Last Sunday, a good number of parishioners stayed on Zoom for a discussion of our SummerReads book How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Professor Kendi has been a high profile—and compelling—presence in the media lately, discussing this most recent work as well as his other books Stamped from the Beginning and Antiracist Baby. His commitment to unveiling what he calls the “Stage 4 cancer of racism” in our nation is thoroughly researched and deeply felt. How to be an Antiracist is a work that challenges and inspires. Reading and discussing it together was a gift.
Our conversation last Sunday included reactions to the book, personal stories, and lots of questions. I find this very hopeful! People united around the common assumption that we all have significant work to do in dismantling racial injustice; that some of that work is painful and difficult, and all of it is absolutely essential to the health of our nation and the integrity of our communities.
And, of course, our ability to follow Jesus Christ. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that “racism is the ultimate blasphemy, because it could make a child of God doubt that she or he was a child of God.” How to be an Antiracist is not a faith-focused book per se, but as Christians we know that everything about who Jesus is and what Jesus does draws people to the heart of God. And as long as we shut any individual or group out of that process (or live within structures that do so) we are obstructing God’s kingdom.
Our dedication to recognizing these obstructions—both individual and systemic–is ongoing. Life-long, actually. So let’s continue the conversation. Let’s keep seeking ways to tear down racist assumptions and practices. Let’s work together to embody Christ-centered, hopeful alternatives; possibilities that celebrate the wonderful diversity of God’s creation, and all the people in it.
p.s. I mentioned at announcements that the Episcopal Diocese of New York is recommending How to be an Antiracist for reading and discussion groups throughout the diocese. You can read Bishop Dietsche’s announcement about that initiative here.