In the weeks since our phones and laptops lit up with the news of the death of George Floyd, many white people in America have begun to ask “where do I start?”
This question, of course, can mean many things. It can mean, “Where do I start to understand the history of police brutality in America?” or “Where do I start to deal with the fact that I have lived a segregated life?” or “Where do I start to understand systemic racism?”
These questions, when asked from a pure heart that is seeking to understand, can serve as crucial entry points for white Christians who long to see the kingdom come and desire to honor all who have been made in the image of God. If they are raised and dismissed too quickly, however, these questions can place a tremendous burden on those who navigate the world inside black and brown bodies, those for whom this conversation is so much more than theory or hypothesis.
In an effort to incline hearts toward understanding, minds toward wisdom, and hands toward doing justice, CT Creative Studio has compiled a resource list specifically oriented toward coming alongside our white brothers and sisters in the work of becoming and living as anti-racists.
No book, article, or video listed here will be the answer. No prayer or liturgy will ever be able to serve as the magic incantation that breaks the spell of racism. So we encourage you to engage these resources not as quick fixes nor as comprehensive guides but as education, as encouragement, and as an exhortation to live according to the whole gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom all are reconciled.
We’re beginning our list with a prayer for racial healing. As we engage with each of these resources, future conversations, and the Word of God, may we be swift to hear and slow to speak.
God of justice,
In your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception.
Through your goodness, open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being.
Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family.
Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviors, and speech which demean others.
Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by racial discrimination, and their passionate appeals for change.
Strengthen our resolve to make amends for past injustices and to right the wrongs of history.
And fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven, and establish peace and equality for all in our communities.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison
“Latasha Morrison is a champion of racial reconciliation and an advocate for racial justice,” writes poet, author, and performance artist Amena Brown in her endorsement of Be the Bridge. Morrison is the founder of the non-profit organization Be the Bridge to Racial Unity, which develops curricula for small groups to equip people to move toward relationship and deeper understanding in the midst of a divisive culture. She also manages a lively Facebook group, platforms podcasts like Melanated Faith with Kathryn Freeman and Faitth Brooks, and hosts the newly released Be the Bridge Podcast. In this bestselling guide, Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation (winner of the Christianity Today Book Award), Morrison weaves together the history of racism in America and a theological vision for unity with discussion questions, liturgies, and advice for early bridge builders. Her book will hold your feet to the fire and offer you a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, all at the same time.
Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson
In this new release from David W. Swanson, founding pastor of a multiracial congregation on the South Side of Chicago, diversity is up for scrutiny. Swanson posits that many white churches are not yet ready to pursue diversity—they need to shape up their discipleship practices first. “Swanson prophetically models how confession, repentance, and renewed minds liberate captive congregations and embolden them to holistically redefine discipleship,” writes author Dominique DuBois Gilliard in his endorsement of Rediscipling the White Church. If you feel stuck or confused by what it looks like for the white church to address racial injustice all the way down at the roots, add this book to your library.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
If personal stories well-told help you make sense of the world, then you can’t miss the New York Times Bestselling I’m Still Here. “There is nothing profound about where my story takes place,” Brown writes. “I didn’t grow up in another country, in the Deep South or the hood. I grew up around white people in a family-friendly middle-class neighborhood.” Poignant memories abound, like when Brown opens her memoir by sharing what it’s been like for her to walk through the world as a black woman with a name—Austin—that people assume belongs to a white man. Pick up this compelling, challenging book for an education in black femaleness and the ways that racism still shows up in places we may be prone to believe it has been eradicated.
From president and co-founder of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective and co-host of the Pass the Mic podcast with Tyler Burns comes The Color of Compromise—a remarkable blend of racial history, recent church history, and forward thought. Tisby, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Mississippi studying race, religion, and social movements in the twentieth century, writes with “the incision of a prophet, the rigor of a professor, and the heart of a pastor,” says author Soong-Chan Rah. If you’re ready to understand why racism and Christianity so often find themselves tangled together in the United States—and what an untangling may look like—this is the book for you.
White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill
Have you ever considered what it means to be a part of white culture? Does the very idea seem off, confusing, or even offensive? If so, White Awake, could be just the book you need. “At once personal, practical, and provocative,” as author Mark DeYmaz says, White Awake coaches but never coddles, dives deep but never despairs. You’ll find a friend and mentor in Hill as he walks you through his own process of identifying and learning about his white identity in this challenging yet kind I’m-right-here-with you book.
The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
If you’d like to have a better understanding of the history of black protest, you can’t miss this formative work. Originally published in 1903, many of Du Bois’ words could be restated today. “The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins;” he writes. “The freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land.” As thousands to take to the streets to lament and resist violence against black bodies, many march and protest in keeping with what Du Bois could see clearly over 100 years ago. Much has changed since then, but much has not, and Du Bois’ wisdom from then speaks to the need for action now.
(The Souls of Black Folkis also available online through Project Gutenberg.)
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
National Book Award Winner Jesmyn Ward is best known for her exceptional novels—Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Sing, Unburied, Sing. But her nonfiction work, including an essay collection she edited entitled The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race that calls back to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time in title and content, stands as its own, magnificent offering. Men We Reaped documents four years of Ward’s life in DeLisle, Mississippi, through the lens of the deaths of five men dear to her. Read this memoir for an up-close-and-personal look at the recent experiences of a black woman in the American South.
Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey by Sarah Shin
If you grew up in an “I don’t see race” kind of family or community, discussions of racial reconciliation or systemic injustice may feel pretty confusing. Didn’t we already solve this? Aren’t we all seen the same way now? Author and former associate national director of evangelism for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Sarah Shin says it’s not quite that simple. In Beyond Colorblind, Shin exposes the limits of ignoring race and illuminates a better way forward — one in which we grow to understand our ethnic stories and bring our whole identities into fellowship with God and one another for the sake of the gospel.
“Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This classic work may seem like too obvious an inclusion, but in an era when MLK’s words are often reduced to memes and tweets, it’s worth the time to consider his work as a whole. Dr. King wrote his Letter in response to another letter, one published in the Birmingham News, called “A Call for Unity”, by his “dear fellow clergymen”—eight prominent white Alabaman ministers who had come out against King and his approach. He writes,
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season.”
“The Case for Reparations”by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Now known for his National Book Award Winner Between the World and Me, as well as bestsellers We Were Eight Years in Power, The Beautiful Struggle, and The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates published “The Case for Reparations” as a national correspondent for The Atlantic in 2014. Opening with a passage from Deuteronomy 15 and communicating through powerful storytelling, Coates takes us from injustice to injustice—slavery, Jim Crow, separate but equal, redlining—and shows us what the implications are today.
“Walking While Black” by Garnette Cadogan
Born in Jamaica, essayist Garnette Cadogan moved to the United States for college in 1996. He’d spent his childhood and teenage years walking around Kingston, learning to avoid various dangers and developing a deep affection for the streets of his home city. But when Cadogan came to the states, he was shocked to discover that he was seen as the threat. “I wasn’t prepared for any of this,” Cadogan writes “I had come from a majority-black country in which no one was wary of me because of my skin color. Now I wasn’t sure who was afraid of me.” This essay highlights some of the particulars of American racism through Cadogan’s lived experience.
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, Just Mercy tells the true story of defense attorney Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) who founded the Equal Justice Initiative with Eva Ansley (Larson). Stevenson met Walter "Johnny D." McMillian, a death row inmate convicted of murdering a white woman. We won’t spoil the rest for you; we’ll just say this—if you’d like to better understand how the American justice system can interact with black men, this is a good place to start. (As is the book by Bryan Stevenson upon which the film was based!) Watch it for free this month.
Award-winning filmmaker Ava Marie DuVernay challenges the viewers of 13th to consider the role of the American prison system and to reckon with the disproportionate incarceration of black men. “The film reveals ostensible crimes that have been fabricated in the service of oppression,” writes Richard Brody in his review at The New Yorker. “As well as another crime, real and ongoing—against humanity.” If you’re ready to watch a film with a cup of coffee and a notepad in hand, you can find 13th on Netflix.
I’m Sorry. I’m Listening. I’m Learning.
In a sub-five-minute Instagram video, author and pastor Osheta Moore lovingly exhorts her white brothers and sisters to correct a misstep she’s seeing online. With clarity and grace, Moore encourages white people to remember that “I’m sorry. I’m listening. I’m learning.” is a good place to start—and stay a while—when it comes to engaging in conversations about race.
We don’t want triumphalism. We want change!
If you’re feeling encouraged and heartened by the attention you’ve seen white Christians paying to racial injustice in recent weeks, spend an eight-minute work break with this gracious challenge from writer and speaker Danté Stewart. Stewart offers a prophetic word to those of us quick to celebrate the responses we’re seeing, prompting us to consider if we’re valuing black death more than black life. Full of encouragement and compassion, Stewart nudges white Christians to remember the role of lament, grief, and dismantling injustice.
God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story of God's Delightfully Different Family by Trillia Newbell
Designed especially for preschoolers and early-elementary-aged children, God’s Very Good Idea celebrates diversity and the God who joyfully created it. Newbell’s biblically rich yet kindergarten-simple prose pairs beautifully with illustrations from Catalina Echeverri that depict bodies of varied skin tones, ethnicities, and abilities. If you want to help your littlest ones grasp the dignity of God’s image-bearers in terms they can understand and take to heart, enjoy this delightful little book with your family.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Winner of the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor, Brown Girl Dreaming is a non-fiction volume written in free verse that documents Woodson’s life in the 1960s and 1970s. Suited for ages ten and up, Woodson’s memoir carries the reader along—through plot points, through thoughts, through hardships. If your son or daughter is up for a parent–child book club, or if they’re susceptible to picking up books you leave lying on the coffee table, grab a copy.
The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas
Starr Carter is sixteen years old, lives in a poor neighborhood, and attends a wealthy prep school. After she watches her best friend, Khalil, suffer a fatal gunshot fired by a police officer Carter has to decide what to say and do—or what not to say, and not to do. A #1 New York Times Bestseller, The Hate U Give is a captivating piece of Young Adult fiction that may resonate especially with high school students who can imagine themselves as Carter’s peers. You or your teen can also check out the 2018 film adaptation, which is now available for free on several streaming services.
All links to purchase books direct you to black-owned bookstores across the country.