“You just want me to feel bad about slavery” he said as I explained how I’d just learned that “flesh” colored bandages matching white skin was an example of white privilege.
“You just want me to feel bad about slavery. We didn’t own slaves,” she said as I explained how it had finally clicked that it isn’t just an intra-personal, not personally racist thing but a system I was participating in willingly or not.
“You just want me to feel bad about slavery. We didn’t own slaves. In fact, the Irish were slaves!” they said as I explained I’d just learned how the unemployment rate for Black people is twice as high as for white people.
“Huh? I’m not sure how you are getting that since I haven’t mentioned slavery once.” At the time I didn’t recognize them as the deflections they were. I even had someone tell me that “Jemar Tisby (the author of “The Color of Compromise“) and the ladies of Truth’s Table just want me to feel bad for slavery” after I recommended the podcasts of “Pass the Mic” and “Truth’s Table” for some learning about race in America. Now I recognize it for the conversation stopper that it was. Clearly the speaker is not listening to understand. I might have flubbed my conversation and slipped a “feel bad for slavery” into it, but they haven’t.
It isn’t that slavery, and the politics and racist ideology including twisted theology that permitted slavery, doesn’t mater, but “feeling bad about it” doesn’t do anything to bring us closer across the racial divide. In fact, if that was the goal to racial reconciliation, then resistance to such a fruitless endeavor is only logical.
But one of the things that many bringing up history believe will help us move forward is us finding our place in the story of our shared history. This was one of the reoccurring themes in the Justice Pilgrimage I took last year. How does this story interact with me, my immediate family, my extended family, my ancestors? For many of us, slavery isn’t part of that timeline, though we can be surprised as two Colorado women were.
But to find ourselves and understand, we must know history.
When I read the fiction book “Sing, Unburied, Sing” I felt it had more sorrow and depth for me because I knew the history of the prison camp Parchman Prison from the non-fiction book “Worse Than Slavery.” And it brought the non-fiction book alive.
My ancestors didn’t own slaves and on one side experienced discrimination due to their Sicilian immigration status in the 1920s, yet when I inherited money from my grandpa it was due in part to his access to the G.I. bill and mortgages for housing denied a Black person’s ancestor.
So Jemar Tisby’s book, “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” can help Christians find our place in the story of the church, racism, and America. It is useful for all Christians and denominations as it covers a lot of ground. While the book leans conservative when culture wars comes up, this history is mostly about before when the denominations were unified on women’s ordination and other topics. His extensive notes can give you direction on where to dive deeper. Personally I wish every Christian in America would read Chapter 9 on “The Beginning of the Religious Right at the End of the Twentieth Century.”
Of course finding our place in history isn’t about a new dinner conversation. It helps us then know how and where we, individually and collectively, need to act.
“This book is about revealing racism. It pulls back the curtain on the ways American Christians have collaborated with racism for centuries. By seeing the roots of racism in this country, may the church be moved to immediate and resolute antiracism action,” Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise.
The book is available on Amazon. Also available at Barnes and Noble and you can probably place a request with your local book seller. I know King’s Books in my city was quite accommodating for my Christmas purchases. It is also on Audible read by the author Jemar Tisby.
But wait, there’s more! If you pre-order before book release–before Midnight on January 21st–you can submit your receipt and receive some pre-order bonuses. https://www.thecolorofcompromise.com/
And if you just aren’t sure yet, you can listen to the first chapter here as a special Pass the Mic episode. It is titled “The Color of Compromise” and episode 1.