As part of my UCC Sacred Conversations to End Racism (SC2ER) class, I collected these resources from online sources. Although I blatantly lifted them, I have cited the source links. It’s a lot~~so keep scrolling for the hot links!
I will start with resources on the UCC Racial Justice website, compiled by Rev. Dr. Velda Love https://www.ucc.org/racial_justice_resources_2020
- Van Sertima, Ivan, They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, (New York, NY: Random House, 1976).
- Ortiz, Paul. An African American and Latinx History of the United States. (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018).
- Higginbotham, Leon A., Jr., Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process, (New York, NY: Oxford Press, 1996).
- Morrison, Toni, The Origins of Others, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).
- Boesak, Allan Aubrey, Curtiss DeYoung, Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Book, 2012).
- DiAngelo, Robin, What Does It Mean To Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy, (Peter Lang Publishing, 2012).
________ White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018).
- Resmaa, Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, (Central Recovery Press: Las Vegas, NV, 2017).
- Mills, Charles, The Racial Contract, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997).
- Baptist, Edward E., The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2014).
- Cerrotti, Dennis Lyle, Hidden Genocide, Hidden People. (Wellesley, MA: Sea Venture Press, 2014).
- Villanueva, Edgar, Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance. (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2018).
- Newcomb, Steven T., Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2008).
- Katz, William Loren, Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage. (New York, NY: Atheneum Books, 2012).
VIDEO AND READING RESOURCES BELOW
- Ibram X. Kendi on the History of Racist Ideas in U.S. Stamped from the Beginning
Online Reading Resources
- Everyday Racial Microaggressions
- Coates, Ta-Nehisi, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014
THEOLOGIES, CHRISTOLOGIES, AND GOD OF CULTURES
- Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology Legacy of Womanist Theology
- This is My Body: Black Womanist Christology in Perspective Black Womanist Christology in Perspective
- Eradicating Misogyny, Heterosexism, and Homophobia in Black Churches Eradicating Misogyn, Heterosexism, and Homophobia in Black Churches
- Dr. Renita Weems: [Scream] Trayvon Martin Rev. Dr. Renita Weems Sermon “Scream” Trayvon Martin
- Introducing Womanist Theology – Stephanie Y. Mitchem
- An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation – Nyasha Junior
- Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenges to Womanist God-Talk – Delores S. Williams
- Enfleshing Freedom, body, race, and being, — M. Shawn Copeland
- Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation & Transformation – Emile M. Townes
- Women Race and Class – Angela Davis
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement
The James Cone Collection
- For My People: Black Theology and the Black Church: Black Theology and the Life of the Church (Bishop Henry McNeal Turner Studies in North American Black Book
- Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian
- A Black Theology of Liberation – Fourtieth Anniversary Edition
- Black Theology and Black Power
- God of the Oppressed
Latinx and Mujerista Resources
- Mujerista Theology – A Theology for the Twenty-First Century, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz
- A Reader in Latina Feminist Theology: Religion and Justice, Maria Pilar Aquino
- Decolonizing Biblical Studies: A View from the Margins, A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament, Fernando F. Sergovia
- Racism and God-Talk: A Latino/A Perspective – Ruben Rosario Rodriguez
- The Ties That Bind: African American and Hispanic American/Latino/a Theologies in Dialogue – Anthony B. Pinn and Benjamin Valentin
- Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America – Juan Gonzalez
Asian and Asian American Resources
- Heart of the Cross: A Postcolonial Christology, Anne Joh
- Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology, Mihee Kim-Kort
- Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, Soong Chan Rah
- Off the Menu: Asian and Asian North American Women’s Religion and Theology, Rita Brock
- Postcolonial Bible (Bible and Postcolonial), R.S. Sugirtharajah
- Voices from the Margins, R.S Sugirtharajah
- The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism, Rosalind S. Chou and Joe Feagin
For more Racial Justice Resources and information contact Rev. Dr. Velda Love Lovev@ucc.org
Anti-Racist Reading List from Ibram X. Kendi
By: R Rattusnorvegicus Chicago Public Library Community-created list
“This anti-racist syllabus is for people realizing they were never taught how to be anti-racist. How to treat all the racial groups as equals. How to look at the racial inequity all around and look for the racist policies producing it, and the racist ideas veiling it. This list is for people beginning their anti-racist journey ..” Ibram X. Kendi (author of “How to Be an Antiracist”)
“A Reading List for Ralph Northam”. The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/antiracist-syllabus-governor-ralph-northam/582580/
Fatal Invention How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century by Roberts, Dorothy
Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Kendi, Ibram X.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by DiAngelo, Robin J.
Locking up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by Forman, James
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Angelou, Maya
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by X, Malcolm
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Mock, Janet
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Cooper, Brittney C.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Laymon, Kiese
The Fire Next Time by Baldwin, James
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Lorde, Audre
Between the World and Me by Coates, Ta-Nehisi
The Fire This Time by Kenan, Randall
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, From Womb to Grave, in the Building of A Nation by Berry, Daina Ramey
Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Foner, Eric
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War II by Blackmon, Douglas A.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Alexander, Michelle
The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Muhammad, Khalil Gibran
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Rothstein, Richard
The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit by Sugrue, Thomas J.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Wilkerson, Isabel
A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History by Theoharis, Jeanne
Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy by Dudziak, Mary L.
Too Heavy A Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994 by White, Deborah G.
When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Giddings, Paula
From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Hinton, Elizabeth Kai
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Davis, Angela Y.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Stevenson, Bryan
Roots by Haley, Alex
North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860 by Litwack, Leon F.
They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and A New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Lowery, Wesley
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta
Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Berman, Ari
One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Anderson, Carol
Antiracism: An Introduction by Zamalin, Alex
How To Be An Antiracist by Kendi, Ibram X.
The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism & Engage in Collective Healing by Singh, Anneliese A.
The Wellbeing Handbook for Overcoming Everyday Racism: How to Be Resilient in the Face of Discrimination and Microagressions by Cousins, Susan
The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness by Magee, Rhonda V.
The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Horace, Matthew
Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Butler, Paul
Citizen: An American Lyric by Rankine, Claudia
Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Glaude, Eddie S.
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Cooper, Brittney C.
Fire Shut up in My Bones: A Memoir by Blow, Charles M.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in A World Made for Whiteness by Brown, Austin Channing
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become A Good Ancestor by Saad, Layla F
My Midnight Years: Surviving Jon Burge’s Police Torture Ring and Death Row by Kitchen, Ronald
No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America by Moore, Darnell L.
On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope by Mckesson, DeRay
Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement : My Storory of Transformation and Hope by Woodfox, Albert
So You Want to Talk About Race by Oluo, Ijeoma
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Dyson, Michael Eric
Things That Make White People Uncomfortable by Bennett, Michael
This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (white) America by Jerkins, Morgan
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Young, Damon
When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Khan-Cullors, Patrisse
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by Tatum, Beverly Daniel
Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience by Rowe, Sheila Wise
This Book Is Anti-racist by Jewell, Tiffany
I Am Not your Negro: A Major Motion Picture Directed by Raoul Peck by Baldwin, James
Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Glaude, Eddie S.
An Antiracist Reading List NY Times, compiled by Ibram X. Kendi
FATAL INVENTION: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century By Dorothy Roberts
No book destabilized my fraught notions of racial distinction and hierarchy — the belief that each race had different genes, diseases and natural abilities — more than this vigorous critique of the “biopolitics of race.” Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, shows unequivocally that all people are indeed created equal, despite political and economic special interests that keep trying to persuade us otherwise. New Press, 2011
WEST INDIAN IMMIGRANTS: A Black Success Story? By Suzanne Model
Some of the same forces have led Americans to believe that the recent success of black immigrants from the Caribbean proves either that racism does not exist or that the gap between African-Americans and other groups in income and wealth is their own fault. But Model’s meticulous study, emphasizing the self-selecting nature of the West Indians who emigrate to the United States, argues otherwise, showing me, a native of racially diverse New York City, how such notions — the foundation of ethnic racism — are unsupported by the facts. Russell Sage Foundation, 2008
THE CONDEMNATION OF BLACKNESS: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America By Khalil Gibran Muhammad
“Black” and “criminal” are as wedded in America as “star” and “spangled.” Muhammad’s book traces these ideas to the late 19th century, when racist policies led to the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of blacks, igniting urban whites’ fears and bequeathing tenaciously racist stereotypes. Harvard University, 2010
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD By Zora Neale Hurston
Of course, the black body exists within a wider black culture — one Hurston portrayed with grace and insight in this seminal novel. She defies racist Americans who would standardize the cultures of white people or sanitize, eroticize, erase or assimilate those of blacks. 1937
THE NEGRO ARTIST AND THE RACIAL MOUNTAIN By Langston Hughes
“We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame,” Hughes wrote nearly 100 years ago. “We know we are beautiful. And ugly too.” We are all imperfectly human, and these imperfections are also markers of human equality. The Nation, June 23, 1926
THE BLUEST EYE By Toni Morrison
THE BLACKER THE BERRY By Wallace Thurman
Beautiful and hard-working black people come in all shades. If dark people have less it is not because they are less, a moral eloquently conveyed in these two classic novels, stirring explorations of colorism. 1970 | 1929
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X By Malcolm X and Alex Haley
DYING OF WHITENESS: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland By Jonathan M. Metzl
Malcolm X began by adoring whiteness, grew to hate white people and, ultimately, despised the false concept of white superiority — a killer of people of color. And not only them: low- and middle-income white people too, as Metzl’s timely book shows, with its look at Trump-era policies that have unraveled the Affordable Care Act and contributed to rising gun suicide rates and lowered life expectancies. 1965 | Basic Books, 2019
LOCKING UP OUR OWN: Crime and Punishment in Black America By James Forman Jr.
Just as Metzl explains how seemingly pro-white policies are killing whites, Forman explains how blacks themselves abetted the mass incarceration of other blacks, beginning in the 1970s. Amid rising crime rates, black mayors, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs embraced tough-on-crime policies that they promoted as pro-black with tragic consequences for black America. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017 (Read the review.)
BLACK MARXISM: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition By Cedric J. Robinson
Black America has been economically devastated by what Robinson calls racial capitalism. He chastises white Marxists (and black capitalists) for failing to acknowledge capitalism’s racial character, and for embracing as sufficient an interpretation of history founded on a European vision of class struggle. Zed Press, 1983
WAITING ’TIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR: A Narrative History of Black Power in America By Peniel E. Joseph
As racial capitalism deprives black communities of resources, assimilationists ignore or gentrify these same spaces in the name of “development” and “integration.” To be antiracist is not only to promote equity among racial groups, but also among their spaces, something the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s understood well, as Joseph’s chronicle makes clear. Holt, 2006
HOW WE GET FREE: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective Edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
WELL-READ BLACK GIRL: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves Edited by Glory Edim
I began my career studying, and too often admiring, activists who demanded black (male) power over black communities, including over black women, whom they placed on pedestals and under their feet. Black feminist literature, including these anthologies, helps us recognize black women “as human, levelly human,” as the Combahee River Collective demanded to be seen in 1977.
REDEFINING REALNESS: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
I grew up in a Christian household thinking there was something abnormal and immoral about queer blacks. My racialized transphobia made Mock’s memoir an agonizing read — just as my racialized homophobia made Lorde’s essays and speeches a challenge. But pain often precedes healing.
Atria, 2014 | Crossing Press, 1984
By not running from the books that pain us, we can allow them to transform us. I ran from antiracist books most of my life. But now I can’t stop running after them — scrutinizing myself and my society, and in the process changing both. Ibram X. Kendi
Anti-Racism Resources: Educate Yourself https://www.projecthome.org/anti-racism-resources
Trainings & Courses
- Justice in June
- Institutionalized Racism: A syllabus
- Scaffolding for anti-racist resources
- Talking About Race, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Articles and Essays
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- 5 Ways White People Can Take Action in Response to White and State-Sanctioned Violence, by SURJ
- The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh
- A Brief History of Slavery, NY Times
- I’m not White, I’m Jewish: Standing as Jews in the Fight for Racial Justice, by Paul Kivel
- Relinquishing the Patriarchy, adrienne maree brown
- Calling In and Calling Out, by Roxy Manning
- Wear Your Voice Magazine
Resources for Parents and People Who Work with Children
- Talking to Young Children About Race and Racism (PBS Kids Resource Roundup))
- Resources for Talking about Race, Racism and Racialized Violence with Kids (Center for Racial Justice Education)
- Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup
- Talking to kids about race
- How to talk to kids about race and racism, according to experts
- Talking Race With Young Children
- Are Your Kids Too Young To Talk About Race
- Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice (Southern Poverty Law Center)
- Preparing Young Children for the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities into the Classroom (National Association for the Education of Young Children)
- Helping Youth After Community Trauma: Tips for Educators
- Understanding Child Trauma
- Age-related Reactions to a Traumatic Event
Videos and Film
- Clint Smith’s How to Raise A Black Son in America TedTalk
- Roots of Justice Front Porch Conversation
- 13th (Netflix Documentary)
- Race: The Power of an Illusion
- I am Not Your Negro
- What Matters: #BLM Documentary series
- The Color of Fear (Documentary by Lee Mun Wah)
- American Son (Netflix)
- Dear White People (Netflix)
- If Beale St Could Talk (Hulu)
- King In The Wilderness (HBO)
- See You Yesterday (Netflix)
- The Hate You Give (Netflix)
- When They See Us (Netflix)
- White Like Me
Podcasts and Audio
- 1619 (NY Times Podcast)
- Code Switch (NPR)
- Show About Race (Panopoly)
- Intersectionality Matters! (Kimberlé Crenshaw)
- Momentum: A Race Forward (Color Lines)
- Pod Save the People (Crooked Media)
- Fare of the Free Child (Raising Free People)
- Small Doses (Amanda Seales)
- Therapy for Black Girls (Dr. Bradford)
- Seeing White: Scene on Radio (Podcast series on whiteness)
- Talking about Whiteness (Eula Bliss, On Being)
Where to begin (designed for white allies):
- Me and White Supremacy, by Layla Saad
- Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nahesi Coates
- Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
- How to Be An Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
- So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race, by Beverly Daniel Tatum
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarnation in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
- Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, by Paul Kivel
- Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving
- White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, by Tim Wise
- Witnessing Whiteness, by Shelly Tochluk
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, by Robin Diangelo
- Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color, by Andrea Ritchie
- killing rage: Ending Racism, by bell hooks
- When They Call You a Terrorist, by Patrisse Cullors
- Eloquent Rage, by Brittany Cooper
- Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, by Charlene A. Carruthers
- Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
- The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
- Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America, by Rev. Thandeka
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
- They Can’t Kill Us All, by Wesley Lower
- Many here Ibram X. Kendi Antiracist reading List
Mental Health Resources
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Dear Black Women Project – therapy resources, daily affirmations, and more
- Black Men Heal – free therapy for Black men
- Men’s Resource Center of Philadelphia – individual, group counseling
- Where to find Virtual Therapy & Mental Health Resources in the Philly Area
- Black Philly therapists are raising $15K to provide free mental health resources to people of color – scroll to the bottom of the article for a list
- 44 Mental Health Resources for Black People Trying to Survive in This Country
A Detailed List of Anti-Racism Resources
Book, movie recommendations, and more
By Katie Couric
“What is Juneteenth?” by Derrick Bryson Taylor for the New York Times
“Juneteenth Is a Reminder That Freedom Wasn’t Just Handed Over,” by Brianna Holt for the New York Times
“No, Trump did not make Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating slavery’s end, ‘very famous,’” by DeNeen L. Brown for the Washington Post
Miss Juneteenth, a new movie about a former beauty queen and single mom preparing her rebellious teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant in Texas
“Miss Juneteenth Exclusive with Nicole Beharie,” an interview with the star of Miss Juneteenth by Miles Marshall Lewis for Ebony
“Juneteenth by the Numbers,” by Toby Lyles for CNN
“The Johnsons Celebrate Juneteenth,” an episode of black-ish
“Juneteenth,” an episode of Atlanta
“Juneteenth Jamboree,” a PBS series about the holiday
“An American Spring of Reckoning,” by Jelani Cobb in the New Yorker
The 1619 Project in the New York Times
“9 Books To Celebrate The Spirit of Juneteenth,” by Keyaira Boone for Essence
“The Belated National Embrace of Juneteenth,” an episode of Slate’s “What Next?” podcast
Spotify is celebrating Juneteenth by highlighting Black artists
The 2020 Juneteenth Virtual Music Festival is presenting a full-day of programming
WHAT TO READ
- “The Death of George Floyd, In Context,” by Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker
- “Of Course There Are Protests. The State Is Failing Black People,” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor for the New York Times
- “This Is How Loved Ones Want Us To Remember George Floyd,” by Alisha Ebrahimji for CNN.
- The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning The 1619 Project is as important as ever. Take some time to read (or re-read) the entire thing, particularly this essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones
- “You shouldn’t need a Harvard degree to survive birdwatching while black,” by Samuel Getachew, a 17-year-old and the 2019 Oakland youth poet laureate, for the Washington Post
- “It’s exhausting. How many hashtags will it take for all of America to see Black people as more than their skin color?” by Rita Omokha for Elle
- “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic
- “How to Make This Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” by Barack Obama in Medium
- “Black Male Writers For Our Time,” by Ayana Mathis in New York Times, T
- “I Was The Mayor Of Minneapolis And I Know Our Cops Have A Problem,” by R.T. Rybak
- “Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge,” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Los Angeles Times
- “I’m Black. My Mom is White. This Is The Talk We Had To Have About George Floyd’s Killing,” by Kimberly J. Miller for the Huffington Post
- A project from Harvard University about implicit bias
- “The Law Isn’t Neutral,” by Boston University School of Law dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig in Slate
- Mitch Landrieu’s Speech on the Removal of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
- A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature by Jacqueline Goldsby
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
- How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- Biased by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt
- Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino
- Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey
- Waking Up White by Debby Irving
- Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
- Brutal Imagination by Cornelius Eady
- Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens The Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era by Jerry Mitchell
- They Were Her Property by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by
Austin Channing Brown
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem
- Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
- The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
- Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel
- Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business by Pamela Newkirk
- The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice by Fania Davis
- Black Food Geographies by Ashanté M. Reese
- Race for Profit by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
- The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality by Thomas M. Shapiro
- The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gapby
- Stamped From the Beginningby Ibram X. Kendi
- The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward (Martin Luther King Jr. called this “the historical bible of the Civil Rights movement.)
- Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond byMarc Lamont Hill
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley
- Warriors Don’t CrybyMelba Pattillo Beals
- Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
- The Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and Whiteby Shirlee Taylor Haizlip
- When Affirmative Action Was White by Ira Katznelson
- Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
WHAT TO WATCH
- The Hate U Give, a film based on the YA novel offering an intimate portrait of race in America
- Just Mercy, a film based on civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s work on death row in Alabama
- The 1965 debatebetween James Baldwin and William F. Buckley
- My hour on the history of Confederate statues in Nat Geo’s America Inside Out
- Becoming,a Netflix documentary following Michelle Obama on her book tour
- Let It Fall, a documentary looking at racial tensions in Los Angeles and the 1992 riots over LAPD officers’ brutal assault on Rodney King
- When They See Us, a Netflix miniseries from Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five
- 13th, a Netflix documentary exposing racial inequality within the criminal justice system
- I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary envisioning the book James Baldwin was never able to finish
- Selma, a film that chronicles the marches of the Civil Rights Movement
- Whose Streets?, a documentary about the uprising in Ferguson
- Fruitvale Station, a film with Michael B. Jordan about the killing of Oscar Grant
- American Son, a film with Kerry Washington about an estranged interracial couple waiting for their missing son
- The Central Park Five, a documentary from Ken Burns
- A Class Divided, a Frontline documentary
WHAT TO FOLLOW
- Rachel Cargle, a writer and lecturer who explores the intersection between race and womanhood
- Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How To Be An Antiracist and Director of the Antiracism Center
- Nikkolas Smith, the artist behind portraits of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and others
- Charlene Carruthers, founder of the Black Youth Project 100
- Brittany Packnett Cunningham, co-founder of Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence, and a host of Pod Save The People
- Ally Henny, a Christian commentator on race
- Candace Andrews, a photographer documenting protests
WHAT TO LISTEN TO
- My podcast episode with Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan, and Bryan Stevenson about Just Mercy
- Still Processing, a New York Times culture podcast with Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morrison
- Seeing White, a Scene on the Radio podcast
- Code Switch, an NPR podcast tackling race from all angles
- Jemele Hill is Unbothered, a podcast with award-winning journalist Jemele Hill
- Hear To Slay, “the black feminist podcast of your dreams,” with Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan Cottom
- Pod Save The People, organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, social justice, and politics with analysis from fellow activists Brittany Packnett, Sam Sinyangwe, and writer Dr. Clint Smith III
- The Appeal, a podcast on criminal justice reform hosted by Adam Johnson
- Justice In America, a podcast by Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith on criminal justice reform
- Brené Brown with Ibram X. Kendi, a podcast episode on antiracism
- Come Through, a WNYC podcast with Rebecca Carroll
- The Kinswomen, conversations on race, racism, and allyship between women, hosted by Hannah Pechter and Yseult Polfliet
RESOURCES FOR KIDS AND TEENS
- The Hate U Give, a film based on the YA novel offering an intimate portrait of race in America
- Becoming,a Netflix documentary following Michelle Obama on her book tour
- Dear White People, a Netflix series about being black at a predominantly white college
- Hidden Figures, a film about the brilliant African American women of NASA
- Remember the Titans, story of a newly-integrated football team
- These 26New York Times mini-films for students
- “Talking About Race.” Helpful resources from the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
- Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone
- Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
- Anything by Angie Thomas.
- The Colors Of Usby Karen Katz
- Skin Again by bell hooks
- Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- Monster by Walter Dean Myers
- This Promise of Change by Jo Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
- IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for Allby Chelsea Johnson,
LaToya Council, Carolyn Choi
UNC Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Resources for parents to raise anti-racist children:
- 31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance
- A Kids Book About by Jelani Memory
- Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners: books for children and young adults
- Fare of the Free Child podcast
- Parenting Forward podcast episode ‘Five Pandemic Parenting Lessons with Cindy Wang Brandt’
- Additional resources for families (provided by UNC Daycare)
- Do Black Children’s Lives Matter if Nobody Writes About Them? by Daniel Jose Older | The Guardian (November 6, 2015)
- How to Talk to Kids About Racism: An Age-by-Age Guide by Alex Miynek | Todaysparent.com (February 9, 2017)
- PBS’s Teaching Your Child About Black History Month
- Starting to Talk About Race with Kids | Books for Littles
- Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup from Pretty Good
- What Kids are Really Learning About Slavery by Melinda D. Anderson | The Atlantic (February 1, 2018)
- Where’s the Color in Kids’ Lit? Ask the Girl with 1,000 Books (and Counting) by Meg Anderson | NPR.org (February 26, 2016)
- 10 Documentaries to Watch About Race Instead of Asking a Person of Colour to Explain Things for You by Ben Clay | DocPlay.com (June 3, 2020)
- The 1619 Project (all the articles) | The New York Times Magazine
- 29 Movies, Shows, and Documentaries to Watch to Educate yourself on Racial Injustice by Ashley Selleke | Theeverygirl.com (June 4, 2020)
- America’s Racial Contract Is Killing Us by Adam Serwer | Atlantic (May 8, 2020)
- Code of Ethics for White Anti-Racists by Tim Wise | Medium.com (June 16, 2020)
- The Combahee River Collective Statement
- Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement (Mentoring a New Generation of Activists
- For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies by Courtney Ariel | Sojo.net (August 16, 2017)
- How Did We Get Here? by Gillian B. White | The Atlantic (June 16, 2020)
- How to Talk to Relatives Who Care More About Looting Than Black Lives by Rachel Miller | Vice.com (June 3, 2020)
- How to Talk to your Children About Protests and Racism by Sandee LaMotte | CNN.com (June 2, 2020)
- How to Turn White Privilege Into Antiracist Allyship | WGPH.org (June 5, 2020)
- How White People Can Hold Each Other Accountable to Stop Institutional Racism by Elly Belle | teenvogue.com (August 2, 2019)
- How White Women Can Use their Privilege to End Racism by Tikia K. Hamilton, PhD | Zora.medium.com (May 28, 2020)
- The Intersectionality Wars by Jane Coaston | Vox (May 28, 2019)
- Is Your Company Actually Fighting Racism, or Just Talking About It? by Kira Hudson Banks and Richard Harvey | Harvard Business Review (June 11, 2020)
- Message to White Allies from a Black Racial Dialogue Expert: You’re Doing it Wrong by Dr. David Kempt | Medium.com (April 27, 2020)
- My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant by Jose Antonio Vargas | NYT Mag (June 22, 2011)
- Racial Equity at Work Isn’t Rocket Science by Dorianne St. Fleur | Medium.com (June 14, 2020)
- Racial Microaggressions: Examples and Phrases for Productive Dialogue by Kristen Rogers | CNN (June 6, 2020)
- Tips for Creating Effective White Caucus Groupsdeveloped by Craig Elliott PhD
- What Black Scientists Want From Colleagues and their Institutions by Virginia Gewin | Nature (June 22, 2020)
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Knapsack Peggy McIntosh
- Who Gets to Be Afraid in America? by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | Atlantic (May 12, 2020)
- Why You Should Stop Saying, “I Don’t See Color” by Dawn Porter | msn.com (June 7, 2020)
Videos to watch:
- Bryan Stevenson: Bear Witness, Take Action (video)
- Black Feminism & the Movement for Black Lives: Barbara Smith, Reina Gossett, Charlene Carruthers (50:48)
- Diversity Training Isn’t Enough: Racism, Trauma and Justice w/Dr. Joy Degruy (2:02:46)
- How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion | Peggy McIntosh at TEDxTimberlaneSchools (18:26)
- CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall: How to Explain Racism to Kids (21:28)
- CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall: Elmo and his dad Louie Talk About Racism and Protesting (2:31)
Podcasts to subscribe to:
- 1619 (New York Times)
- About Race
- CEO Action Time to Act
- Code Switch (NPR)
- Intersectionality Matters! hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw
- Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast
- Pod For The Cause (from The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights)
- Pod Save the People (Crooked Media)
- Seeing White
Books to read:
- Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt
- Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
- Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Dr. Brittney Cooper
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
- How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs
- Raising Our Hands by Jenna Arnold
- Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherríe Moraga
- When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson
- Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, PhD
Websites to Visit:
Films and TV series to watch:
- 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
- American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
- The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
- Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
- Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
- Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
- Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
- I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
- If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
- Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
- King In The Wilderness — HBO
- See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
- Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
- The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
- When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
Organizations to follow on social media:
- Antiracism Center: Twitter
- Audre Lorde Project: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Black Women’s Blueprint: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Color Of Change: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Colorlines: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- The Conscious Kid: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Equal Justice Initiative (EJI): Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Families Belong Together: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- MPowerChange: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Muslim Girl: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- NAACP: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- National Domestic Workers Alliance: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- RAICES: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ): Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- SisterSong: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- United We Dream: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
More anti-racism resources to check out:
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- Accountability Statement | Robin DiAngelo, PhD
- The AntiRacist Table (30 day challenge)
- Anti-Racism Project
- Beyond This Moment virtual series: Doing Our Work: White Folks Engaged in the Movement for Racial Equity (Zoom recording)
- Jenna Arnold’s resources (books and people to follow)
- Keep It Real-Diverse2 (games/cards to be used as tools for difficult conversations)
- Mindfulness Project (EP of meditations about allyship, racism and lovingkindness)
- NYTimes.com Race/Related
- Race Matters: Eradicating Racism in the Corporate World: A webinar series | Korn Ferry
- Race Matters: What Can I Do Infographic | Korn Ferry
- Rachel Ricketts’ anti-racism resources
- Resources for White Allies | UNC Athletics’ Heels at Home
- Resources for White People to Learn and Talk About Race and Racism
- Save the Tears: White Woman’s Guide by Tatiana Mac
- Showing Up For Racial Justice’s educational toolkits
- Talking About Race (National Museum of African American History & Culture)
- TED Talks
- Women of Color Need Courageous Allies in the Academy: An Open Dialogue with White and Black Women | Insight Into Diversity
- Why is this happening? — an introduction to police brutality from 100 Year Hoodie
- Zinn Education Project’s teaching materials
Care for Black People:
- 11 Black People Share Big and Small Ways They’re Caring for Themselves by Tonya Russell | SELF (June 5, 2020)
- 13 Black Women in Wellness Share what Wellness & Self-Care Means to them by Leah Thomas | The Good Trade
- For Colored Girls in Academia Who Have Burned Out/When Rest is Enough by Jasmine Abukar | Medium.com (June 9, 2020)
- How Black Americans can practice self-care during these trying times. And how everyone else can help them by Elizabeth Wellington | The Philadelphia Inquirer (June 4, 2020)
- Self-Care Tips for Black People Who Are Struggling with this Very Painful Week by Rachel Miller | Vice.com (May 28, 2020)
- Talking About Race: Self-Care | National Museum of African American History & Culture/Smithsonian
Growing up, when I thought about forgiveness–which is ever present in a practicing Fundamentalist Christian’s life–I thought first about God so loving the world that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. For our forgiveness. When I thought of forgiveness apart from the Cross, I thought about Jesus’s quip to Peter about forgiving an offender 70 times 7 (Matt 18:22). I remember calculating it in my mind, which Peter probably also did.
This semester I took a class with Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, whose new book, I Bring the Voices of My People: A Womanist Vision of Racial Reconciliation, brings Womanist Wisdom “to describe how race and racism work, what reconciliation really looks like, and how faith can help us work toward it” (https://drchanequa.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/my-book-is-coming/). When you stop and think about it, each of those concepts–forgiveness and reconciliation–are huge. So full of meaning and implications that it was and continues to be daunting to me. My classmates and I spent 15 weeks grappling with texts and ideas; now I find it less daunting than profound. What I mean is that it is important to put forgiveness and reconciliation in practice and help others to do so, too. I know it was a good class because we are leaving it with more questions than when we began. Success is often measured by knowing enough to know what you don’t know. Our final project was to create a curriculum on forgiveness and/or reconciliation.
From the time the project was assigned, I began to have trouble with it. I had writer’s block for curriculum development. I realize I still have some sorting out to do with the two-in-one concept, since, as Flannery O’Connor wrote, “I don’t know what I think until I red what I say.” In this post, I will briefly sketch an overview of an introductory segment on the concepts Forgiveness & Reconciliation. Should spaces for dialogue ever come up, here is where I would start.
First, it is important to note that Forgiveness & Reconciliation is a whole field of study with a growing body of literature. Typing in the words, “Forgiveness & Reconciliation” on Amazon, for example, yields 437 results. Type in those same words in Google, and more than twelve million results pop up. To be fair, “forgiveness” and “reconciliation” by themselves are intermingled with results for the pair. I found this to be the case in our class, too. The topics overlap, bleeding into each other, as it were, to the point where it is hard to see where one stops and the other begins. Entangled, jumbled. This is not inappropriate.
Dr. Walker-Barnes organized the course into engaging topics, and you can see the intricate threading throughout: Theologies of Forgiveness; Theologies of Reconciliation; Remembrance & Repentance; Power, Apology, & The Limits of Forgiveness; Trauma, Anger & the Failure of Reconciliation; Reconciliation or Liberation?; Reconciliation as a Spiritual Journey; and Psychological Perspectives on Forgiveness. We read texts by Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis; John Paul Lederach, Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians, and Everett Worthington, Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Theory and Application. There was a lot to read and talk about. If I were guiding a book talk on the subject, I would use some of the helpful strategies and models from these texts, developed by peace workers who walk the walk. Dr. Walker-Barnes’ book was published after our class had begun, so we only had a teaser chapter from it. It’s now on my Christmas break reading list!
The semester was spent painstakingly unraveling meanings. Here are some key points.
- Christians not only have an obligation to practice forgiveness, we also have a model. God forgives us.
- There are distinctions between forgiveness and reconciliation, even though they are a good matched set.
- Both forgiveness and reconciliation have important and often frustrating limits. If we know them going in, we will not have our expectations dashed.
- Historically–both within Christianity and without–forgiveness and reconciliation have been abused, misused, oppressive, and suppressive. Survivors of interpersonal and/or systemic trauma/conflict narrate the journey to forgiveness and reconciliation. Survivors remind us of the high stakes involved in forgiveness and reconciliation; their voices are critical to how we practice.
To further muddle my thinking, you have to consider forgiveness according to its various levels. Are we talking about forgiving another person? Groups of people? A whole country? What about reconciling? Couples reconcile (or don’t). Friends can too. Different cultures can reconcile–like in South Africa. People can be reconciled to God. I have to reconcile within myself. The scope is incredible.
I will end my overview with this: our participation in the divine life, that is, how believers exist in the world, is wrapped up in the tremendous Mystery. The gift and responsibility of forgiveness–and yes, reconciliation, too–are part of that mystery. And it is part of most believers’ theology. For example, while there are many subjects Jesus never mentioned, he was explicit about forgiveness: do it. So, as complicated and perplexing as forgiveness and reconciliation can be, it helps to approach them as sacred process.
Below is a picture of our white board from the last day of class, where we summed up what we had learned. In my next post, I will summarize them in talking points.
My Spiritual Formation this week is from What Matters Most: Ten Lessons in Living Passionately from the Song of Solomon by Renita Weems. She takes takes the “ten lessons” from the Shulammite woman’s fearless living and loving in the Song. Interestingly, I’ve heard the Song of Solomon called “The Porn Book of the Bible,” which reinforces masculine patriarchal dominance of Scripture. Weems allows the Shulammite woman to claim her identity through characteristics of liberation. Three quotations from this week’s reading on Choice stood out to me. Here they are with my reflections:
The Shulammite risked ridicule, criticism, challenge, failure, and embarrassment for the possibility of living a bigger life than the one society assigned to her as a woman (Kindle, p. 80).
Societal rules are powerful, so powerful that we internalize them and regulate ourselves. Growing up, I wanted to be a CIA agent or a lawyer. It was inconceivable to me, my parents, my friends—everyone who knew me—that I would not go to college on a scholarship straight out of high school. But gender role norms are deeply embedded in how we think and act and move about in the world. By my junior year I was “engaged,” in a relationship just like the other girls. I was married at age 18 and had a baby when I was 19. I look at those numbers and shudder—so young! I gave up my own bigger life.
Being passionate means living your life fearlessly. What if I make a mistake? What if something goes horribly wrong? What if I lose more than I gain? What if I make a fool of myself? (p. 83).
Before age 35, I had never lived outside of Alabama. That year, I got divorced, came out to myself, got a job at the Louisiana Department of Education, enrolled in a doctoral program at LSU, and moved to Louisiana. After escaping with my identity—which I had fought for 16 years to hold onto—I did not once ask myself these questions. Like the Shulammite, I was living fearlessly. However, and this is important, my communing with God was a one-way conversation. Although God was ever-present with me, I continued to press through under the delusion that I was accomplishing these things by myself. I give thanks now in retrospect.
But what if the path you’re about to take leads you off the beaten path and falls outside the norm of what others deem acceptable? (p. 87).
On the day I moved to Louisiana, my mother was seeing me off. It was a poignant moment. Two women whose love for one another most often went unspoken, said goodbye. “Mother,” I said, “I’m sorry. It’s hard. I just…” trailing off, not knowing how to speak the things that were in my heart about my life, about her, about all the years I felt I had lost. She thought for a minute, trying hard to blink back tears so that I would not see them—something I learned years later she had often done. “You go ahead. I know you need to. We always knew you’d leave one day.” The beaten path, my parents knew, was not for me, no matter how hard they had tried—through church, modeling, instructing, shaping—to guide me along it. That day, when the strongest women I have ever known blinked back tears and let me leave, was the day I began to live without a net, yes, but in vivid color.
My paper at the 2017 South Eastern Women’s Studies (SEWSA) Conference is Intentional Monogamy in the Age of Tinder: Queer Theology and Re-thinking Christian Sexual Ethics. That one title contains at least four ideas for an academic paper~~and here in one place I’m going to try to pull them together to look again at a concept that we take so much for granted we do it without thinking. Monogamy.
I’ve begun framing my academic research over the last four years with theology; I even did a stint at the Candler School of Theology at Emory. For example, I believe that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s notion of ethics and existentialist theologian Paul Tillich’s conceptualization of God and “the” Christ are not just relevant our world today, they are essential. They are my starting point; from them I move to Feminist Theology and Queer Theology, which are topics for another day. Just know that theology~as I define it the search for the nature of God~in its various perspectives has allowed me to get here. Where is here? Queering Christian Sexual Ethics. And to do delve into that field, I will start small, with the most common state of being in a relationship in Western practice~monogamy~and look at it through a lens of queer feminist theology.
Queer theology is not, for the uninitiated, the same as LGBTQ Religious Studies, although it can, I suppose, be included within that broad field. It does not, concern itself with What The Bible Says About Homosexuality, about which Rev. Dr. Daniel Helminiak has written so concisely. Queer theology is radically different. For example, the late Professor Marcella Althaus-Reid named God queer and proposed an Indecent Theology in which sexuality, theology, and politics are intertwined. In such discussions, one can consider the trans nature of God. Paul Tillich describes a postmodern god and helps us think of God not as an old white guy with a beard who looks after us as his children, or better, as no image at all~just James Earl Jones’s commanding voice. Neither is God our “mother,” in a gendered turn of the conventional. And, it isn’t that God transcends gender, that is, to go beyond its range or limits. God is transgender, for God flows across genders in ways that defy categories. Godself is fluid and trans, and in this, God is transgressive. This is Althaus-Reid’s notion of a Queer God, where queer is transgressive and political, gender and sexuality-bending~~and also playful. This is not a god that man has worked for 3,000 years to craft in his own image. This is God that can hold being the Ground of Being. I want this God on my side.
And, just as over the last centuries we have constructed a God who suits dominant White Western cultures, we have also constructed normal, normative sexual ethics~~and we have strategically bound them to the search for God, to theology. The god we crafted has a preference, which we codified into morality, for what humans do when we get naked with one another. To queer Christian Sexual Ethics, then, is to associate it with Queer Theology, to transgress what humankind sanctions in the name of God.
To make the discussion less abstract, I look at the singularly sanctioned form of marriage relationship for mainstream Christians: monogamy, the practice of having one partner at one time. In case you’ve forgotten the official sanction of monogamy, here it is again. It’s called the Wedding Vow:
“I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you” (https://www.theknot.com/content/traditional-wedding-vows-from-various-religions).
In Mimi Schippers Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Poly Queer Sexualities (2016), she extends Adrienne Rich’s idea of compulsory heterosexuality to include compulsory monogamy as a “regime of sexual normalcy” (Kindle loc 183) and offers a critique of mononormativity. She points out, There have been very few theoretical interrogations of how monogamy is implicated in and productive of gender, race, and sexual hierarchies or the role of monogamy as an organizing rationale for regimes of normalcy and social structures of inequality (loc 254). She conducts this interrogation of monogamy to explore the possibilities of polyqueer sexualities~relationship forms and practices that include more than two people in them~for shattering inequalities. She positions monogamy, rightly I believe, as an institutionalized social structure that bolsters power relations; this is mononormativity. I suppose because I identify as monogamous I felt as I read that Schippers was throwing out the baby with the bath water. She didn’t leave much space for conceptualizing a postmodern, queer monogamy. Intentional monogamy is queer monogamy–even if the participants are heterosexual, cis-gender participants. It holds similar queer possibilities for disruption. How? Because of its intentional nature. Hence, intentionality is transgressive.
Intentional monogamy confronts monogamy by default, which renders monogamy invisible, unconsidered. Also by default is the assumed and legitimized feature of monogamous couples to reproduce the heterosexual, heteronormative family. There is a whole other discussion here~for another time~on how the re-production of “the family” also reproduces the hierarchies and inequities~personal, political, institutionalized, time-honored. There is a lot hinging on monogamy.
So, in this space, I want to look finally at the intentional part of Intentional Monogamy. For this, I need a story. In Beyond Monogamy, Schippers makes a very interesting point that I will admit I had not thought about, but of course should have: that cheating narratives are important to maintaining mononormativity and leaving monogamy invisible as the hegemonic norm (loc 742). Cheating is the threat that keeps couples within monogamous bounds. Cheating holds monogamy together. It is to relationships what sin is to Christianity. Like sin, cheating is a transgression of the vow to be in right relation. But again, what if we flip this thought so that intentionality is the transgressive turn?
About a year and a half into our relationship, Sarah and I began discussing the terms for our future together. Those of you who know Sarah know that this in fact is romantic. One evening we were talking about the nature and dynamics of our relationship when she entered the room, stopped in the middle of it, and said, “I’m monogamous.” I half-looked up from emails or the tv, or whatever I was doing during our casual discussion and said, “Yes, so am I.” And that, as they say, is when it started getting real. She got my complete attention by telling me that to her, I wasn’t at a place to make that assertion. It’s true: I had been living under a few assumptions, stretching all the way back to adolescence and dating. Yet I thought our own commitment had been understood when we had made a commitment. Exclusivity, to me, had implied monogamy, and that was her point. Implied monogamy was not sufficient grounds for a long term relationship. I argued, cajoled, reasoned~~used all my skills to persuade her~~and myself~~that I was a confirmed monogamist. And then she said something so shocking and profound that I knew it to be true: You say you are monogamous when what you really want is someone who won’t cheat on you.
Sarah’s declaration of monogamy, her intentionality, was a disruption of heteronormative compulsory institutional default relationship form. for me, it troubled the cheating narrative, which played right into reinforcing hetero- and mononormativity. From Beyond Monogamy: Monogamy needs cheating in a fundamental way. In addition to serving as the demonized opposite of monogamy, the mark of the cheater is used to push individuals to conform to monogamous behavior and monogamous appearances (loc 748). Wow. You have to confront your monogamous privilege just like you do your white privilege. You have to know that there are other ways of being in relationships–ways that involve more than two partners, she said, and then you can come back to monogamy. Of course, my first question for her was, Good lord, do I have to try them? Not necessarily, she said, just as long as you know enough to make an informed decision.
In my undergraduate classes, students will often ask whether anyone can be queer; that is, can you be a straight cis-person and be queer. Sometimes I give them a simple answer. Queer has a political requirement to it; it is purposefully disruptive of normative structures (yes, that’s part of the simple answer). It is intentional. So, I tell them, to be queer, you have to believe yourself to be. And that is part of how monogamy can be a queer act~~in its intentionality. Monogamy is not a condition to be bound to, a “till death” sentence of imbalanced power. It is a state of free, into which we might freely enter. After about a month of my coming to learn that, Sarah was satisfied.
What’s next? I aim to situate this discussion~~with more theorizing for my day job~~into a deep look into Christian Sexual Ethics, a field that looks how we can humanely and kindly treat each other in our sexuality. Untheorized, monogamy brings its heteronormative baggage into sexual ethics, thereby invalidating its very underpinnings. There’s a famous line from Our Town: People are meant to go through life two by two. ‘Taint natural to be lonesome. Along my journey toward monogamy, I have learned that ‘taint necessarily natural to go two by two, but if we want to, it’s queerer than we might think.
Somebody I used to know once told me she thought happiness was overrated. I’ve thought about that statement for going on a dozen years now, and I think she was wrong. Well, I think she was talking about pleasure, about following one’s desire, about gratification–and all of these are different from happiness. Not only is happiness not overrated, I don’t believe it is rated nearly highly enough on our collective list of priorities.
I was recently on a long, 9-hour drive from Atlanta to South Florida when I began running through my usual thoughts: money, work, goals, writing, weight. I was even running scripts through my mind of events that I envisioned happening so that I would have a ready response. For example, I pictured a scenario in which my boss asks me to assume additional duties at work. I was amazing myself at my sardonic, pointed remarks to her. Then I thought to myself, “I have a 9-hour drive and I am going to sit here and make myself miserable the whole time? This is my vacation, what if I only thought happy thoughts the whole drive, heck, the whole trip?” So I practiced. I made myself happy, or so I thought at the time. Looking back, I think it’s more accurate to say, I rejected negative thoughts for positive ones. Happiness, a deceptively simple notion, is more complicated than it seems.
I’m reading a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called Bright-sided: How positive thinking is undermining America. Ehrenreich has nothing against positive thinking per se, but she argues it has become a tool to lull Americans into compliance with a neo-liberal, consumerist culture. It is, according to her, in the best interest of institutions to keep the population thinking positively because it deflects attention off inequities of capitalist society by focusing on ourselves. Be positive, work harder, pick yourself up, you can do it (!), you deserve it, and my own personal favorite, “everything is going to be just fine/work out….” Ehrenreich goes on to present some amazing survey results: even though we Americans have embraced the power of positive thinking, we don’t report that we are very happy. There are plenty of other, frankly, negative countries whose people are happier than we are. Being happy is not the same as thinking positively. Positive thinking is something you can choose to do; and while I’ve heard it suggested that we “choose happiness,” I think it is more of a state of being. I”m sure the two are connected somehow, and maybe I’ll think about that later.
I can be negative. I am often cynical and suspicious (of politics and banks, for example). I get the blues and feel lonesome. I come from a long line of worriers–it would have been a piece of cake to have found something to worry about the whole drive down to Florida. But, I am a happy person. I am not jolly, and I don’t feel euphoric all that often. So am I sure about this happiness thing? Yeah, I’m sure. I haven’t figured out yet whether happiness is situational, contextual, or even genetically influenced. In fact, I have just begun to think about it at all–apart from that comment about it being overrated all those years ago. Lots of thing “make me happy”: music, Taco Bell, marathons on TNT, watching the ocean, people in my life. But really, I think these things bring me some joy; they bring me feelings of happiness. Happiness, it seems to me, is what you are left with if feelings were stripped away. I think it would and should be articulated differently by different people. For me, it is serenity of the soul. But that’s just a way of saying it. Can one “get happy”? What is happiness? How does happiness fit in with the violence all around us? That is, can our own happiness intersect with that of others? What does that look like? What good does being happy do us? That’s a lot of questions for something so taken for granted.
More on this later.
Since I decided that my next project would be a place study on my Country South by storying my great-grandmother Jeffreys’ life, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Alabama, my state. One book, Dixie’s Forgotten People, by Alabama native and Auburn professor (I can forgive him for that) Wayne Flint, is what I would call an objective account of Alabama’s poor whites. He talks about both their rich culture and the racist thoughts and acts. I learned a lot from Flint’s book–like my people were most likely southern Appalachian–a particular kind of “Southerner,” having a whole unique heritage. I had always thought of Appalachian people as being from the mountains of West Virginia or East Tennessee, but these are my people. I am theirs.
Another book I picked up was Alabama Getaway by Allen Tullos. He is an American Studies scholar who exhorts Alabama to distance itself from its “Heart of Dixie” brand name. For him, this monicker is code for nostalgia for a plantation mentality, that includes Jim Crow, George Wallace, and Confederama. I won’t disagree with him; “Dixie” is like the Biblical offending eye–holding onto it does a lot more harm than good. Still, Getaway, Alabama (as it could also be called) is hard to read if you are a white Alabamian looking for a reason to publicly love your state.
Part of the problem is that Alabama has never done enough to stand out. And not being Mississippi is not enough. Even my pal and fellow Alabamian feminist Mab Segrest claims to prefer Georgia because there’s just not that much “to” Alabama. While I can see her point, I think we need to dig a little deeper.
I think a place to start is to think of a really good replacement for “Heart of Dixie.” Our official state motto is: We dare defend our rights. This is almost as bad, as it practically conjures George Wallace in the school house door. The current slogan on auto tags is “Sweet Home Alabama,” which I really like as a white Alabamian. The Leonard Skynard Southern rock song is like the state anthem, especially since the band is like Alabama’s Buddy Holley, lead singer perishing in a plane crash at the height of their popularity. But, it may not be sweet and homey to everybody. I think we will probably do better to just stick to the land itself.
Minnesota has already taken the 10,000 lakes slogan–even though Alabama has an awful lot of lakes, rivers, and streams. But if we put anything about water, Minnesota would cry foul. And, hunting and fishing are major activities because of the forests and wooded areas. Louisiana already claims that it is a Sportsman’s Paradise, so that one’s out. I always liked the tags and signs at the state lines that said “Alabama the Beautiful.” I never understood why they would change that, probably paying a consulting firm a quarter million dollars to say there is some benefit of replacing it with “Stars fell on Alabama”–on the tags, anyway. I don’t much understand what that means. I know it was a love song. But, my daddy is already concerned that a meteor is headed directly for earth, and NASA confirms about a million pounds of space trash is out there. I don’t think we ought to draw attention to falling objects.
So, until somebody more creative than I am can think of the perfectly appropriate slogan, I am sticking with Alabama the Beautiful. From the highland rim of my Appalachian ancestors to the Coastal Plains where my daughter lives now–and everywhere in between, there is great natural beauty to be found in my state. And, I have eternal hope that the people who inhabit this place can shape up and behave ourselves and maybe make Alabama a state that has to narrow down its choice of slogan instead of stretch to come up with one.
More on this later.