Stop. Listen. Read.
Our society is broken.
We’ve backed into our corners, put up our fists, circled our wagons, and muted our enemies.
Earlier this week, much of social media went dark with #blackouttuesday, an effort to speak less and listen more. Because it’s really easy to share a link or promote our cause or deliver another round of “Yeah but what about…” comebacks, but it’s an entirely different matter to humbly sit down. Shut up. And just…take it in.
Here’s what I know: there’s so much I don’t know. I’m grateful to be a part of a church staff that has been having conversations about racial reconciliation for over a decade. But I still have blind spots. I’ve sat and talked and listened and prayed and wept with my friends of color. Not nearly enough. With not nearly enough passion. Not nearly enough energy devoted. But I still have blind spots. I have a biracial daughter, which has caused me to understand a little more, to notice the racial fractures of our country a little more. But I still have blind spots.
So many blind spots.
I have far to go. Our society has far to go. Perhaps you have far to go.
So yes, I commit to listen more and speak less. But if you’ll indulge me to contribute one thing to the conversation, it’s a list of books that have been extraordinarily helpful to me. These are books that dear friends were kind enough to point me to even as they processed their own pain. They fall under a range of categories including biography, historical narrative, and the practicalities of how can we do this better?
These are books I’ve personally read and now recommend to you. This list is not meant to discount the many, many other helpful titles that you can and should read, but it’s a list drawn from my own library.
If you are – like me – a white follower of Jesus, and you’re just not sure where to start, maybe you can start with a book. And then continue with a conversation. Sit down over coffee. Ask good questions of your brothers or sisters of color. And then listen.
12 Years a Slave (Solomon Northup) (At the time of this writing, all versions of this book are being deeply discounted on Amazon.)
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” (Zora Neale Hurston)
Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win (John Perkins)
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Bryan Stevenson)
Men We Reaped: A Memoir (Jesmyn Ward)
One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love (John Perkins)
Oneness Embraced: Through the Eyes of Tony Evans (Tony Evans)
Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds (C. Thomas Davis)
Them: Why We Hate Each Other…and How to Heal (Ben Sasse) (This book and the one previous are not by authors of color, nor are they necessarily about racial reconciliation. But both books lend a great framework for thinking outside of the way we might naturally process things.)
The Underground Railroad: A Novel (Colson Whitehead)
White Awake: An Honest Look at What it Means to be White (Daniel Hill)
In addition, I’m currently reading / listening to Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Reconciliation (Latasha Morrison) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). I also have The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism (Jemar Tisby) next up on my summer reading list.
Any other title or author you’d recommend? Comment below.