading with that question because it really frames the entire discussion. So, right off the bat, a lot of times people kind of misunderstand the idea of compromise and complicity. And and their argument is, well, it’s more than that. Right? Christians have been active participants in constructing a racial hierarchy in the United States and even beyond. And so in a sense, those words are not strong enough, is what they say. Yeah, excuse me, which I totally agree with. There have been instances and individuals and institutions that have been very overt in their racism. And I talk quite a bit about them throughout the book. But what I’m trying to get out with the idea of compromise and complicity is that when you look at the most extreme forms of racism, putting on a white robe and hood burning across stringing up a noose, whatever it might be, that’s, that’s actually a relatively small number of people quantitatively, right? But how do those acts of racism occur? How is it permissible in a society or in a community is because you have all of these people as sort of active bystanders, who are observing these things. And even if they’re not actually physically doing these acts of racial terrorism, by their inactivity, by their silence by their passivity, they are tacitly giving approval to it. So I begin the book with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, and the murder of four little girls through an act of racial terrorism. Obviously, that incident is egregious. And what’s so interesting is that people around the nation and around the world, even staunch segregationist, condemned that act. But what was so interesting to me is a speech by a young white lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr, that he gave in the wake of that tragedy. And he calls his audience which was a group of white businessmen in Birmingham, he calls them to task because he says, Listen, if we had spoken up sooner, if we had drawn a line in the sand over racism, in our families, among our friends, at parties in the workplace, maybe this never would have happened. And so what he was getting at, I think, is the idea of compromise and complicity, that you don’t always have to be the one lighting the dynamite or tying the noose, or using the racial slur. But if you are not one who’s actively standing up against that stuff, then you create a context of compromise.
It’s kind of, you know, sad for me, because almost every example that you use basically comes from the theological and denominational tradition that I grew up in Southern Baptist. You know, and even worse, when you mentioned Dabney, it’s like I went to Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia for my PhD. Wow. And so, you know, there’s the there’s the Dabney connection there, and it’s, it’s all over the place.
It’s all over the place, it really is no, no Christian tradition in the US is, is completely innocent on this matter, right. I mentioned in the book that all three major denominations, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian split, essentially over the issue of slavery prior to and leading up to the Civil War, numerous smaller denominations facing the same kind of decisions and in the face of those decisions, whether they could sort of take the fork in the road that moves toward racial justice, or take the fourth fork in the road that’s wide and easy and supports the status quo. So many took the latter approach. So I think I hope it forces us all to be introspective.
Yeah, cuz they’re especially they’re just again, using that idea of compromise and that it’s not, it’s not necessarily there are those examples of overt racism. But there’s also there’s so much of that in invert racism or that compromise that that it doesn’t, you know, it’s kind of funny, like growing up growing up in Indiana and and growing up in a very white churches. You know, you kind of you kind of meet people under like, I never met a racist there. No one ever said, like, Hey, I’m a racist. But there was a lot of silence and a lot of complicity in that way in
the 1920s. I mean, I’m a history professor is like 1920s was southern Indiana, I think was like, right around zero. The KKK resurgence. Exactly. Right,
right. Yeah. It’s so interesting. Now apart. You know, I drive in and around the Delta in Mississippi all the time. And you know, it has this reputation externally as being this really backward racist place. But I am far more nervous dry driving in parts of Indiana, Missouri, Southern Illinois than I am in Mississippi. So absolutely.
Yeah. When and Martin Luther King Jr. noted that the worst racism he saw was in Chicago. Right? Right, right.
So one of the points I tried to make in the book is that bigotry has no boundaries. And racism is not confined to a region. So there was an entire chapter in the book called complicity with racism in the north, North being a proxy for anywhere outside the South could be the Midwest, all of that. But it’s important to remember, and this is a journey that I’ve been on. Having been born and raised in the Midwest, we had sort of this aesthetic diversity, right? So in and around the Chicago area, you’d have people from a lot of different places, you have large immigrant communities, you had huge Polish community, and I went to Catholic schools, for most of my There you go. So we had Cardinal Pulaski, and all of that stuff. So yeah, that was all around, but we were still so very, very deeply separated and segregated. But you had the illusion of sort of being post racial, we wouldn’t use that term back then. But you had the illusion of saying, Well, you know, racism is not really a problem, you’re looking at all this diversity at the mall, or downtown, or whatever it might be right, and then you come down south, and the divisions are so stark, in some ways, I mean, we’re really close proximity, but the, the lives are still very separate. And realizing that but then, having seen this is what I think is sort of the power of, of understanding race through a southern lens, at least it has been for me is because like, I needed this remedial course in how racism operates. And you come down to the south. And it’s, it’s, it’s in big block bold letters, racism, functions, right. But then if you learn those basics, then you can look at other parts of the country and see, oh, that’s where it’s working. That’s, that’s how it’s not working between the races. It’s still there. I just didn’t see it until I had, you know, a primer course, if you will, on on what it looks like. And then I could see some of the nuances and other places.
My wife and I were very, I guess we shouldn’t have been, but we were sort of surprised when we moved to Richmond, Virginia. And because I was going there to you know, for graduate school, we didn’t have any money. And so we’re always looking for free things to do. We had two small kids, right. And so you know, whenever the paper said, you know, street festival, or free concert or whatever, we’d be there. And invariably, the crowd was either all black, or all white. And we were like looking around, it’s like, so where are the signs? And you know, the signs are, like written in everybody’s heads. We just didn’t know how to read them yet. And one reason we actually moved back to California was our kids were in elementary school, and it was like, you know, we don’t want them learning where the signs are. Because they’re there.
That’s a great point. This actually connects to what we were saying, I think at the top of the show, about football, right? And, you know, it’s cliche, it’s funny, but honestly, the only time in my little community where people come together across races is at the high school football game. There’s one high school for the area, it’s mostly black. But no matter what race you are you you like to watch football and you like to watch your team win. And so especially when the team was winning, made it to regionals, and all that stuff, that that’s pretty much the only time because it’s certainly not happening on on Sundays that are coming together.
Right now it’s not. You mentioned something in Jamal, about that racism never like goes away. It just adapts. And I’d like you to kind of expound on expand on that just a little bit. It never goes away. It just adapts almost like a virus. It’s why we’re dealing with right now. Yeah,
very apropos analogy. So that theme in the book is critical, because so many people, especially in a book, like the color of compromise, that uses history as a vehicle to convey the point. So many people would be tempted to say, Oh, that’s horrible. I’m so glad we’re past that now. I’m so glad racism isn’t a problem anymore, right. And so I say racism never goes away. It just adapts so that we can be clued in to how racism operates in the present day. And I would say you know, there are three major iterations or major manifestations of racism. Usually of race based chattel slavery, you have Jim Crow segregation. And now you have what Emerson and Smith call in their book divided by faith a racialized society in which virtually any quality of life factor from health to wealth to education and more, falls predictably along racial lines. And that’s sort of the legacy of these more overt forms of racism. We’re seeing that now in the pandemic, we’re totally a perfect example, right? Yes, it’s disproportionately affecting Latino and Latino communities, black communities, incarcerated communities, right, right, all of those things. And to say that racism never goes away, it just adapts is to pay attention to the way that racism manifests differently in different areas. Why should we think that in 2020, racism is going to look exactly the same as it did in 1920, or 1820. And the reason racism persists, why does it continue to be a problem, I argue is because of the narrative of racial difference, or white supremacy, right? So so white supremacy, crafts, a story, about races, about ethnicity, about culture, that posits that white people are in the center or on top, everything else is marginalized or less than, and because that narrative remains, then you’re going to see racism, it’s going to look different in different times in places, but the undergirding ideology has not been dismantled. And so Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, put it this way. He said the North won the Civil War, but the South won the narrative war. And I think I learned that in Virginia, right, right, right. Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, that’s this is the all the debates over Confederate monuments now, right? Because these symbols are telling a story. That story is one of enshrining, re enshrining white supremacy, post emancipation post Civil War. And to take them down, I argue and others argue, is to begin to open the space for writing a new narrative that is based on equity that is based on dignity of all people, but those who argue to keep it up, saying heritage, not hate and all of these things, arguing for the lost cause narrative of the Civil War. It is a narrative of racial difference that perpetuates racism.
Right. One of the most amazing things I’ve seen this summer is that huge statue of Robert E. Lee on monument Avenue, because you know, we lived in regimen. And to see it now basically, you know, just sort of covered with BLM slogans and such an interesting thing that people don’t, I guess, realize is that on monument Avenue, near that statue is First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, which is really interesting. I think I’ll just leave that at that. Yeah. Yeah.
Yeah. When Angela in the book, like using history as a vehicle, and Rex is actually a history professor. So he appreciates obviously, that aspect. I think it does help us realize the way that racism hasn’t gone away. It’s just adapted because you see those same themes. You see that same narrative of white supremacy, even if it’s not maybe an overt white supremacy, you know, group that might be saying something, but I’ve heard people even during, you know, during the last six months, say things, and I’m like, Wait a second. That is what people were saying in the 60s. Yep, yep. And so it is so important to, for me, it’s been kind of diving back into the history. That’s why I appreciate so much about your book is because we don’t, it is a sobering history, right. And you say that in your book, you know, it’s like having a sobering talk with your doctor like, but you have to look at the truth. And there seems to be right now this desire to, to rush to reconciliation, right, like rush to like, hey, well, can we just get past this? And and I think it’s so important the point you make in the book about that, we have to we have to understand the history first. That’s right. And we have to have that confession, before we get to reconciliation. And I think that’s, that’s something that I think the the, the white church is learning and needs to learn more of right now. Like, we can’t just jump to peace and harmony, right? We’ve got to walk through this and, and really engage.
So you make a couple of really important points that I want to highlight, and I’ll state them upfront in case I forget. The first one I want to connect some of the the same tropes and lingo that we’ve heard in the past to the present. And then the second is, you know why we need to go through this truth telling process if we really want to get to reconciliation. So on the first one, I’ll just give a concrete example. So in the Chapter on the civil rights movement. That was a chapter actually had to completely rewrite. It was tough because there’s so much there. There’s so much there to talk about in terms of Christian complicity. And so the way I decided to frame it was sort of juxtaposing Martin Luther King and Billy Graham. And so MLK is this activist pastor and preacher. And Billy Graham is sort of the face of white evangelicalism for really half a century. And they’re both Christians, but they’re both approaching civil rights from very different perspectives. And what made Graham interesting as sort of a foil in this chapter is that he’s not a foaming at the mouth racist, right? Like he’s not playing the N word. Even in 1953, he pulls down the rope separating black and white people, now one of his rallies, and that’s before Brown v Board of Education, he has keen to pray at one of his rallies in 57. So you know, he’s making these gestures, but then by 1963, when when kings activism is, is still going, when the tensions are even higher than they were in 1955, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and all that kind of grammar saying put on the brakes a little bit, right, but in terms of the echoes from the past, to the present. So while Graham isn’t sort of overtly opposing black people, or black civil rights, he is adamantly preaching against communism. And so we need to remember the context, right? This is post World War Two, there’s the cold war going on. So so it has, you know, different political implications, you know, in the 50s and 60s than it does now. But also understand that that communist was an epithet that they foisted upon civil rights activists to discredit them. And they’re basically saying, just like the communist want to flatten out society and have everything be equal and equal distribution of everything. That’s what the civil rights activists are, they’re trying to flatten out, the racists have everything under this authoritarian regime. And so you cannot be part of the civil rights movement. So this is coming from the mouth of the most prominent evangelist. And of course, people are making the connection, explicitly or implicitly, to civil rights activists. And then now in the 21st century, is remarkable. Same language, they still using cognero. Same kind of surprised about here, there’s still communists around, right? Like, I mean, you know, they do put a twist on it. So now it is critical race theory. And they’re basically using that label in the same way that they’ve used communist, or socialist. Now, in the public, in political discourse, especially, you can look at sort of right wing political commentators, and the way they talk about Biden, the way they talk about the democrats right now is, you know, we have to defeat them in order to defeat socialism in the United States. So, again, just you know, the link between those two past and present is very remarkably consistent.
You know, tomorrow, you did say, I guess something, or at least I think I read this, that America’s Original Sin isn’t slavery, but greed. Right. And I think that’s sort of speaks to what we’re talking about right now, actually, you know, we seem to have an economic reason to avoid dealing with this issue. And I see this honestly, during the pandemic, and that, regardless of what, you know, health, public health, people will say, the important thing is even among my tribe, which which is why evangelicalism, at least many is is you know, we can’t sacrifice the economy. for public health, it’s, it’s the same economic argument. That’s right, that’s right. enshrining that, so,
and I think if, if we have the time should the Lord tarry, and, you know, 50 years from now, we look back on this, I think it would be reasonable for historians to make that connection between profit over people, and especially people of color. So it still falls along those racial lines. And I think, you know, sort of the white us church writ large is kind of an example of the parable of the rich young ruler. So the rich young ruler comes to Jesus and said, you know, Jesus, I’ve done XYZ for the faith and for religion, what what must what else must I do to be saved? And it’s like Jesus, like good. That’s great. go sell all your possessions, give to the poor and come follow me. And of course, the rich young ruler goes away sad and in many ways, the white church in the US is like that rich. No. ruler in the sense that, you know, they’ve done the tithing and the donating and the nonprofits, they preach on Sunday, they evangelize. Right? And then they say, What must I, what must I do to be saved? And Jesus says, Give up your privilege. Yeah, give up your riches, even financial riches that you’ve acquired over the course of centuries, due to the exploitation of black people and other people of color, sell it all, give it to the poor, in which case, in this case in the United States would be, you know, people of color racial and ethnic minorities, and come follow me. And in so many cases, the church whether a congregation denomination or a sort of culture of Christianity walks away sad, because the cost is too great.
Right, it says the whole Well, the whole system. And and I think you sort of mentioned this, and it’s something that has not been a theme we haven’t talked about a little bit in the podcast is, you know, oftentimes, I’ll hear folks basically, um, try to detour the argument about systemic racism, or any sort of systemic solution to the issue, and try to personalize it. I’m not personally racist, or I don’t think I’m personally racist. And so there go, you know, no problem, basically. And I tend to think as, as, you know, sort of a amateur theologian teaching at a Christian school, that there’s a couple of things going on there. One of them is sort of a, I don’t know, almost an implicit Gnosticism. And it which is just sort of really interesting. It’s like, so spiritual equality, you know, we’re all equal in the sight of God. And so you know, and I think this way, I being, you know, well, I’m obviously very white. You know, but but it’s like that sort of a gnostic spiritual sort of thing, but sort of getting down to flesh and blood, and this world and systems sort of don’t want to go there. And I remember a book I read years ago, by Harold bloom, which is interesting, he was talking about the American religion. And when I was reading that book, he basically said the American religion is Gnosticism. And then he talked about the two primary institutional culprits and one was the LDS church. And so I’m going yeah, I can see that I can see that. And then, of course, the second one was the Southern Baptist Convention. And I’m like, Oh, my gosh, yeah. And you know, it, I could see here I can see his point. Well, you can see his point,
bring up a really important point about this, I think artificial, extra biblical bifurcation between the spiritual and the material. And that’s predates the United States as a as a nation, in terms of how Christianity has developed on this continent among people of European descent. So you can go all the way back to one of the most startling sort of events that I found in my research was about the Virginia assembly, in 1667, passing a law that said baptism would not emancipate an enslaved Native American, African or person of mixed race background, right. And so you have this in this law, this bifurcation between the spiritual baptism and the material your your emancipation, and then you have even Starker examples on a smaller scale. When you have Francis luxuria, a missionary with the Society for the propagation of the gospel speaking in the late 18th, early 19th century and his the baptismal vows that he makes new converts who are Native American or African, recite, say that you are seeking baptism purely for the salvation of your soul, and not out of any intent to free yourself from slavery. And so even in the very vows that people say, upon their entrance into the household of God, they are being relegated to second class citizenship, and the separation between the spiritual and material, which, as you say, persists up to this day, in this form of Gnosticism. To say that, well, we can preach the gospel to people, you know, and a lot of people say that that phrase, just preach the gospel as a retort to folks who are saying, well, the gospel entails material, social justice, right? And if they No, no, no, no, just preach the gospel, change hearts, one person at a time, all of that stuff. So there’s this individualism aspect, which we should talk about, but there’s also the separation between the spiritual and material as long as I preach Jesus at you, then I’m doing my part and we’re good. Whatever, that you’re stuck in generational poverty, who cares that you’re more likely to be incarcerated than than other people. All of that, just just focus on your eternal soul will be fine.
That’s seems to go back to as well, that comparison between Graham and King. They’re there. Graham was focused on the sounds and I think I mean, there’s a there’s an image to have I think is during the watts riots in the 60s, you have Graham flying overhead with the newscaster and talking about how that represents kind of the degradation of the American society. And you have King going to the protesters and saying, what do you want to talk about? What do you need? And and and that theme then has carried was obviously within evangelicalism like he said, I mean, there are people even as as things started, you know, happening in this summer, you know, since May, with kind of, you know, I know different news outlets have called it, you know, another like America’s race reckoning, and talking about it and talking about it in church. Yeah, there’s been a lot of people saying, hey, just preach Jesus, just preach Jesus. And it’s like, I’m pretty sure they just taught Jesus and the Civil War as well and in the south, and how we as especially in the evangelical community, and that’s kind of the community that Jessup is in. How do we bring those two together, we can talk about salvation, but it has to include social justice, as well. And we have to speak to, to what’s happening in the lives of people. And I think that’s, hopefully that could be maybe one of the reckonings that’s happening this summer. And in a shift that, yeah, that can be made,
I think I would bring up two things to your point is, you know, compare and contrast evangelical ethics with Catholic social tradition, which I learned, and then also the selectivity of this separation between the spiritual and the material. So on the first point, I didn’t know there was I was going through Catholic school, K to eight and then college. But there’s an entire tradition in Catholic ethics, that is socially oriented. You can certainly read some of the people bowls, and some of the encyclicals that talk about unions that talk about preferential option for the poor all of these things, right. And so what I was sort of imbibing without really being conscious of it was that the gospel and social justice there’s there’s not there’s there’s no space between them, there’s not a gap between them that what what your Christian calling is, is to work on behalf of your neighbor. And working that out in all kinds of practical everyday, even political ways, right. So I think that’s a huge growth area for evangelicals is to have that, you know, there’s no real tradition, you can pull it out in places in their theology, but to have sort of a coherent tradition, like others do, is, I think, foreign to the evangelical tradition in the US. And then secondly, it bears noting that evangelicals tend to be very selective in what they critique of as social justice. Because they will take on other causes publicly.
I, I teach a class here where, you know, we talk about Christian perspectives on such and I’ll try to mention the seamless garment thing, and a lot of my students just is just No, that can’t possibly be there’s no connection between life issues, that life issues is just basically one thing, and I think we know what it is, and everything else is not a life issue. And I talk about, you know, in the Catholic Church, there is at least this tradition is not always, you know, taught like it should be, but at least there’s this tradition that there are links between all of these things. And the interesting thing is, that’s just sort of hard for for my tribe. And I include myself, I’m a white evangelical, it’s just I guess we’ve been, I don’t know, theologically trained not to see those connections.
You really hit on it theologically trained, right, like, so I just did a book review in the times on Robert P. Jones, his new book white too long. And he’s essentially making that same argument, as are a handful of other books that are all coming out about the same time from Christian homes do make Jesus and john wayne reconstructing the gospel by Jonathan Wilson hardgrove, taking America back for God by Whitehead and Perry, all essentially making the same argument and touching on the same point that she did that there’s actually something in the way the white evangelical church does Christianity does theology that that undermines any sort of stated commitments to racial justice and racial equity is the way they are learning to practice faith that actually undermines any efforts toward racial justice, racial reconciliation, and then to the selectivity point, just a very contemporary example, there’s a very well known pastor in California, who is leading his congregation in what he calls an act of civil disobedience, to meet in person for church amidst a pandemic, in direct defiance against policies and ordinances, against crowds like that which are not, and then views it as this righteous cause, basically, framing it as Christ has called us to, to gathered worship, the state is not going to prevent us from doing what Jesus says. And so we’re going to gather whatever the consequences may be. And then that is seen by many evangelicals, not all but many as a righteous cause. Right. But when you take the same sort of acts of civil disobedience, and saying that that, you know, the law is unjust, and we’ll take the consequences, when you apply those tactics to racial justice, all of a sudden, it’s just preach the gospel. We don’t we Romans 13. Obey the authorities. Right? Right. Right. It’s just very selective in in what people frame as a worthy Christian justice issue, and what’s not,
in spite of all the angry letters and emails we’re going to get in this podcast. I believe you’re right, you’re totally right. You just, it’s it’s that’s obviously, right. Right, obviously true.
Yeah. And I guess so as as moving forward. And you have an upcoming book, right? That is how to fight racism. Looks like it’d be coming out maybe first of the year. That’s right. January 21.
I was gonna, I was gonna ask you tomorrow, you know, if I can’t wait to January, the first and I know that, you know, I need to what would be a couple of helpful anti racist books for someone like me? You know, there’s a lot out there. I just, and you know, we’re all busy people, but I want something that that’s helpful. And doesn’t skirt issues. For someone like me, obviously, growing up in a growing up with white privilege is just, it just is, yeah. Well, what do I need to read?
I have a bias toward history. So I would, I would recommend, um, books, particularly by academic historians. And so I say that to differentiate between, you know, what’s popular on bookshelves that brick and mortar stores, right, which are not always written by historians? Not always. And we can’t shop there right now. Anyway, so Yeah, exactly. California, right now. So some of the books that I mentioned previously, wait too long, Jesus and john wayne, a couple of books that have been impactful for me, given my context in the south john ditmars. Local people, it’s sort of a slog in the sense that it’s it’s the narrative is hard to follow. But it is chock full of facts about the grassroots civil rights movement in one of the most racially recalcitrant states in the union. And it’s important, because I don’t think and even I didn’t fully realize the obstacles that civil rights activists, not just the big names that you know, but everyday on the ground people face, and it was reading that book that made me angry and agitated because people were fighting for basic things like like the vote, or like the equitable distribution of government funding, right. throughout the state. It was some basic stuff. They’re not demanding anything unreasonable. They’re not even demanding anything over and above what white people got. for it. Folks are shot preachers are shot in their cars. Houses are burned, people are fired. They’re publishing lists of addresses and phone numbers to shame people who are joining civil rights organizations. It is appalling, and it’s a Mississippi story, but it’s an American story at the same time, right. So that’s one book. So we’re recording this and I’m in my office where most of my books are so you, I’m gonna give you a list. That’s fine. All right. Sorry about that. So the one I was thinking of initially was Peggy Wallace Kennedy’s the broken road. Peggy Wallace is the daughter of George Wallace. The Tory governor segregationist, know what not right. Um, I think that would be interesting for your listeners, because here’s a white woman who was not only raised in this sort of culture of segregation, but actively benefited from it through her family’s prominence in politics. And this book is sort of her. It’s it’s kind of a memoir, but it also talks about how she now thinks of her father, and being raised in that environment. So she’s not at all racist like her father was. And even George Wallace supposedly underwent some changes toward the end of his life. But, um, but it’s an insider view that I thought was fascinating. And I don’t want to convey at all this sort of, you know, white redemption story or whatever, I just think it’s a it’s a really unique peek inside a sort of a family that was at the center of all in the civil rights, and on the wrong side of rye write. Another book that’s sort of a contrast to that is john Perkins classic book, let justice roll down. Another memoir book, by john Perkins, black man born and raised in Mississippi, his brother gets killed by a cop flees to California, God gets a hold on him comes back to Mississippi, and has lived here ever since fighting for civil rights and racial justice. Another story of this, this is more civil rights era stuff, God’s long summer by Charles marsh. I think it’s fantastic. Because he juxtaposes civil rights activists with segregationists and talks explicitly about how they are each understanding the faith in vastly different ways. more contemporary books, Latasha Morrison’s be the bridge. And so this is a good book for book studies and book clubs. And she’s deliberately trying to bridge the racial gap through reconciliation techniques, but but really hard hitting, you know, truth telling at the same time. Two more books that I’ll end with this from a sociological perspective, why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria
is so helpful, I read this in college, and it helped me put language around some of the racial experiences I was having as a minority in a predominantly white institution. And it also talks about racial identity development, for people of color, but also for white people, too, because one of the things that white people don’t acknowledge enough is that they are racialized as well. They’re being an adulterated into race, they have a culture. And they go through different stages of development in terms of their racial identity. And knowing what those stages are, I think helps us progress through to healthier stages, and more mature stages. And then lastly, tanahashi coats is a classic book between the World and Me, it’s a short book, you can read it in a day or two, but you’re gonna want to slow down because every sentence is packed with such quantity. And meaning I quoted in almost every one of my formal book presentations, because they’re just so many rich concepts, themes and ideas in there that give you a glimpse inside the contemporary experience of being black in America. That’s very helpful. Very helpful. Sorry. I was like, let me go find ways to say, oh, there’s an educational component.
That’s right. Yeah. We’re trying to educate people indicate? Well, I think kind of as we wrap up our conversation, one of the things from your book jamara, that I think you see, and it’s through the history is a lot of these missed opportunities where the church could have made a decision and didn’t. And and I think, maybe now we stand in another moment, that could be looked back on as an opportunity how, what are some things we can do as a church to not miss this opportunity?
I’ll start with probably the hardest one. First is the church needs to lead the conversation on financial reparations. So I make the case throughout the book that that what race based chattel slavery was, in its essence, was an exploitative economic system that did not pay laborers for their labor. That did not end with emancipation. You get sharecropping. I’m sitting here in the Delta, literally cotton country. The statewide rate for poverty is about 20%. In my community, it’s 41%. Delta is the poorest area in both Arkansas and Mississippi, it also has the highest proportion of black people. And that is no coincidence, you know, plantation system in a sharecropping system, you need more laborers than owners. And that has persisted in the demographic data. But it’s also persisted in the financial data is, well, we have a racial wealth gap in the present day where the average white family has 10 times the wealth of a black family. And that is not because black people are lazy or don’t know how to work with money. It’s because there have been systems and traditions that have created and perpetuated racial wealth inequality. And so I say the Church must lead in that conversation, because it really gets to the pain point, like we said earlier in this show, that, you know, many people say America’s original sin was slavery, I think that’s America’s original symptom. And the original sin is greed. And so until we start talking about money within the context of racial justice, we’re not getting to, to what’s really neither near the core of why racism persists, even in the church. And then secondly, in order not to miss this moment, or this movement. The I would say the US evangelical church needs to re theologizing especially around the ideas of individualism and the separation between the physical and the spiritual. So, US evangelicalism is hyper individualistic, you know, it’s just me and my Bible, my personal relationship with Jesus, racism is all about, you know, how I feel or treat one another person. And we really have to understand racism is working itself out through systems and institutions, that policies can perpetuate racism. And it doesn’t take a personal attitude of bigotry for those policies to persist. The other thing along with the re theologizing is, you know, eliminating that gap between the spiritual and the material that that we cannot say that we love God, if we are hating our neighbor in our actions, if we are ignoring the needs of our neighbor, if we are looking at the black community and anti black police brutality, and saying simply back the blue, as a deflection, and not getting to, you know, the historic connections between modern policing and historic slave patrols, if we’re not looking at the disproportionate impact, even in a place like Ferguson, which is so controversial, over the killing of Mike Brown, the Department of Justice did a report on the Ferguson Police Department and found a pattern of policing black people in order to give them fines. So the money from fines would fund the city budget, another form of economic exploitation this time through law enforcement policing in the criminal justice system, so you can’t look at those realities and say, just preach the gospel. Right.
Yeah, but those are, those are good and hard things that the church has to lead in. And, and that’s I think, walking away from the book for me, it’s it’s that kind of idea of like, man, the church, the church should be the one leading the church. That’s what we’ve been called to. And I man, if we can focus on those three things, it would be a pivotal moment in American history, and would change as co Ed we’re too often the tail light and not the headlight.
Often, the thermometer, measuring and thermostat determining the temperature. So good.
That’s so good. Thank you so much, Tamara, for joining us on the show.
It’s been a while it’s fun conversation guys in folks can’t see it where we’re on screen right now. But we’re like, brothers in beards right now. has increased facial hair exponentially?
Yes. Exactly. Right. Excited about your new book coming out to talk to you.
Yes. ailable for pre order now on Amazon, and it comes out January 21. And I would love to be back on the show to talk about practical steps toward fighting racism.
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