Racial reconciliation: Now what?
I’m a White woman.
I have never worried about looking suspicious as I walk home from a convenience store, like Trayvon Martin. I don’t worry that the police will break in my house and shoot me, like Breonna Taylor. I wouldn’t worry about wearing a ski mask in public if I were cold, like Elijah McClain.
And it’s easy for me to assume that I won’t ever watch my White children beg for their lives as a knee presses into their necks for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, like George Floyd.
But our Black brothers and sisters do worry about these things every single day. And, honestly, I was only vaguely aware that these were things anyone had to worry about until recent events.
I am naive. I am privileged. And I’m so sad.
I am naive. I am privileged. And I’m so sad.
In the pages of this newspaper we’ve read about protests, petitions and prayers all in the name of racial injustice. But now what? As Christians, we can no longer hear these stories and sit idle.
So I’ve asked friends, strangers, librarians and teachers for book suggestions about race and injustice. Let’s learn each other’s history — the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful.
Let’s read and learn and weep. And then, take action.
“I think it’s incredibly important to read books about racism and educate yourself,” wrote Laura Louda in a recent Facebook post. “I also think it’s important to surround yourself with books written by diverse authors and illustrators.”
What books are you buying for your children? Are you introducing them to people who don’t look like them? Do you celebrate other cultures and differences? Does your bookshelf reflect the diverse world we live in?
These are questions that Louda, who works in book publishing, asks herself, even though she doesn’t have kids. Here are her top picks:
Rita Lorraine-Hubbard. The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2020, 40 pages. $17.99.
“Imagine learning to read at the age of 116,” the goodreads.com book summary says. “Discover the true story of Mary Walker, the nation’s oldest student who did just that” (ages 2-5).
Kwame Alexander. The Undefeated. Boston: Versify, 2019, 40 pages. $17.99.
“This poem is a love letter to Black life in the United States,” according to goodreads.com. “It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement and the grit, passion and perserverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes.”
Vashti Harrison. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. Puffin, 2019, 96 pages. $17.99.
“Featuring 40 trailblazing Black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations,” the goodreads.com summary said (ages 6-12).
For middle schoolers
Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Stamped. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2020, 320 pages. $17.47.
Dara Tinius, a librarian and mother to two middle-grade daughters, recommends “Stamped,” an abridged version of “Stamped from the Beginning.” Tinius said Renyolds adapted this brilliant history of race in America and made it accessible for middle schoolers.
This book takes the reader on a race journey from then to now, shows why we feel how we feel and why the poison of racism lingers, according to goodreads.com. “Stamped” inspires hope for an antiracist future.
Jerry Craft. New Kid. New York: Quill Tree Books, 2019, 256 pages. $21.99.
“New Kid distills the prejudice and discomfort that many black and brown kids encounter when they are one of the faces of color in predominantly white spaces,” Tinius said.
From the author’s website: “‘New Kid’ is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real.”
Latasha Morrison. Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation. Self-published, 2014, 256 pages. $17.99.
In 2016, Morrison visited Rwanda and spoke on reconciliation.
“Morrison shared how one of the most racially divided institutions is the church. And my heart broke,” said Jamie Boiles, a friend of mine who moved to Kigali, Rwanda, nine years ago to work as a missionary. “If you are ready to start your journey of breaking through the racial divide, this is definitely the book.”
Kelly Brown Douglas. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. New York: Orbis 2015, 160 pages. $26.
Theologian Douglas’ work helped Ben Lewellyn-Taylor, a friend of mine who teaches in Dallas, understand the link between the murder of Trayvon Martin and the American idea that casts White bodies into heaven while demonizing and dehumanizing Black bodies.
“Douglas invites readers to develop a moral imagination that moves us to see Trayvon and other Black bodies in the likeness of Jesus,” Lewellyn-Taylor said. “This is the most important theological book I read (during ministry training), and I think every Christian will be changed by reading it.”
For Churches of Christ
Finally, here are some books related to the history of race issues in our fellowship.
These suggestions, far from an exhaustive list, come to mind:
Edward J. Robinson, Show Us How You Do It: Marshall Keeble and the Rise of Black Churches of Christ in the United States, 1914-1968. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 2010, 240 pages. $46.
Wes Crawford. Shattering the Illusion: How African American Churches of Christ Moved from Segregation to Independence. Abilene, Texas: ACU Press, 2013, 223 pages. $23.
James L. Gorman, Jeff W. Childers and Mark W. Hamilton. Slavery’s Long Shadow: Race and Reconciliation in American Christianity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2019. 256 pages. $25.
Edward J. Robinson. Hard-Fighting Soldiers: A History of African American Churches of Christ. Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 2019, 224 pages. $54.
Barclay Key. Race and Restoration: Churches of Christ and the Black Freedom Struggle. Louisiana State University Press, 2020, 264 pages. $45.
We’ve got a lot of work to do. It doesn’t matter if you read what is listed here or something a friend recommends; educate yourself.
But don’t stop there.
Get to know your Black neighbors. Talk to them face to face, listen to their stories on social media platforms, and then take action. Stand with them peacefully in protest, support Black businesses, and donate to organizations that directly support Black lives.
I don’t want to read another story of a Black life ending at the hands of fear and misunderstanding. Let’s build a bridge of reconciliation and end racial injustice.
LAURA AKINS is Reviews Editor for The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected].
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