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Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation

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In this provocative book Jennifer Harvey argues for a radical shift in how justice-committed white Christians think about race. She calls for moving away from the reconciliation paradigm that currently dominates interracial relations and embracing instead a reparations paradigm. Harvey presents an insightful historical analysis of the painful fissures that emerged among act In this provocative book Jennifer Harvey argues for a radical shift in how justice-committed white Christians think about race. She calls for moving away from the reconciliation paradigm that currently dominates interracial relations and embracing instead a reparations paradigm. Harvey presents an insightful historical analysis of the painful fissures that emerged among activist Christians toward the end of the Civil Rights movement, and she shows the necessity of bringing "white" racial identity into clear view in order to counter today's oppressive social structures. A deeply constructive, hopeful work, Dear White Christians will help readers envision new racial possibilities, including concrete examples of contemporary reparations initiatives. This book is for any who care about the gospel call to justice but feel stuck trying to get there, given the ongoing prevalence of deep racial divisions in the church and society at large. W atch a 2015 interview with the author:


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In this provocative book Jennifer Harvey argues for a radical shift in how justice-committed white Christians think about race. She calls for moving away from the reconciliation paradigm that currently dominates interracial relations and embracing instead a reparations paradigm. Harvey presents an insightful historical analysis of the painful fissures that emerged among act In this provocative book Jennifer Harvey argues for a radical shift in how justice-committed white Christians think about race. She calls for moving away from the reconciliation paradigm that currently dominates interracial relations and embracing instead a reparations paradigm. Harvey presents an insightful historical analysis of the painful fissures that emerged among activist Christians toward the end of the Civil Rights movement, and she shows the necessity of bringing "white" racial identity into clear view in order to counter today's oppressive social structures. A deeply constructive, hopeful work, Dear White Christians will help readers envision new racial possibilities, including concrete examples of contemporary reparations initiatives. This book is for any who care about the gospel call to justice but feel stuck trying to get there, given the ongoing prevalence of deep racial divisions in the church and society at large. W atch a 2015 interview with the author:

30 review for Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Hiskes

    A powerful argument that Christians are misguided when they pay lip service to diversity, colorblindness, and racial "reconciliation" without reckoning with the very real and economic power imbalances between white and black Americans. Harvey argues that white Christians need to let go of reconciliation language entirely until they address the more difficult and consequential topic of reparations, which can take the shape of as scholarships for black students, funding for black media, culture, a A powerful argument that Christians are misguided when they pay lip service to diversity, colorblindness, and racial "reconciliation" without reckoning with the very real and economic power imbalances between white and black Americans. Harvey argues that white Christians need to let go of reconciliation language entirely until they address the more difficult and consequential topic of reparations, which can take the shape of as scholarships for black students, funding for black media, culture, and education organizations, and other forms. She walks through several well-intended but ineffective denominational attempts at racial justice. An unsettling, challenging book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Myi'a Antoinette

    Jennifer Harvey presents a strong argument against racial reconciliation models as it focuses more on integrating Black people into white spaces while ignoring histories of white violence and privilege at the expense of Black bodies. It is a good argument, but I believe she needed to cite more Black theologians, sociologists, and race theorists. Too often she describes events and attitudes of Black people during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements without citing where she learned the info Jennifer Harvey presents a strong argument against racial reconciliation models as it focuses more on integrating Black people into white spaces while ignoring histories of white violence and privilege at the expense of Black bodies. It is a good argument, but I believe she needed to cite more Black theologians, sociologists, and race theorists. Too often she describes events and attitudes of Black people during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements without citing where she learned the information. It is especially disheartening if she learned the information from Black scholars and did not cite them. Also, there is no bibliography to guide people who want more information in their search for books of similar topics. Overall, her argument is strong, and from a race theory point of view, the book was decent.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

    A thorough analysis and call for white Christians to move from a reconciliation paradigm to a reparations paradigm. Harvey spends two-thirds of the book deconstructing the reconciliation paradigm with specific examples (from both mainline Christians and progressive evangelicals) and the important histories of Black-white relationships within the U.S. ecclesial context. Reading this portion, I noticed severe limitations in the racial education I've received in religious contexts. Of particular no A thorough analysis and call for white Christians to move from a reconciliation paradigm to a reparations paradigm. Harvey spends two-thirds of the book deconstructing the reconciliation paradigm with specific examples (from both mainline Christians and progressive evangelicals) and the important histories of Black-white relationships within the U.S. ecclesial context. Reading this portion, I noticed severe limitations in the racial education I've received in religious contexts. Of particular note was the white church's emphasis on MLK Jr/nonviolence without a similar emphasis on Malcolm X and the Black Power movement. It became clear to me that every white Christian leader in this country must become educated about the Black Manifesto and the white church's response (or lack thereof) in order to understand more clearly this moment in time. She ends her book not only with the reparations framework but also with a lot of examples and case studies. This book should not be the only read for a white Christian, but it absolutely should be put on every white Christian's anti-racist syllabus in order to understand the particular inactivity of the white church and its current call-to-action.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Linda Owen

    This is an important and necessary book that shows the only rational way out of the racial impasse for white Christians. The reason I'm giving it three stars is the writing, which is dense, abstract and academic and provides few concrete entry points for a laypersons' discussion group. Our pastor thought it was great, but most of the lay participants did not get through the book and I had to provide chapter summaries for our discussion. Perhaps it wasn't the best book to start the conversation a This is an important and necessary book that shows the only rational way out of the racial impasse for white Christians. The reason I'm giving it three stars is the writing, which is dense, abstract and academic and provides few concrete entry points for a laypersons' discussion group. Our pastor thought it was great, but most of the lay participants did not get through the book and I had to provide chapter summaries for our discussion. Perhaps it wasn't the best book to start the conversation at our church. We will be using our denomination's new curriculum on white privilege in the near future and will see where we go from there.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Albert Hong

    Challenging and insightful. This book, along with the reading group that we went through this with, has deeply affected how I think about approaches to engaging racial injustice.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Very academic and somewhat difficult to read, but definitely thought-provoking.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Argues that a reparations rather than reconciliation paradigm is what is necessary to heal the racial divides in the United States. The author of this book describes an address by Brenda Salter-McNeil at Urbana 2000 speaking of that student generation as the “Reconciliation Generation.” I was in the hall when she spoke and I found myself praying, Lord, make it so. Sadly, that has not taken place, and the contention of this book is that I was asking for the wrong thing. Jennifer Harvey, w Summary: Argues that a reparations rather than reconciliation paradigm is what is necessary to heal the racial divides in the United States. The author of this book describes an address by Brenda Salter-McNeil at Urbana 2000 speaking of that student generation as the “Reconciliation Generation.” I was in the hall when she spoke and I found myself praying, Lord, make it so. Sadly, that has not taken place, and the contention of this book is that I was asking for the wrong thing. Jennifer Harvey, who is white, contends that the reconciliation paradigm has failed and needs to be replaced by a reparations paradigm. Perhaps a word of clarification is needed here. Speak of reparations, and the response of most is to think one is talking of massive amounts of money paid for past wrong. Strictly speaking, the idea of reparations comes from the word “repair” and what the author explores in this work is what is the harm done that needs repair. Her contention is that racial reconciliation approaches are inadequate to address the harm done. How so? To explore this she first describes the history of the reconciliation paradigm and the critical problems with that paradigm. At the core is the problem of whiteness. Racial divides exist first of all because of the social construction of race that defined “whites” as a race superior to others, and then created systems and structures to maintain that superiority. She uses two exercises that illustrate the issue. One is to ask whites to identify racial qualities they can wholeheartedly celebrate. The second is to ask what reactions we would have to signs that say “Black is beautiful” versus “White is beautiful.” The discomfort that occurs for many of us almost immediately underscores the reality of our racialized society. Yet the reconciliation paradigm ignores this and takes a universalist approach that ignores the particular work whites need to do in addressing race. Inclusion and integration is not enough. Given the history of racism, asking blacks to trust is asking the victim of abuse to trust their abuser. As Harvey turns to discussing reparations, she begins with the Black Manifesto, presented in 1968 by James Farmer during a service at Riverside Church in New York. This was the first demand for reparations, in this case it was monetary, for $500 million. She describes the reaction and how national church bodies side-stepped the demand. But for the first time, there was a call for repentance and for a redress for harms done. As she turns to what a contemporary pursuit of a reparation paradigm would mean, she contends it means addressing “race as a social construct, an emphasis on racial particularity, and the focus on the repair of unjust structures” (italics in the text). She then considers what might be learned from Vine Deloria’s reparation efforts for Tribal groups, and the examples of several church bodies in Maryland (still in process at the time of writing). This book has me wrestling. I am convinced that healing our nation’s original sin of racism against both Black and Native peoples means more than inclusion, more even than reconciliation. I do not see that we have ever in any national sense acknowledged how we’ve not only committed wrong, but also embedded injustice into our systems and structures. Nor have we committed ourselves to a serious and persisting effort to root these out of our structures. The work advocated in this book is for churches to begin this effort, rather than for a public policy agenda. I could see this extending to national bodies and to church-related institutions–colleges and seminaries. What I wrestle with is whether the will is there, particularly in our present climate. Yet I hear the longing of many for spiritual revival in the church. Isaiah 58 tells me that there is no true revival without repentance and reparation, of concerted efforts to pursue justice and remove oppression. Isaiah 58:12 addresses the repair aspect of this: “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.“ It seems to me that it would be good to be known as Repairers of Broken Walls and Restorers of Streets with Dwellings. Harvey remains hopeful. Amid the protests of this summer, a new edition of this book was published (the link is to the new edition, my review is of the first). She addresses in an introduction the changes that have happened since 2014, and also includes an appendix that gives more practical guidance of what a reparations paradigm might look like in practice. Hopefully, there will be White Christians who will read and listen, who will kneel in prayer and arise with their tool belts on to begin the work of repair.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Josh Olds

    Dear White Christians is one of those books that it took me a while to get through. (My apologies to Eerdmans, who is probably convinced I forgot all about them.) In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, I made a commitment to take the work of racial reconciliation seriously and listen to voices both Christian and secular who are working and speaking in this field. Michael Brown began my journey. Ferguson was eye-opening for me and got my attention in a way that other blatant evidences of inequality Dear White Christians is one of those books that it took me a while to get through. (My apologies to Eerdmans, who is probably convinced I forgot all about them.) In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, I made a commitment to take the work of racial reconciliation seriously and listen to voices both Christian and secular who are working and speaking in this field. Michael Brown began my journey. Ferguson was eye-opening for me and got my attention in a way that other blatant evidences of inequality had not. Terence Crutcher was murdered three miles from my house. That brought the issue home for me. Then I adopted two children of color and the fight for equality became even more personal. I’ve read extensively on this subject and thought I just about heard every perspective available. Then came Jennifer Harvey’s Dear White Christians. Most recent volumes on racial issues have focused on racial reconciliation. Harvey does not believe that is enough. Generations of attempt to reconcile have led to stagnation. Further, the white Christian version of reconciling looks a lot more like assimilation. Harvey argues that we must go beyond reconciliation and move toward reparations. The first part of her book is a definition and critique of the reconciliation paradigm that has been embraced by much of the mainline and evangelical churches involved in social justice. Harvey traces the history of reconciliation attempts, noting their strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. In the end, her conclusion is that it is simply not enough. Reconciliation is desirable, but it does not create justice. Instead, she writes, we must move toward reparation. The second part of Dear White Christians lays the historical background of a reparations paradigm. Harvey writes about the Black Manifesto, a 1969 document written by the National Black Economic Development Conference, that first stated what a reparations paradigm would look like, asking for $500 million to be invested into the Black community in order to empower that community to economic independence. Harvey shows through this history how the goals of methods of reparation differ from reconciliation. The sixth chapter develops Harvey’s structures of a reparations paradigm, drawing on the work that’s been done in the fifty years since the Black Manifesto. Mainly, what we see is that the work of reconciliation is personal and spiritual, but the work of reparation is communal and economic. Reconciliation is a feeling. Reparation is an action. The two work together, but reconciliation without reparation becomes assimilation. Part three deals specifically with the history of the Episcopal Church in the area of reconciliation/reparation. Although it is interesting historically, it doesn’t mesh as well with the rest of the book or say much about what we should do not. Indeed, the appendix entitled “Now What?” is only a handful of pages. Through the history, you get a sense of what worked or didn’t work in that context, but if you are outside of that context, the content may not seem as relevant. Overall, Dear White Christians is a challenging work. It forces readers to look at the work of racial reconciliation in a new light and strips bare the façade of assimilation that often gets promoted as reconciliation within the church. Its weakest point is its writing. Harvey is a professor of religion at Drake University and Dear White Christians is written more academically than its target audience (or, at least, those to whom the content should be targeted.) Action items get buried among pages of historical retellings and, on the whole, it’s just rather dry and slow. Harvey laboriously shows us the inadequacies of the reconciliation paradigm, but never thoroughly and concretely explains how the reparations paradigm should be constructed. Sure, there are points and action items here and there, but in the end, I’m still left with more theory than knowledge of how to move forward. I have to give this book good marks because of its transformational perspective on race relations, but it falls short of being the kind of book that will attract, embolden, and excite the people to whom Harvey is writing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Drick

    Rejecting what she calls the "reconciliation paradigm," Harvey urges Christians to consider the "reparations paradigm" as the course the Church must follow in addressing its role in the history of racism. She begins by discussing the inadequacy of the reconciliation paradigm in addressing racism in the church because it does not deal with the underlying harm and need for healing in order for reconciliation to take place. She then recounts the history of reparations, highlighting the Black Manife Rejecting what she calls the "reconciliation paradigm," Harvey urges Christians to consider the "reparations paradigm" as the course the Church must follow in addressing its role in the history of racism. She begins by discussing the inadequacy of the reconciliation paradigm in addressing racism in the church because it does not deal with the underlying harm and need for healing in order for reconciliation to take place. She then recounts the history of reparations, highlighting the Black Manifesto of 1968 presented most publicly at Riverside Church in NYC, calling for all white churches to pay modest reparations to address the centuries-long suffering of black people in America. She then discusses what reparations means for White Christians today focusing on the central meaning of reparations which is "to repair", offers some practical suggestions, but then urges the reader to consider in ways large and small the work of racial reparations. I read this book in a group that discussed it each week and this was helpful to hear different reactions and responses to the ideas presented. Harvey is a White woman on the faculty at Drake University in Iowa, who has written elsewhere about whiteness. Her insights are keen and often on point. It is a book that many Christians of color have urged their White counterparts to read, and for that reason alone, it is worth a close look.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Meepspeeps

    The author mixes history and research to make the case for reparations in the USA because racial reconciliation "misses critical aspects of what race is." I think it makes a good companion book to John Perkins' writings about reconciliation and Ta-Nehisi Coates' writings about reparations. I would recommend all three authors' works be part of any Christian group that is serious about racial justice and seeks to educate their group as they take action together. This book is obviously addressed to The author mixes history and research to make the case for reparations in the USA because racial reconciliation "misses critical aspects of what race is." I think it makes a good companion book to John Perkins' writings about reconciliation and Ta-Nehisi Coates' writings about reparations. I would recommend all three authors' works be part of any Christian group that is serious about racial justice and seeks to educate their group as they take action together. This book is obviously addressed to USA whites, and directly addresses what whites need to do in terms of "transformation of unjust structures and disruption of our complicity in those structures." She later calls white resistance to reparations "unawareness" or "brazen unwillingness" despite evidence. If peeps don't believe those in power have to give something up in order to achieve justice, don't start with this book. Try the Bible first.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Lehn

    Appreciated this dense but really helpful book. The biggest takeaway for me was Harvey's argument that the "reconciliation paradigm" has largely failed to bring about racial justice that progressive churches long for. Instead we must adopt a "reparations paradigm." I didn't know about the efforts of the Episcopal Church and the PC(USA) to engage in a conversation around reparations in the 2000s. This was timely to read alongside of Ta-Nehisi Coates' magisterial article, "The Case for Reparations Appreciated this dense but really helpful book. The biggest takeaway for me was Harvey's argument that the "reconciliation paradigm" has largely failed to bring about racial justice that progressive churches long for. Instead we must adopt a "reparations paradigm." I didn't know about the efforts of the Episcopal Church and the PC(USA) to engage in a conversation around reparations in the 2000s. This was timely to read alongside of Ta-Nehisi Coates' magisterial article, "The Case for Reparations," in the Atlantic in the September 2014 issue. Highly recommended but need to read slowly.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

    Harvey makes a compelling case for churches to work towards reparations, not embracing diversity. As appealing as embracing diversity is, it ultimately cannot sufficiently address the generational harm caused by slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing segregation. White Christians and white churches on the side of God's freedom, justice, and liberation are invited to do the actual work of repair - and to pay for it. Harvey makes a compelling case for churches to work towards reparations, not embracing diversity. As appealing as embracing diversity is, it ultimately cannot sufficiently address the generational harm caused by slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing segregation. White Christians and white churches on the side of God's freedom, justice, and liberation are invited to do the actual work of repair - and to pay for it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Keonnie Igwe

    Hey white pastors! This is a solid read and necessary for those of us pursuing racial justice in the Church. As a black woman, I found it both affirming and illuminating. Harvey is a bit laborious and redundant in building her argument but I think it makes sense considering the subject matter and intended audiences.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leila Kern

    I must admit that I had a hard time reading and understanding this book but the book had powerful arguments for white privilege which I agree with. Much of the book was “over my head” but I persevered. I do wish to read other oops referenced in this book though.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    This book primarily spoke to my denominational-hat-wearing-brain, rather than my individual-christian or local-church. Which is to say, that I'd love to utilize her frameworks as a resource in wider church settings. This book primarily spoke to my denominational-hat-wearing-brain, rather than my individual-christian or local-church. Which is to say, that I'd love to utilize her frameworks as a resource in wider church settings.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Academic yet sincere in tone; clear, convincing, and crucial in content.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Highly recommend

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Very thoughtful and well researched exploration of how American (particularly white) churches have engaged (or not) for racial equality.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    Dear White Christians: Reparations, not reconciliation.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katey

    Hard but good read. Honest and straightforward. Not optimistic but truthful about what the [white] church needs to do now.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Julieann

    Sunday School

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joey Feldmann

    A proactive thesis. A highly academic and dense work. It is well worth the time it will take to get through. But it will take a lot of time to read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Ms. Harvey is thorough and convincing in her arguments regarding what we need to finally move forward in black/white relations. Chapter by chapter she explains her case, providing historical perspective demonstrating how we arrived where we are today and why we cannot move forward without a commitment to radical change. She demonstrates that the commonly suggested solution--Reconciliation--is not enough. Before we have reconciliation, we must make reparations, because racism is part of a sometim Ms. Harvey is thorough and convincing in her arguments regarding what we need to finally move forward in black/white relations. Chapter by chapter she explains her case, providing historical perspective demonstrating how we arrived where we are today and why we cannot move forward without a commitment to radical change. She demonstrates that the commonly suggested solution--Reconciliation--is not enough. Before we have reconciliation, we must make reparations, because racism is part of a sometimes invisible but real structure of white privilege that affects the lives of even well-meaning people that wouldn't request it but get it anyway. Unfortunately, the mention of reparations shuts down most conversations with white people who don't really understand how evil and cruel racism is and how we are still living with slavery's legacy today. She offers some examples of reparations that are reasonable and go toward fixing the inequities rather than just taking money out of white pockets and putting it into black ones. Although the target of the book is Christians, who are mandated by God to work toward peace and understanding, the information and suggestions Ms. Harvey makes could benefit anyone.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I finished this book quite some time ago, so this will be a short review. I remember being somewhat disappointed. The author says a lot of good things, and I believe that many people in predominately white churches would benefit from reading this book. She spends much time talking about lost opportunity during the civil rights era, when white Christians just couldn't understand what black Christians were talking about. They didn't really listen, believing themselves to be the leaders of the conv I finished this book quite some time ago, so this will be a short review. I remember being somewhat disappointed. The author says a lot of good things, and I believe that many people in predominately white churches would benefit from reading this book. She spends much time talking about lost opportunity during the civil rights era, when white Christians just couldn't understand what black Christians were talking about. They didn't really listen, believing themselves to be the leaders of the conversations. They want reconciliation, when the black Christian leaders were seeking something deeper and more meaningful than surface-level moves toward re-conciling with a group that they had never truly had conciliation with in the first place. The book serves as a good warning and guide for white Christians to listen and learn.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roland Clark

    In 1865, the year all slaves were officially freed in the United States, African Americans owned 0.5 percent of the country’s wealth. Time hasn’t changed much. In 1990, they owned 1 percent. When freedom has given so little to African Americans and the legacy of slavery continues to cripple communities 150 years later, it is time to talk about whether reparations are in order. Jennifer Harvey’s Dear White Christians (2014) offers a compelling critique of the idea of reconciliation and then makes In 1865, the year all slaves were officially freed in the United States, African Americans owned 0.5 percent of the country’s wealth. Time hasn’t changed much. In 1990, they owned 1 percent. When freedom has given so little to African Americans and the legacy of slavery continues to cripple communities 150 years later, it is time to talk about whether reparations are in order. Jennifer Harvey’s Dear White Christians (2014) offers a compelling critique of the idea of reconciliation and then makes a strong case that the only way to bring racial justice to America is for white Christians to take the lead in giving reparations to victims of slavery and white privilege. See my full review here: http://wordsbecamebooks.com/2015/04/0...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Neil Harmon

    If I could do fractional stars I'd add another star. I think this book made some very important points and put its finger on why many reconciliation efforts stall and don't accomplish the intended goal. I think there was a lot of good information here but would have liked to have seen it distilled a little more. I can understand the likely reason why the author laid such careful groundwork. The term "reparations" is one of those loaded terms. A careful introduction is needed to overcome a likely If I could do fractional stars I'd add another star. I think this book made some very important points and put its finger on why many reconciliation efforts stall and don't accomplish the intended goal. I think there was a lot of good information here but would have liked to have seen it distilled a little more. I can understand the likely reason why the author laid such careful groundwork. The term "reparations" is one of those loaded terms. A careful introduction is needed to overcome a likely knee jerk rejection of the concept. In the end, the point was made and some valuable insights were conveyed. I think the idea of engaging with local history is one of the more easily actionable items. I recommend the book. It willtake some effort and an open mind to process.

  27. 4 out of 5

    anthony wanjogu

    It's worth reading by all Christians involved in racial justice especially by whites. It defines the meaning of reparations in a positive framework that should be used to transform the effects of slavery especially by white people who most resistant to the idea. It's worth reading by all Christians involved in racial justice especially by whites. It defines the meaning of reparations in a positive framework that should be used to transform the effects of slavery especially by white people who most resistant to the idea.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barb Royal

    Excellent information & perspective. Didn't finish - just to dense for me. Excellent information & perspective. Didn't finish - just to dense for me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Not an easy read, but a necessary one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    TJ

    Well worth the read. Started out slow but got more engaging. Good explanation of what is wrong with reconciliation paradigm. Glad too see focus on whiteness as an issue

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