Books of the Month, Conversations, Volume 9

Trouble I’ve Seen – Book of the Month Conversation – Part 6

Our Book of the Month for March is…

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!)

Part 6:
Chapter 6

Here are some quotes and questions, please use the comments below to share your own thoughts and questions.

<<<<<< Previous Conversation: Part 5

Chapter 6: #BlackLivesMatter


Being black is draining. Blackness continues to be described pejoratively in America. Black skin in our world has been designated as a marker for all things bad. To be a black American is to have to constantly tell yourself that you are somebody, that you are made in the image of God, that you are creative and intelligent. Not doing so will result in drowning in the oceans of negative words about your existence and “your kind.”   (117)

In what ways do I buy into or contribute to these (false) perceptions?

Philadelphia, my city, has allowed for the massive defunding of public education in poor black and brown communities. This has resulted in the shutting down of public schools all over the city—at the very same time that state funding is directed toward the privatized and lucrative prison-industrial complex. This is what many in my community more simply label “the school-to-prison pipeline.”  (118)

In what ways do the socio-economic policies of your place reflect the longstanding cultural conviction that people of color are somehow inferior?

Through the “war on drugs” campaign, which has used colorblind rhetoric to cover its trail, black men (and increasingly black women) have been racially profiled, arrested, and locked in cages. …  As Alexander and many other researchers have revealed, black youth and white youth are using drugs at comparable rates, with white youth actually having a slightly higher level of use. (119)
To be black in America is to embody flesh that has been marked by white people for four hundred years as despised, immoral, improper, threatening, and in need of white supervision.  (119-120)

In what ways does your church contribute to (or reflect) these cultural convictions that black lives are less than human?

The white church—and there certainly is such a thing—has often been silent in response to the four hundred years of assault on black humanity. At times it has outright taken the lead in antiblack racism. The white church has too often failed to see each and every black life as beloved by God, not reducible to static stereotypes like “thug” or “welfare queen.” (120)

Has your church been silent on these matters? Why or why not?

Through four hundred years of oppression, black people have defiantly lifted their heads, put one foot in front of the other, and creatively struggled to hold onto a deep hope for a better future. Black people continue to create something out of nothing, stretch little into much, hustle, grind, and make do with scraps. Can some families do better in this area or that? Absolutely. I am a firm believer in calling for personal accountability and transformation. But what family couldn’t do better? Most folks who are so quick to blast poor black people need to look in the mirror at the log in their eye rather than worrying about the speck in someone else’s. (128)
The task for us as a church is to allow the resurrected Jesus to be present with us, inspiring us toward risky and controversial love, even when society tells us that the recipients of our love are not worthy. Just as Jesus affirmed the life of the outcast Samaritans of his day, so too must we risk concrete love through action that affirms black life and cares about how all black bodies are treated. (130)

How do we begin to name the log of racism in our own eyes?
How do we begin to demonstrate clearly that black lives matter, and that all black people are created in the image of God and worthy of the love and respect due to any human?


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:

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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