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
This week I had to check my whiteness two times, first at the ONA Coalition National Gathering and then at the UCC General Synod. The lesson was reinforced for me that, even though I have more than one historically marginalized marker with which I identify (gender and sexuality), that does not mean I am enlightened or evolved in relation to other marginalized populations. It is no fun having to face this in real world situations, but it’s crucial to remember. It also teaches me that in discerning for the ministry, I have a lot to learn. It is God saying, “You’re not there yet.”
The first was during a talk given by a candidate on the slate for a UCC national office. Right after the UMC vote, I had been a little indignant about African delegates being the conservative votes that put the resolution against LGBTQ ordination over the top. Reverend Karen Georgia Thompson pointed out that the African delegates had been heavily lobbied and probably manipulated by conservative (probably Southern) delegates. Of course they had; it created the narrative that benefitted U.S. delegates while reinforcing the stereotype that Black bodies and Black churches were by nature “essentially” conservative.
The second instance was personal. I had a roommate for Synod, a gifted African American chaplain I’ll call Susan. One night, we went to a late evening reception for Members in Discernment for ordination. It was late, so there weren’t many people in the large Hilton hotel suite. In the corner, engaged in conversation with a conference delegate, sat Reverend Traci Blackmon, a rock star minister, prophet, activist in the UCC. She came on the national scene in helping people from Ferguson, Missouri, respond to the Michael Brown murder in 2014. Naturally, we were both star struck. While helping ourselves to the snacks and wine, Rev. Blackmon walked over and began heating up her leftovers from Maggiano’s. The three of us struck up a conversation about a contentious topic in the last session. She was very gracious and seemed to me to be in the mood to talk. It seemed like she needed to unwind before calling the very long day a night. So the three of us sat down in the living room area of the spacious suite while she ate. Even though it was late, I was energized. Like those cop shows where they have to keep the caller on the line so they can trace the call, I just wanted her to keep talking. She is a public theological intellectual, and like bell hooks, a treasure.
When we got back our room, I was revved up from the experience. “Traci Blackmon had a conversation with us,” I said. “Well,” said Susan, “she had a conversation with you. I think I may have made one statement.” Screeching halt. She was right. I, in my white academic privilege, had manipulated the conversation so that I could “own” an engagement with this person I admired. I knew how to guide conversation, to interview a subject, and that’s what I had done. My new friend was gracious, and to her great credit, she didn’t excuse or deny it to make me feel better. The irony is that throughout the conversation with Rev. Blackmon I kept telling myself that I was humbled to be in her presence. No I wasn’t; I was proud. Humility is what Susan exhibited, yet I was so blinded by my privilege I did not see it.
I am not suggesting Susan did not have voice–she did, and she could have called me out severely as we debriefed. What I realized was that in this space where justice and covenant were sacred ideals to be put into practice by all Christians, I had performed a microaggression from a place of privilege, so I am glad the space is also one of grace and mercy. Although, like the tools of privilege in my invisible backpack, I do not deserve them.
Today is June 19th, Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when news of Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier finally reached enslaved persons in Texas. It coincides with the National Gathering of the UCC Open & Affirming National Gathering and a Race and Religion course assignment on whether the Lost Cause still exists in the South today. All things work together, and it is fitting.
When I was a kid my parents took my little brother and me to Shiloh National Military Park. This began and strengthened my fascination with the Civil War. Other Southern writers have written about how prominently Civil War lore figured into their childhoods, how it shape their psyches as Southern men. No major battles took place in Alabama like in Virginia and Tennessee, so my parents—who took exactly one vacation in their lives and it was NOT to the beach—hauled us on a day trip to Shiloh. We saw the exhibits with artifacts from the battlefield: bullets, bayonets, buttons. We saw a film that mapped out the two-day fight from April 6-7, 1862, the bloodiest battle until Antietam five months later. It remains the sixth on the top ten list. We walked around sites so horrific they had been named: Hornets Nest and Bloody Pond, water colored red by soldiers’ blood. At the end of the day, my parents took us to the gift shop, where we were each allowed one souvenir. My brother and I got the same memento—a confederate private’s cap. We did not even consider the Union blue cap of the yankees.
I think perhaps the Lost Cause takes on a different meaning for working class Southerners than it had for the old plantation class that evolved into wealth obtained from industry and later, investment. For us, the Lost Cause equated with the tragic romanticism of the lost war. The South is a contested place; it is a place looked down upon by those outside—and sometimes inside—of it. During the tour, my brother and I cheered for the Shiloh story of Day 1, that went to the confederates. On the second day, Grant’s reinforcements arrived, Albert Sidney Johnston was shot, and the battle went to the Union. The feeling I had then is similar to the physical and emotional drain I feel after the University of Alabama loses a big game to Auburn. It is real disappointment that I feel for the rest of the day. Our land had been invaded and we had lost. That was my lost cause, and its symbols took on religious meanings—the Stars and Bars battle flag, the gallant General Lee upon his steed Traveler (yes, I know the horse’s name), and of course, Dixie, our hymn.
Constructing the Lost Cause narrative so strong that is part of the psyche of Southerners who have no discernable connection to the Old South other than geographic location required a national comprehensive campaign. So the question to consider is, in whose interest was it to create the Lost Cause as an organizing theme? The white plantation class, supported by southern newspapers convinced poor whites that they were whiter than they were poor; thus, they allied with the people who looked like them. We continue to do this today, voting and allying against our economic interests because they are white. Northern and Southern Protestants turned defeated confederates into defeated Christians as the Lost Cause became a vehicle for Southern Redemption—redemption that was religious, social, and political.
Yesterday, I attended a session at the UCC Open and Affirming (ONA) National Gathering in Milwaukee, called Offensive Faith: Queering the Playbook for Religious Engagement. Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, of the National LGBTQ Task Force stressed the intersectionality present in dismantling systems of gender and sexuality oppression. People of color are disproportionately affected by violence in this country; the same is true for gender violence. One of the pictures she shared prompted my reflections here, connecting religion, the Lost Cause, and racial (and gendered) violence. I look at it now and am offended, yes, but I see it and know that the stirrings of nostalgia I also feel seeing the old black and white photo that could have been taken at Littleville Elementary School, where I grew up a confederate child. My nostalgia is a fruit of white privilege, and so too is offensive.
The second photo Rev. Leapheart shared will likely offend Lost Causers—not only them, it will offend many other white people. I think when we as a people can be offended by both images because they stand for a history of racial violence in which religion has been complicit—then we might hope for redemption.
Please also take time to visit the National LGBTQ Task Force web site and read about their All of Me. All the Time campaign for the Equality Act. They have this description:
The National LGBTQ Task Force educates federal policymakers about the need for non-discrimination protections that ensure the whole person is able to advocate for themselves when discriminated against, wherever that discrimination takes place. We work with a wide range of progressive partner organizations across the country both at the state and federal level, like the National Black Justice Coalition. The Task Force shifts the conversation from a political and technical one to a national and inclusive conversation based on morals and values.
for Jenny Nixon
Last weekend, I attended the National Gathering of the Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ, a denomination with a history of social justice advocacy that dates back to colonial New England. The UCC has always, to my knowledge, ordained women ministers, and it is a space where I feel welcome to offer and develop my gifts of leadership. One evening at dinner, I gravitated to a woman dining alone and asked if I could join her. I didn’t join her because she was alone; I joined her because I had been in a previous session with her and heard some of her story. I remember she had said: I was in Alabama during the Civil Rights years, and the League of Women Voters kept me sane. I wanted to hear more.
Her name is Jenny Nixon, and she is a resident of the Uplands Retirement Community in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, which, if you ask me, is one of the best kept secrets in retirement living. Jenny was hard to miss all weekend because of her booming voice, head of solid gray hair, piercing blue eyes, and the shape her body has decided to take as she got older, which required her to use a walker. Yes, I’d appreciate your company, she told me. I eat more slowly than most people these days. I fetched us a couple of pieces of strawberry short cake for us and sat down.
Jenny was born in Oregon in 1933 but had gone to college in California and lived for some time in Washington State. I’m a Westerner, she told me with a glint in her eye. What attracted me to her was that she had been a women’s rights activist in the 1960s and 1970s. It isn’t too often that I get to meet a feminist–a real feminist–from the “women’s lib” era. But that wasn’t the only reason I wanted to hear more of her story; our stories, as it turns out, had something in common: Alabama. Will you tell me more about your time in Alabama? I asked her. I think it’s important, and I know it’s interesting! That’s all it took. I will recreate her narrative here with only minimal interruptions of my interjections and comments.
My first husband was an aerospace engineer, and “Mr. Boeing” sent him to Huntsville, Alabama, where he worked on the rocket that sent us to the moon. It was 1964. Kennedy had been assassinated, but worked progressed on the space program. We lived in South Huntsville. Our kids eventually went to Chaffee Elementary School, White Middle, and Grissom High~~all named after the astronauts killed in the Apollo 1 fire at Cape Canaveral in 1967. Of course, that was my first husband. The only things we had in common were our kids–and bridge. We were an unbeatable bridge team! I am very proud that I always spoke well of him to my children. That was very important to me, that they kept a relationship with him. He was a good father.
In those days, the senior engineers had a choice of moving or not, and most of them chose not to. So there were communities of young families with young children. Before Boeing, before NASA, Huntsville was a cotton town; once we got there, it was a city of 20- and 30-somethings. I had young children, my husband was an engineer, I was college educated. I needed something to do because I couldn’t just stay at home. The League of Women Voters really did keep me sane. My husband didn’t really approve of the amount of time I spent working, but I did it anyway. I was president of the local chapter. In those days I could mimeograph flyers at my house. We met at my house over the years.
I was in Huntsville the year the President signed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. We worked hard. One of our projects was a weekly bi-racial lunch, where we went to lunch as a group of Black women and white women–together–to a restaurant. In Alabama in the 1960s that was a radical act. You just didn’t do it. My husband’s job was integrated because it was the federal government, so they hired Black engineers. George Wallace was governor during that time, and it was not easy.
I used to tell my friends in the West that not everybody in Alabama was racist, that there were people there who worked for civil rights. I tried to bring my children up that way; of course, sometimes the teachers reported that they were being disrespectful. They didn’t say “ma’am.” But they turned out fine. Eventually, more of the women went to work outside the home, so there were fewer of us who could do volunteer work with the League. When my husband was transferred to Washington State, that was the end of my Alabama years.
By that time, we were finished with our shortcake. I’m keeping you, I said. Yes, I’d just as soon go home now, she replied mater-of-factly, as she asked me to dial her current husband George on my cell phone. George, this is Jenny. You can come and pick me up now in front of the cafeteria. Five minutes, yes. Goodbye. Spoken like a Westerner.
Last month, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the harshest abortion bill in U.S. history. According to the Washington Post, only three women had a voice in the Alabama state senate, where all 25 votes cast in favor of the bill were from white, Republican men. This in a state where although 51% of the population is made up of women, only 15% of the legislature is–one of the worst ratios in the country (https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/05/15/typical-male-answer-only-women-had-voice-alabama-senate-men-passed-abortion-ban/?utm_term=.8fd84fe87878).
This morning, an opinion piece from the New York Times popped up in my news feed called Where Are the Socially Conservative Women in This Fight?
The American family needs defending and right now men are leading the charge. Written by Helen Andrews of the conservative Washington Examiner, a central them was a critique of the “Two Income Trap,” a term coined by Senator Elizabeth Warren in her book by the same name. Andrews opines:
Marriage simply no longer offers the financial security it once did. The consumer goods that singles buy have gotten cheaper, but the things that middle-aged parents spend the most money on — houses, education, health care — have gotten more expensive, while wages have stagnated. It has become difficult for a family with one breadwinner to afford a middle-class standard of living. “Mom’s paycheck has been pumped directly into the basic costs of keeping the children in the middle class,” Ms. Warren’s book “The Two-Income Trap” explained. The mass entry of women into the work force is one reason for this financial insecurity.
Look at that last sentence again. It’s important, as Andrews turns her argument for the emergence of conservative women toward women’s desire for marriageable men. She references the now-viral quote by Fox’s Tucker Carlson: “Study after study has shown that when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them. Maybe they should want to marry them, but they don’t.” Andrews expounds:
As it happens, there is an abundance of data on Mr. Carlson’s side. Wendy Wang is the director of research at the Institute for Family Studies, and before that she worked at the Pew Research Center, where she co-wrote a report about unmarried Americans. “The number of employed men per 100 women dropped from 139 in 1960 to 91 in 2012” among never-married Americans 25 to 34, her report found. “In other words, if all never-married young women in 2012 wanted to find a young employed man who had also never been married, 9 percent of them would fail, simply because there are not enough men in the target group.”
Poor white men. No one wants to marry them. And why not? Because women have taken their jobs!
Here’s another jewel from Andrews, citing an MIT study: When women’s wages went down relative to men’s, marriage and fertility actually went up. I do not have to paint the phallic imagery here, do I?
So, rather than build an economy built on sustainable infrastructures, living wages, affordable health care and child care, paid leave for parents of all genders, tax payer funded college tuition, and jobs in a 21st century world–Alabama leads the rest of the country in this ignoble approach to economics, which, make no doubt about it, it is. Abortion legislation is not about morality or religion or the salvation of Alabama souls. It is political, for it will keep the good Christian people voting Republican–against their own financial and reproductive interests. And this, friends, will keep the Republican coffers full.
The Alabama bill, along with Andrews’s call for conservative women to take up the call to put women back at home rearing children while their men go off to work, is dangerous. Under the guise of fighting for our “right” to stay home and raise children–and do the majority of domestic labor without pay as part of the contractual obligation to which their marriageable men are entitled–women will be demanding to have our rights revoked. Rights that people like Jenny Nixon worked–from her home, while her children were at school–to make available to us. And, women like Governor Kay Ivey, who have the facade of power, do the bidding of male legislators. If you want to see what the world will look like when this retro-vision is enacted, look no further than the Alabama legislature. Or the list of Fortune 500 CEOs, or the U.S. Senate.
There’s another place you can look. Watch The Handmaids Tale, Seasons 1 & 2. It was not Commander Waterford who was the architect of Gilead. Rather, it was his wife, Serena Joy, who was the power and talent of the movement. In one chilling scene, which I’ve included below, Serena uses her charismatic speaking talent to turn a group of college student protesters to her conservative vision. Keep watching, though, to see how it turns out for her after she cedes her power. See how she lives in Gilead. The cost of equity and equality is high–we continue to pay it. But there is also a cost to maintain our liberty, and part of that cost is vigilance. Margaret Atwood noted in her book the wages of inattentiveness. Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.
Have you written your story down, recorded it somewhere, I asked Jenny. No, she said. I thought about it but haven’t. I still remember it, though. I pray that we will all remember, before we boil in a bathtub of our own making.
First, I need to acknowledge my white privilege and citizenship in a colonizer nation. Additionally, I am a U.S. Christian in a missionary culture, which has contributed to colonization. That said, I am also a gay female Christian from a rural Fundamentalist denomination, so I also can speak from intersecting places of marginalization.
In late February, the United Methodist Church voted to maintain its traditional stance against same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy. This could very well be the issue that splits the UMC; in fact, the fissures started as soon as the vote was counted. The “Traditional Plan” passed with 438 votes in favor and 384 against, 53% to 47%. Yet in 2014, a PEW Research Study reported that 60% of U.S. UMC members believed that same-sex marriage should be accepted. On the eve of the 2018 General Conference, informal guestimates predicted that 66% of U.S. delegates would vote for the One Church Plan, which would allow individual churches and regional conferences to decide whether to ordain and marry LGBTQ members (https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/groups-are-misusing-survey-results/ and https://religionnews.com/2019/02/25/united-methodist-committee-rejects-one-church-plan-which-would-allow-lgbt-clergy/). So what happened?
The UMC has around 12 million members globally, about half its members. Methodists from outside the U.S. are generally more conservative and favor traditional positions on sexuality, reports Christianity Today. At the General Conference, 41% of the 864 delegates were non-U.S, 30% of those from Africa. I don’t even have to break out my calculator to know that without global delegates in the mix, the Traditional Plan would almost certainly have been defeated. (Take a look at the UMC World Map here: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/united-methodists-lgbt-vote-umc-general-conference-denomina.html).
There are several issues to eventually unpack, such as how to reconcile the U.S. UMC and whether or not it will lovingly include its LGBT members and clergy within its community. Very briefly, though, I want to consider another ethical dilemma the UMC faces: how to be Christ’s universal church when the majority of half its members oppose changes taking place in U.S. culture. “In this case,” says Mercer University ethicist David Gushee, “culture looks more like the gospel than churches do” (Changing Our Minds, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oO81hxbmGM). One delegate from Mozambique said the Traditional Plan “is what God Wants in the church in this world” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/united-methodist-lgbt-vote-conference-plan.html). Is it? More important here, is it what U.S. Methodists believe?
Gushee, whose book Changing Our Minds gives his account of changing his mind about the inclusion of LGBT persons in the church, notes that he is, “convinced this is not a sexual ethics issue, but it’s about human dignity” (YouTube). He goes on to pose three questions for which I propose the UMC hold itself—locally and globally—accountable. Who counts as equal? Who counts as having dignity? And at a level fundamental to the gospel—Who counts as included within the reach of the good news that God loves human beings in Jesus Christ? After all, he reminds us, sexuality is but a “tertiary concern” compared to issues of the sacredness of life and human dignity.
After nearly 250 years, the Methodist Church has accomplished one of the greatest missionary feats in history—preaching Jesus the Christ throughout the world and adding over 6 million souls to its count. Problem is, in many of these areas, it is not even safe to be “out” as a LGBT Christian. And, the UMC usually holds a mainline, moderate stance on most issues in U.S. culture. In February, the conservative global element nudged the church in a direction against itself. At least I hope that is the case—for herein lies its denominational ethical dilemma. What is the Methodist Church today?
I’ll turn once more to Gushee, who argues if we aren’t in solidarity, we’re part of the oppression. He notes profoundly, “this solidarity will be costly” (YouTube). It will indeed. If the UMC—as a microcosm of the greater church—does not actively seek to recover the broader narratives laid out by Gushee—the Kingdom of God, justice, the example of Jesus, love of neighbor, the Golden Rule, and compassion for those who suffer—then it admits its own ugly complicity in rejecting human dignity. It will have nearly literally have gained the whole world but forfeited its soul (Mk. 8:36). Now is its chance to do both.
This week’s post is an updating of a one that began as a paper I presented at the 2017 South Eastern Women’s Studies (SEWSA) Conference called Intentional Monogamy: Not Your Grandma’s Sexual Ethics. I’m thinking about monogamy as an act of queer intentionality.
Even before I started my MDiv at Mercer, I had been playing with God-talk (theology) in my curriculum theory writing. For example, I believe that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s notion of ethics and existentialist theologian Paul Tillich’s conceptualization of God and Christ are not just relevant to our world today, they are essential. Three semesters in to seminary, I’m just learning what I do not know about Christian Ethics, so I will start small, with the most common state of being in a relationship in Western practice—monogamy—I’m thinking about it in the context of the current issue of same-sex marriage. We have constructed a God to suit our dominant White Western culture, just as we have constructed normal, normative sexual ethics. The god we crafted has a preference, which we codified into morality, for matrimony. Marriage is one man, one woman, monogamous. You know 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). Schipper 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. Knowing Sarah, this in fact is romantic. One evening 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 and said, “Yeah, 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.”
My students 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 my simple answer to them). 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. We married on the day the US Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell, June 26, 2015.
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.
Schippers, M. (2016). Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities. New York: NYU Press.
Here’s what you’ll see on my About page now.
When Sam Phillips’ secretary at Sun Records, Marion Keisker, asked Elvis who he sounded like, he replied, “I don’t sound like nobody, ma’am.” Writing can be such an isolating activity, that I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like I don’t write like anybody else does. I sure don’t feel like my writing is a neat fit in most other places. Blog writing feels right. First, it isn’t traditional academic writing like I’m required to do as a professor. I cheat at that usually–it’s such a formulaic, forced disciplinary exercise. When I do it, I write my narrative first and then sprinkle in the theory. Don’t laugh~~it earned me a Ph.D. and tenure. Thing is, the narrative is all I ever want to write.
For the purpose of categorizing it, I’m going to call it personal essay and memoir writing. It’s personal, and it’s narrative.
It’s not exactly essay, if by essay we prescribe more gatekeeping formulas. Same with memoir. It’s not storytelling exactly either, not like fiction. It is storying, though. For example, here’s a true one. Back in around 2003, Miss Dorothy Allison came to LSU while I was working on a doctorate in education. I just love Dorothy Allison, especially her Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature. I was lucky enough to participate in a writing workshop one evening, lucky because most of the spots were taken by English majors.
One of the exercises was to free write for a few minutes. She asked for volunteers to share, and I, having a huge student crush, shot my hand up. I truly think my writing is not half bad, and have been told as much. So I shared. Did I mention that almost every other participant was an English major? English majors take their critiques of writing very seriously. The most scathing was from a very serious woman who accused me of attempting to replicate Miss Allison’s style, which honest to God, had never crossed my mind. You know how crushing it is to the soul when someone looks at you–and you recognize the look as one of pity? Miss Dorothy Allison looked at me like that.
Still, it’s–this–is the kind of writing I want to do. The kind that, try as I might, is what comes out. I still don’t think it’s half bad. That’s why I’m putting it out here. If not another soul reads it–or if English majors do and snicker like the Prufrockian Eternal Footman–I like seeing it here.
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.
Two words concerning prayer life resonate with me this week: intention and attention. I sometimes fret about my prayer life, especially when I hear my fellow seminarians openly talking about theirs; I even have a professor outside of this class who returns our attention to prayer life. This week’s reading reminds us that naming our longing to be always in relationship with diving (intention) and by paying attention to where we see God in our daily life (attention) remind us of divine presence and grace.
Reflecting this week, I sought connections between my praying self and embodied self. I realized that an important connection is the esteem in which I hold my spiritual and physical being–or the regrettable lack thereof. So I would like now to discuss body issues and return to embodied praying.
I came across two pictures of myself a few months ago. The first was of myself on my wedding day, taken by my new husband. It was a snapshot, and I was looking at him over my shoulder. My first thought was how young and beautiful I was–and at the time I did not realize it. I was never not weight conscious. Realizing the many gaps of pertinent information here, I will say that my husband, who struggled with his sexuality throughout our marriage, had no words to express his inner turmoil; however, he did have words to turn his issues around toward me. One example: I never fixed a plate of food for myself in sixteen years that he did not look at and comment about my weight. As you can imagine, this affected me deeply. I have apologized to the girl in the first photo.
The second photo is of me at about age 37. I am bloated and look unhealthy. No longer married, working on my doctorate, in a new relationship, starting a great adventure in a new state–my body tells a deeper tale. It is one of insecurity, uncertainty, and a different kind of unhappiness. More gaps, I know, but I was struck by this picture in which I looked like a completely different person, one who was dancing–and apparently eating–as fast as she could. I apologized to the beautiful woman in that picture, too.
Reaching middle age–I am 55–has forced me to communicate with my body. I am aware of new aches and pains; it takes me a few seconds of walking before the muscles catch up (I call it having a “hitch in my getalong'”); and I am having to become acquainted with the grayed and wrinkling woman in the mirror. Thing is, I know this body has fewer days left than it has experienced, and that’s ok. When I do see that lady in the mirror, I assure her that she is beautiful and that I appreciate her–that face, that body. I promise her to live in such a way that I will mindfully value her now, in this moment, so that I never look back with regret at failing to do so.
This is what praying with my body feels like–gratefulness to God for my body as a presence in God’s divine creation–no fear of scales or mirrors or photos. Just thankfulness for this familiar likeness.
Coda: I read somewhere that 65% of women report that they have cancelled a doctor appointment because they do not want to step on the scale at check in. I myself have done this. Yes, read that again because it is in fact incredulous. Last week I had my check up. In I walked with the nurse who held my chart and directed me to the scale. “We have to do this,” she said, “but don’t worry, it’ll be over in a minute.” I boldly stepped up on the scale, keeping my shoes and jacket on this time. “It’s ok,” I replied, “I’m good.”
As I write this, another heinous mass shooting has taken place by white supremacists, this time in New Zealand. Almost 50 of our Muslim neighbors were murdered and 20 seriously injured, killed while they were praying. This attack is on my mind and heart as I contemplate this week’s Core Forum on prayer. As one public figure tweeted this morning, “Whether it is antisemitism in Pittsburgh, racism in Charlottesville, or the xenophobia and Islamophobia to day, violent hate is on the march at home and abroad….Silence is complicity.” I include this because the connection is made to multiple groups that are targeted for no other reason than hatred of any particular difference. The city where this atrocity occurred is called, ironically or not, Christchurch.
I have a chaplet that has inspired my prayer this week. If any of you are like I was and do not know what a chaplet is, it is a kind of small rosary–a prayer object–that usually has a saint medallion/object attached to the beads. Mine has two medallions. The first is St. Francis, whose prayer I have always loved, and the other, newer one is Julian of Norwich, whose mystical experiences inspire me. Julian’s words also comfort me like a gentle voice and touch soothes a child: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. I also made this quote my phone wallpaper–a postmodern engagement with the 15th century mystic. Still, when I see the words, I pray them. I’m thinking Fundamentalist Evangelicals do not a rule pray chaplets or contemplate icons in our prayer life. That’s unfortunate because for me it has deepened my prayers. Henri Nouwen says, “Icons…lead us into the inner room of prayer and bring us close to the heart of God” (p. 61). Whether icons are kinesthetic like mine, or natural, they open us to the Mystery of God’s presence.
The politician’s quote, above, suggests to us that the end to hatred and violence–peace–comes at a great price: our psychological, emotional, and embodied engagement. I am reminded that when the messages of MLK, JFK, and RFK turned from civil rights to peace, their lives were extinguished. The work of peace is a work of justice, and justice is the nature of God. Thoughts and prayers are not acts of peace in the world; prayer is that place of mystery where we might know that all will be well. Prayer is the interior castle (Teresa of Avila) where we are lost with and strengthened by our Beloved. Prayer is not what we do for the oppressed; prayer is what we do for ourselves so that we can have the strength to do the hard work of justice. God waits for us.
Coda: When John Lennon’s “Imagine” was released in 1971, it scared people–Christians who feared the new peaceful, global social order it suggested. In an interview with Playboy magazine, Lennon said that Dick Gregory had given Ono and him a Christian prayer book, which inspired the concept behind “Imagine.” A prayer book. He said,
The concept of positive prayer … If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion – not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing – then it can be true … the World Church called me once and asked, “Can we use the lyrics to ‘Imagine’ and just change it to ‘Imagine one religion’?” That showed [me] they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea. (Wikipedia).
They were right to be scared, for it calls for an end of systems of domination, by definition the domain of the dominant culture. I wonder if we are any more willing to pray it today.
The lyrics are below.
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Living for today (ah ah ah)
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Living life in peace
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Sharing all the world
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one