What would you do to be free? Free to say what you think needs to be said and do what you think needs to be done for justice?
Would you quit your job? Become the target of slander and libel? Lose connection with the closest community you’ve ever known?
I hope that your freedom does not cost you that much…but it might.
A Place at the Table
I’ve been Black my whole life, and I know how racism still colors so much of this country. For the past 10 years I’ve been speaking, teaching, and writing publicly about the crisis of racism, and it has been costly.
In 2011, I founded what became The Witness, Inc.—a philanthropic and digital media company that addresses the core concerns of Black people from a Christian perspective. This attempt to make space for the needs and priorities of Black people on the basis of faith sparked years of trolling and insults that persist to this day.
Ultimately, the resistance to my attempts at racial justice—labeled as cultural Marxism, “woke”, liberal, and Critical Race Theory convinced me I needed to leave the denomination where I was seeking ordination, a calling I’d sensed ever since high school.
The School of History
In August of 2014, Mike Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri which sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. This is when I started to see the most aggressive pushback around racism I had seen up to that point. Anytime someone would say, “Black lives matter!” many Christians would respond with “All lives matter” or “Blue lives matter”. They would argue it was an isolated incident or that the police officer was just “one bad apple” or even that Mike Brown got what he deserved. I knew instinctively that they weren’t right.
This is when it became apparent to me how powerful history is to help us understand our present-day context. This hunger for more knowledge about the past launched me on the path to earning a PhD in History from the University of Mississippi.
In 2015 when Donald Trump descended the elevator in his New York City Hotel to announce his bid for candidacy of the President of the United States, we learned how egregiously connected white evangelicals are to racism and Christian nationalism. Exit polls after the November 2016 election showed that 4 out of every 5 white evangelicals who voted pulled the lever for this man.
These events coincided with my increasing knowledge of race and U.S. history and culminated in my first book, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. I had to say what needed to be said about how some Christians used religion to construct and maintain racism.
I followed up my first book with a second one geared toward answering the most frequently asked question I get: What do we do?
How to Fight Racism prioritizes the practical and lays out a framework—the ARC of Racial Justice—to help you orient your whole life toward racial justice.
A Step of Faith
After that I finished my PhD and landed what I believed to be my dream job working for the Center for Antiracist Research (CAR) at Boston University. I realized, however, that my real passion is writing and challenging and encouraging the nation and the Church to be a racially and ethnically inclusive community.
So, with no other job lined up and no safety net, I stepped down from from a full-time and prestigious position with the hopes of writing and creating content that can help move us forward in the journey toward racial justice.
I’m thankful that thousands of people have accessed my teaching and writing and found them helpful. But if I’m honest, I still sometimes feel adrift, uncertain of my place where I can’t help but bring the truths of history to bear on issues of race, religion, and current events.
Even though I have more questions than answers, I know at least this much: My work is to say what must be said about race, religion, and current events with a historical perspective.
Let’s Journey Together
I do not aim to upset people, my goal is see the beloved community enacted in as many places and to the greatest extent possible. But to get there, we’re going to have to flip some tables to make room for people from all the nations.
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