Episode 66: Libby Huizenga – “Grace and the Messiness of White Anti-Racism.”

God has called all Christians, regardless of race, to engage in the work of anti-racism. At a minimum, we all must continually engage in self-examination, rooting out our biases about ourselves and others, scrutinizing them for the common sin-patterns that beset all of humanity. We need to see how these sin-patterns manifest themselves collectively in our laws and institutional policies, and address inequities that affect our brothers and sisters. We do this, because we value and cherish our brothers and sisters, made in the image of God, as our co-equals who steward this world. We do this, because this is what God has called all Christians to do.

White people have a role in this work. In the history of the United States, the creation of the legal category of “whiteness” itself, as we will see in Episode 67, was a unique manifestation of human sinfulness in the United States. Essentially, using skin color as a signifier of superiority, European colonists over time created a new way to divide humanity that went beyond ethnicity, class and gender by creating a new idea: race. If you live in the United States, like I do, we are the inheritors of this system of thinking, and we daily live lives which are heavily impacted by the numerous assumptions, biases, policies and laws built on these ideas during the past 400+ years. In most every case, whiteness and the cultural values held by its members, are systemically advantaged. While to some this is a controversial statement, we will not get into the details of the many studies pointing to the validity of this conclusion.

White people have a role in the work of addressing these inequities, both individually and systemically. But this is messy work. Because to be white, as I am, means that we have difficulty perceiving how our whiteness is advantageous. To be white, as I am, means that we don’t know many of the things we need to know to address these inequities. To be white, as I am, means that by necessity, we need to be guided in this work by people more knowledgeable about the problem than we are.

In this episode, regular Antioch contributor Libby Huizenga and I talk 1:1 about our approaches to trying to live anti-racist lives. These are the kinds of conversations we have in caucus groups, the kinds of caucus groups discussed in Episode 63. Usually these are messy, imperfect, and vulnerable conversations – and typically we would NOT have microphones running. But the whole point of this podcast is to model the kinds of conversations we believe Christians need to have to learn how to understand and submit out of love to one another so that we can worship well together. A part of this work, therefore, is for white people to learn how to talk with other white people, about whiteness.

Very likely this recorded conversation will reveal our own limited thinking, incomplete or inaccurate conclusions, or even simply wrong ideas in places. We aren’t holding ourselves up as examples of people who have correct thinking. In fact, likely we have problematic, messy thinking because we are in the process of learning and are continuing to grow. But we do want to offer ourselves up merely as examples of people willing to have the conversation out loud, and encourage all of us – especially our white listeners, to find people with whom you can have these kinds of conversations as well, as we daily work to become more and more Christlike in thought, word, and deed.