I’ve been asked by a handful of people what resources have been helpful for me in my own process of listening and learning about racial reconciliation and justice. I have so much to learn, but I’m happy to point others to resources that have begun to reshape my thinking.
A few disclaimers:
-Most of what I share speaks directly to my need to learn from African-American voices, but it certainly applies to learning from the voices of any ethnic minority, as well.
-In this post, I’m specifically referencing the black Christian voices that have been helpful. But these principles certainly apply more broadly.
By far the most helpful thing has been personal conversations with friends who are African-American. It still saddens me to say that a big eye opener for me (only 5 years ago) was realizing that the only true way I could gain understanding on someone else’s perspective was to listen to them. My word of caution here is you must have enough relationship and trust to say this to someone: “If you would be willing, I would be honored to hear what it’s been like to be an African-American man/woman in the United States.” We are not studying people like subjects in a lab. We are asking another human to entrust us with their story. It’s sacred. We must show people honor before we even ask the question, which means we engage in normal relationship building first. But I cannot emphasize enough how formative this has been for me.
Listening to black preaching has been very helpful. I honestly thought to myself, “I think I’ve heard enough white preaching to last me a lifetime, and I’m going to continue to hear a lot more. If I can choose almost any preacher on a podcast, why not learn from other voices?” There’s countless great black preachers to learn from, but a few of my favorites are E.V. Hill, Eric Mason, Léonce B. Crump Jr., and Tacoma’s own Lonnie Sr Arnold (see links below for two of Lonnie’s sermons).
Reading black authors is essential. The first book I would recommend, especially as it relates to racial reconciliation in the church, is Heal Us, Emmanuel. It was very challenging and stretching. It’s written by authors of various races. Beyond Roots and Beyond Roots II, both by Dwight McKissic and Tony Evans, are about the white-washing of the Bible (though I’ve only read II) . Heartbreaking and eye-opening. You’ll never read the Bible the same way again (and don’t get me started on Children’s ministry curriculum!). The Color of Compromise, by Jemar Tisby, is certainly worth reading, mainly as a clear, concise, extremely well documented historical account of racism in the US and the church’s complicity in it (it’s not as strong as a gospel appeal to reconciliation, though having been exposed to a lot of Jemar’s work, he definitely loves the gospel and the church). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs, is devastating. It will actually make you weep and feel sick to your stomach, but it’s a first-hand account of life as a slave, and likely one of the first books published by an African-American woman. And finally, I have loved learning from African theologians like Kwame Bediako and Ogbu Kalu.
Following black influencers, thought leaders, and educators on social media-especially Twitter-is helpful (and/or reading their blogs/articles, or listening to their podcasts). Jemar Tisby and The Witness: A Black Christian Collective put out a ton of good material, including a podcast. Carl Ellis’ talk on dominant/sub-dominant cultures rocked me. Anthony Bradley is great, as well. Truth’s Table is a podcast from three African-American women. And wow, they call it like they see it for sure!
MUCH of what I would read/hear from these leaders was so foreign, I often had to read/listen twice or three times to get it. I sometimes disagree, but the process of engaging what they have to say is stretching.
The voices of Christian hip-hop artists Lecrae, Propaganda, Sho Baraka, KB, and Jackie Hill Perry are great, as well. What they write in their songs, post on social media, or say in interviews is all very insightful.
May the Holy Spirit grow us in humility, love, compassion, and courage.