Trouble I’ve Seen:
Changing the Way the Church Views Racism
Drew G.I. Hart
Paperback: Herald Press, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
We will be reading through the book this month, and posting discussion questions as we go. We hope you will read along with us, and share your thoughts and questions. (Or, even better, get a group of people at your church to read through the book together!)
Here are some quotes and questions, please use the comments below to share your own thoughts and questions.
Chapter 2: The Racialized Society I’ve Seen
Before you begin reading (or discussing) this chapter…
- DEFINE Race
- DEFINE Racism
Hart will define these terms in this chapter, and it will be good to be prepared to reflect on how his definitions compare with yours coming into the chapter.
In the first 10 pages of this chapter (33-42), Hart tells his own story of learning about race in several different contexts as he grew up. Pay special attention to how the racial dynamics changed between each new context.
On page 44-48, Hart introduces the concept of the “race card.”
Have you used this idea in discussing how yourself or others discuss race?
“There is a long history, going all the way back to slavery, of white Americans not trusting black perspectives as truthful. Therefore white verification is required to confirm every black thought and testimony, because on their own they hold no weight in court or public opinion. White perception is assumed to be more accurate and objective than black perception. Because she or he has categorized an event as racial in nature, the African American speaker must be called out and dismissed.” (46)
Have you experienced this phenomena, and if so, in what ways?
Why is it the case that this happens?
Hart defines race and racism:
“Despite its common usage, race is not a natural biological category for human beings, though physical features certainly create boundaries of difference. The language of race obscures rather than clarifies human similarity and difference. It is smoke and mirrors. Instead of being a biological fact, race is a social construct.” (48)
“So although race may indeed be socially constructed, that does not mean that racism is imaginary. It is very real.” (49)
“In this view, racism is “a racialized systemic and structural system that organizes our society.” Racism structures society in such a way that the white dominant group systemically advantages and overvalues its own group members while oppressing and exploiting other people.” (51)
How do these definitions compare with the ones you had before starting this chapter?
“This perspective on racism requires that people in the dominant culture have deep and wide conversations with the black community. Typically, many white people search for the one black person who holds the same positions and perspectives as they do, and then prop that person up as verification of their own beliefs. Taking a riskier and more teachable posture —allowing an entire community to speak into their lives—would ultimately result in changing their operating definitions.” (52)
What might this process of knowing look like in your context?
In the final pages of the chapter, Hart mentions Paula Deen’s racially-inappropriate comments, and how it is not helpful to understand racism solely in terms of something done through acts of bigotry like these…
“When mainstream America makes an example of Paula Deen, it both turns her into a scapegoat and also creatively claims its own innocence, because it limits the definition of racism to individual acts. In doing so, the dominant culture washes its hands of all the racial ideology that it permits, the racialized injustice it ignores, and the racialized patterns of life in which it participates.” (55)
How do we move to a deeper, societal understanding of racism?
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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