Episode Three: "Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism" with Robert P. Jones

Transcript: 

Simran Jeet Singh:
Welcome to our third episode of "Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism. Uh, it's our second week of programming and I'm delighted to have you all here. Last week, if you joined us, uh, you heard from Professor Anthea Butler of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Eddie Glaude from Princeton University, and they spoke to us about whiteness and anti-black racism today. We're joined by Robert P. Jones, the founder and CEO of PRRI, the Public Religion Research Institute and author of the forthcoming book that I'm so excited to read: White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. So we'll talk with him about that, uh, as well as his own experience in grappling with white supremacy. But before we turn to him, I just want to give you a word on the program. Our vision is to offer two things that we believe the world needs badly right now, first, we want to offer you insight into what's actually going on with racism.

We're hearing a lot about it. We're feeling it a lot. And so to give us some clarity on what racism is, how it manifests itself, that's part of the vision of the show, because as James Baldwin once stated, if I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don't see. The other thing we hope to do here is, receive guidance from our expert guests on how to move from just understanding racism, into taking action. And this may come in different forms: as wisdom on how to grapple with the racist ideas that are embedded within all of us, or it may come as guidance on actions we can take to address the racism all around us. The vision is to put what we learned into action, because if we don't, the ideas just stay in our heads and nothing changes: not us, not the people around us, not the broken systems.

So thank you all for being here. Thank you all for being on the journey with me. I want to begin by introducing our guest, Robert P. Jones, CEO and Founder of the Public Religion Research Institute. His forthcoming book, as I mentioned before, is called White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. And it's so relevant for what's happening in our country today that his publisher, uh, moved up the publication date by three weeks. It comes out on July 28th. It's available for preorder now. And if it's anything like his first book, The End of White Christian America, it'll be illuminating, it'll be sobering. And it'll be fascinating. So given our collective focus on anti-black racism and white supremacy, I wanted to bring in Robbie to help us understand what's going on in our country today, how it fits into the bigger picture of what's happening and how we can think about dealing with it as individuals and as a society. So thank you, Robbie. Thanks for being here with us today. It's nice to see you again. How are you doing?

Robert P. Jones:
Oh, I'm doing, you know, as well as one can and in these unsettling times, but I'm really happy to be here with you today for this really important conversation. So thanks for having me on.

Singh:
Of course. No, it's our pleasure. And we're grateful to you for giving, for giving your time, especially during this, uh, hectic moment. I'd love for you to just jump right in with us and what I've been asking our guests, is to know what's the earliest experience with racism that you remember: either seeing it with your own eyes or even recognizing it within yourself.

Jones:
That's a great question. You know, and as I was working on the book, I mean, one of the things that I did is I took a week or two and just try to sit, sometime every day and let those experiences come back to me, right? And think, and write them down. And so I have a number of them in the book and what became very clear to me, um, is that I grew up in Mississippi, mostly in Jackson, Mississippi, and both of my parents are from middle Georgia, Macon, Georgia. And our family goes back six generations plus in middle Georgia on both sides of my family. And so, you know, growing up kind of white in the deep South, it was just so clear to me. There was never a time when I wasn't conscious of particularly the white-black divide in the South, and that I was clearly a part of the white group and there was another group. You know, in the very simplistic... there was a kind of very simplistic binary, um, that I experienced as a kid. You know, I was a member of this white group. There was this other group of people who were black. They were different from us. We hardly crossed paths. And you know, I touch on a couple of stories in the book, but just to give you a couple, you know... The Jackson public school system and Mississippi, I remember when it was integrated, right? And that wasn't until the 1970s, well, after Brown v. Board of Education in the mid-1950s. And so it took that long because Mississippi was dragging its feet, trying to find ways to fight it avoided. And so it finally happened, and I remember, you know, the kids, African American kids, coming into our school and it wasn't like a Little Rock experience.

It wasn't like... very tumultuous, it was just some sort of something different, but very cool. Well, you know, what I clearly didn't think that much about is that the dynamics of it at the time were that it was mostly black kids being shipped to white school across town and not the other way around. Right? And what never really occurred to me as the white kid who got to keep coming to a school that was in his neighborhood is what that experience must have been like for all my black friends that suddenly -- we're in a different part of town and it's very white segregated part of town, even having to go to the schools. One other one I remember, from, you know, again, elementary-aged school -- I played soccer growing up and remember actually seeing you know, a modest-sized KKK, um, demonstration on the corner of the site where we turned in to go to the soccer fields, which was not going to, you know, not coincidentally called Battlefield Park after the Battle of Jackson in the Civil War.

And they were there handing out leaflets about how to join the KKK, um, as we were turning left into the parking lot and we had, you know, a mixed-race team and, you know, again, I remember at the time, like not really knowing what it was asking my parents about it, then there were like, you know, there are people who don't like black people. We don't agree with them. We're just going to keep moving, but there was no further really discussion or unpacking of that so much. You know, nor did I ever talk to any of my black teammates about it. So I think, as I sat with it, what I realized is that even when it so explicitly erupted into my consciousness, it very quickly, as a white kid, was just easily put aside and forgotten about. And I think that was mostly my experience, you know, growing up, but particularly at an early age.

Singh:
That's really interesting. I'm thinking about several things in my own head now, in response to what you're saying. I think the first is, yesterday I went for a walk with my four year old and we ended up at one of the sites where every evening in New York City, they do a vigil for Black Lives Matter. And there was a set up in memory of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. And so having that conversation with my daughter and trying to think back to my own conversations with my parents growing up, I mean, you're talking about your childhood and how your parents dealt with it. And so I just want to ask you as a parent, how do you think about those conversations now with your kids? Or are they similar? I mean, I guess it's coming from this question of privilege and what you're describing was as a kid -- you could dismiss these observations because they didn't affect your life directly. And it seems to me that you see things a little bit differently now. And so, what changes in terms of how you have those conversations with your kids?

Jones:
Yeah, that's a great question. Yeah, so I've got a 19-year-old and a 10-year-old. They Are in two very different developmental places. And...but trying to have very concrete conversations with our 10-year-old, and I'm going to plug a book, uh, for our kind of white viewers out there: Jennifer Harvey has a great book called Raising White Kids, that I think is a fabulous resource for thinking this through. An? I think, you know, it is still very easy as a white parent to just avoid it. Right? You can still do that. I think because there's not that direct, um, effecting, but to be deliberate and to deconstruct, you know, if we want to live in a society that is, you know, not the colorblind society, not the segregated society, but an anti-racist society, I think that takes work. That takes constructive effort. And you know, I think there aren't any great blueprints, but I think just bringing it to the front, talking about the issues, explaining what the protests are about in very simple terms, you know, and talking about things like, well, look, you know -- when we get pulled over by the police, um, we have much less chance of this ending badly, right? Or something violent happening. Then if we were African American and just being straight about that, the statistics show that, you know, it's pretty straightforwardly a fact in the country as we currently have it. So I think trying to be honest about these kinds of disparities, um, and the inequality and why it's there in the history of it, um, I think is something we were trying, I think, struggling to do it very clearly.

It's interesting to watch my -- just real quickly -- my older daughter, who's gone to public schools here in Maryland, which are very diverse, you know, a place that, You know, I remember just seeing her friends groups that have pretty naturally evolved to be very, very diverse and, um, just realizing -- yeah, some of that work she's done herself, right? And as she's grown up and it's been, I think, heartwarming to see her have the kinds of relationships that I never had even playing on, uh, integrated soccer teams, but basically those in my life never really translated in my high school years, [inaudible]. They were... We kind of came together and then went back apart and kind of segregated in our segregated lives. And that was mostly the story, I think when I was growing up in the eighties.

Singh:
Hmm. So tell us about a little bit about your formation -- How did you get to a place where you had the privilege to dismiss, or cast aside, the racism you witnessed, to a place where you are now where you... I think you would describe yourself as an anti-racist, and I went to, I mean, your last book was very much along those lines of looking at white supremacy in America and your next book is too, so -- how did you get there? Was there a shift, was there a moment in your life where your eyes opened up, or how did that work?

Jones:
You know, I mean, I think it's a journey, you know, and again, as I was kind of thinking about... Like, I just want to be sure I'm like, not portraying like myself as arrived in any sort of way. And in many ways, this, the current book, you know, White Too Long -- which is actually a quote from James Baldwin, by the way, where he said, and, you know, Baldwin wrote so much about love and hope, and hope for a better America than the one he was living in so clear throughout his writings. But you know, this one writing that I picked the quote from him, he was despairing a bit of the white community in America. And he, you know, he said, look, the biggest problem is that they have been white too long, and it's hard to sort of let go of. And I think, you know, what I'm realizing -- there were little moments, you know, like early on in childhood, for example, I lived in my preschool years before we moved to Jackson, I lived then South Texas and San Antonio. And so I remembered one of the interesting things that happened to me is it's ... jokes or racialized jokes, even as a young kid, kind of just eavesdropping, you know, on adult conversations and realizing that among the native South Texans, the same jokes that I had heard in Georgia about African Americans were being told about Latinos or people from Mexico, and even as a little kid, right? Just kind of like -- wait a minute, like something's up here. Like, you know, that, just those little things I think, you know, kind of stick.

And I would say grateful to my parents who were, I think the people in my family that broke the chain, you know. They grew up in Jim Crow Era, Macon, Georgia was segregated, movie theaters and water fountains and the whole nine yards, and made the decision that they weren't going to pass those assumptions down to my brother and my sister and I. So I think that that's, you know, one, I think, clear thing that it took is them really breaking a chain and not just sort of letting it go down. So I'm the beneficiary actually of, I think, my parents, you know, making some real efforts at making a shift.

Singh:
That makes a lot of sense. Thank you. Thanks for illuminating that. And if you're just joining us, this is "Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism." I'm joined today by Robert Jones, the CEO and Founder of the Public Religion Research Institute. And he has a book coming out called White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. And one of the things that you just said -- I mean, I kind of want to move from here into your book. You talked about the importance of breaking the chain, and how it has to be... A chain doesn't just break on its own. There's a consciousness behind that and an intentionality, because otherwise there is a legacy, and the legacy continues even when the chain is broken, right? The chain isn't gone, it's still there. And so I'm really interested in the legacy you talk about in your upcoming book. And I'd love for you to explain a little bit about the relationship here between white supremacy and American Christianity. What is, what does, that connection look like to you?

Jones:
Yeah, well, you know, so the book really is exploring this connection. And, you know, even as someone who, you know, had some awareness of this looks at public opinion, data, a lot around white attitudes on race and Christian, white Christian attitudes on race, you know, the book itself, I think, was a journey and, you know, part of the work I needed to do just personally, to kind of really dig into this and, you know, and what I really discovered, you know, it was deeply troubling, as someone who grew up Christian. What we really have is, you know, it's not just that the church has been.... That white churches have been complicit, or they've been complacent, but when you really look at the history, straight on without flinching, what you see is that white Christian churches had actually been the central legitimizing force behind white supremacy throughout American history.

You know, they were Christianity, and certainly white Christians. We're at the top of the political and cultural power for almost all of the country's life, and Christianity got wrapped up and whiteness and got wrapped up in power. And the challenge, I think, for us, is that that DNA got built into white Christianity by decision after decision after decision for generations, for generations, for generations to protect white supremacy and have Christianity be the thing that legitimized it and the country even sacralized it in the country. And that challenge means that it is literally built into the DNA of white Christianity today. And so, as you say, doing nothing, it means that we're really just inheriting this chain that's been passed -- that gets passed -- down through institutions, through theology, through hymns, through practices and rituals, and so if we do nothing, we're inheriting what's essentially a Christianity that was built to protect white supremacy. And if we don't do anything, we're just inheriting that and continuing to live in that, rather than doing the work of thinking about where whiteness begins and ends and where Christianity begins and ends -- 'cause right now, they are all jumbled together.

Singh:
Can you give us an example -- you know, you've spoken a little bit broadly about how this has worked, and so what is it, what does it actually look like, on the ground, to say that there is a connection between white supremacy and American Christianity?

Jones:
Yeah. Well, I'll give you an example from my hometown. So, First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi, and one of the most prominent pastors of evangelicalism in the 1950s and 1960s was the pastor of First Baptist Church. That was Hudgins in Jackson. And, you know, if you read his sermons from the fifties and sixties, you would have no idea that there was a Civil Rights Movement going on. You would have no idea that there was any injustice in the society around them along lines of race or violence along the lines of race. I mean, these are through, you know, lynchings through, you know, denying people, their rights, holding up a segregated society, protecting white schools from being integrated. I mean, all of this stuff and sermon after sermon, what would happen is the sermons would really be about a personal relationship with Jesus.

And there's a way in which that construction as the central part of what it means to be Christian screens out any claims to social justice, it screens out anything that might be dismissed as politics and something that we overhear in the church shouldn't be mixed up in. But what it means, is that the white supremacist status quo gets to thrive, and Christianity has been circumscribed into this small box. That's really that personal piety, that is divorced and quarantined from any claims to justice on the outside. So I think, you know, even having to, I mean -- I have a whole chapter on sort of interrogating even the basic theological building block that it built American Christianity and asking like, why is that the central claim to what it means to be Christian, to have this kind of interior personal relationship with Jesus?

Why is that the beginning, middle and the end of what it means to be Christian and not working for justice and fairness for people out in the world. I mean, those are those kinds of dichotomies got drawn explicitly to allow white Christianity to flourish while all this injustice was going on outside the walls of the church. And it essentially was a way of lolling white consciousnesses to sleep, you know, while the storm was raging, just outside the windows.

Singh:
That's really helpful. I want to ask you a question about data and what the data tells us -- but before we go there, I have a question from Mary Ann who asks, if you can be specific about hymns and the link to white supremacy?

Jones:
Well, I'll give you one we sung, I don't know, week after week -- you know, again about this kind of personal salvation -- but the imagery, you know, here, is "wash me and I will be whiter than snow, whiter than snow, yes. Whiter than snow, wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Right? And this image of whiteness purity, and that being all wrapped up with kind of theological convictions, and sin being associated with darkness or blackness. And these are the things that black liberation theologians have been pointing out for decades. But it's not something that white churches, I think, on the whole have taken that seriously or really thought about like what that does to just this association with whiteness purity and heaven, and thinking about how that kind of constructs, you know, racial attitudes -- but at the same time....

Singh:
That's great. That's really helpful. Thank you. And so here's a question: you know, I know your organization, Public Religion Research Institute, it does a lot of work around data and mapping and surveying. And so, what does the current data say about how big of a problem white supremacy still within white Christian circles? And I'd like to sort of wrap in another question from Mary Ann in here. Can you tell us a little bit more, not just among evangelicals, but also why mainline, Protestants and Catholics?

Jones:
Yeah. I'll take the second question first. One of the, I think, surprising things that found in the book -- and I say this as someone who's like, again, I've spent the last 10 years really looking on a daily basis; my day job, you know, data around American religion and politics is that, you know, it's no surprise to everyone, to anyone, is that the religion most associated with the cultural South, that is white evangelicalism, you know, has this legacy built, you know, built into it. That's maybe not a surprise, but I was surprised at how deeply the connection was between white mainline Protestants and white Catholics, you know, in the book as well. So we just did some political data and I've used some other things, but, so, it's worth noting that everybody talks a lot about white evangelicals supporting President Trump at 81% in 2016, bt I think people forget that white mainline Protestants also voted for President Trump, at 57% and white Catholics voted for Trump at 64%. You know, so there's that tight connection. Then on questions that are like right at the heart of what we're talking about now and the protests and calls for justice around policing, we have a question that we've asked for a number of years -- that whether the killing of unarmed black men are isolated incidents. Are they part of a pattern of how police treat African-Americans? We asked that question and you look at white Americans, white Christians, whether they are white evangelical, white mainline, or white Catholic, all were on the side of saying no, these events are isolated incidents. They're not connected.

There's no structural connection to them. But if you look at whites who are not Christian, they are actually much closer to African-American's views, who are saying, no, actually this is part of a broader pattern, how police treat African-Americans. It's a structural justice issue. I think you could see it [inaudible] question after question after question, around racial issues, that you see this pattern with whites who are Christian, actually are more likely than whites who are not Christian, to be fairly blind to these issues of race and particularly structural racism. So again, Christianity has had this effect, compared to non-Christian whites, Of actually making them further away from the views of African Americans than whites were not Christian. So I think those patterns are really there. You see it on the Confederate flag, you see it on questions about whether or not past discrimination still has an impact on the present. I mean, on and on and on and on. In the book I use actually an index of 15 different questions around racial attitudes; even with a broad index like that, these patterns are just so very clear, that the associated association with Christianity actually makes whites less able to see a racial injustice in the country. Okay.

Singh:
Well, that's not what I would expect, so I'm really glad you you've laid that out and brought us the data to bear too. I don't know what I would expect. I would expect that people of faith would be less inclined to be to be racist. Right? And I think what I'm hearing from you is, we're all inclined to be racist. You know, your faith doesn't protect you from that. And I think a lot of times, we wrap ourselves up in our faith as almost an armor to say, I couldn't be, I couldn't be a bad person because I'm a religious person. And what you're telling us is, you know, those two things aren't mutually exclusive.

Jones:
I think that's right. It goes even a little deeper than this. 'Cause I looked at both affiliation and I looked at attendance -- so how often people attended and were kinda more connected to [inaudible], which is what I basically found is that for white Catholics and white mainline Protestants, there was no effect of attendance. So for less frequently attending folks and more frequently attending folks, it didn't affect their views on race or racism. But among evangelicals, actually found that the more people attended, actually the more racist their views, were likely to be in a statistically significant way. So in fact, among white evangelicals attending church actually tends to make one more score higher on this racism index that I used in the book rather than lower.

Singh:
Wow. Well, okay. Well, if you're just joining us, I'm with Robbie Jones, Robert P. Jones, of the Public Religion Research Institute. He has a new book coming out on the legacy of Christianity... sorry, on the legacy of white supremacy and Christian America. And we're talking a lot about the relationship between Christianity and racism and what I'd really like to hear from you, Robbie -- and before we jump into this, let me invite any anybody who's watching or listening to offer your questions or comments in the chat and we'll be happy to field them -- what I'd like to hear from you, Robbie, is what's your vision for change? You see this as a problem you want to address, but how do we get to a place where we can move past white supremacy or at least be less supremacist in our views?

Jones:
Right. Well, it's a great question, obviously, a difficult one. I think one of the big things I wanted to do with the book is to just make the point that this is not just a sort of a secular white problem. Like this is a Christian problem, the white Christian Church. And so part of the cultural work that has to be done has to be done in white Christian, in churches -- like white Christian churches, where I write in the book, yeah, the white Christian churches were the central tent pole holding up and legitimizing white supremacy for much of the country's history. And with that history, it means that those places are gonna have to be doing the work of deconstruction you know, that cultural edifice as well. So that means that the white Christian Church is going to have to have these conversations with themselves.

They're gonna have to have these conversations with their neighbors. It's going to mean a lot of listening, I think, and not just so much talking, less reactionary practice, and more long-term thing. This is not something that's going to be solved by showing up and marching one day in a march. I mean, this is something that is deep work, that's going to happen. That has to happen over time. And those things are things for right now are important. But I think the long haul here is -- we're literally talking about centuries of cultural construction that has to be thought about identified, seen and undone. And that's a long-term project, but not doing anything does mean that we are just inheriting, you know, again, this kind of 19th century theology and culture that was built to be compatible with slavery.

And so trying to -- we have to do the work, unpacking that. One other word on this -- I think that's important is, one temptation, I think that white Christians have, even who see it, see the problem, want to do something about it is to reach quickly for reconciliation, right? So want to kind of reconcile with you know, fellow African Americans and their community and their neighborhood, but they also want to do that, I think, without taking seriously the work of repair and the work of justice, right? 'Cause you can't jump from the injustice to reconciliation without walking through the valley of justice and that piece of it is something -- that that's where the work is. That's where the uncomfortable work is. It's, you know, a daunting thing I think, for white Christian churches to really take seriously. You know, Martin Luther King [inaudible] Letter from Birmingham jail, I think still resonates very loudly today where he was saying -- look, I'm looking in the city, it's got all these tall steeples, where are these people? On issues of racial justice, where are they? They're just content to be inside these, I mean, words like [inaudible] stained glass windows. And I think that resonates, sadly, you know, half century later, we're still, I think, we're still reckoning, I think, with that challenge. So I think trying to figure how to have the conversation, it's not just about reconciliation and, you know, putting your arm around someone African American, but actually doing the hard work of saying, okay, where's repair necessary, where's restitution necessary. And then we can talk about reconciliation.

Singh:
That's yeah... That's super helpful. And I'm hearing you talk about the importance of the process, right? It's not just that you jumped from injustice to reconciliation, you have to do the work through the valley of justice. And I'd love to hear you reflect a little bit about what do we get out of that process personally? What happens to us as individuals when we engage this? You know, we've talked about what happens if we don't do it, but what do we gain out of it?

Jones:
Yeah, well... I, You know, even in the sort of short jacket copy, I want to make sure that I got in this point that I was motivated write the book. This is not an altruistic book, right? This is not called, calling on whites to do something for somebody else. This book, I think, is really trying to say to white Christians in the country -- look, we have inherited, a distorted faith, and we are going to be the beneficiaries of disentangling whiteness from Christianity like that's not for somebody else. I mean, that's for us -- for those of us who consider ourselves white and Christian -- disentangling the kind of white supremacist history doing the work. You know, and I think it can be very... This doesn't need to be abstract. I mean, they can be things as honest as like, if this is a church that's been around for any length of time, doing an honest history of the church, you know -- like what role did it play or not play in the Civil Rights Movement?

What role did it play or not play, if it's a hundred years old, right? And in Reconstruction and Civil War and all of that. And really just saying, okay, how did we get here as a community? And what does that mean for us? Right? If we take that seriously. And I think I'm resisting the urge -- you know, you hear things and sometimes like people saying, well, we can't apologize for the past, right? But that belies the fact that the past is with us today. Right? We really have to reckon with that past in our current present. So I think that's the things that can be done. I think there are not that far at hand. I think they only seen mystifying if you haven't really sat down and thought about it that long, but I think there's plenty of things that are right at hand that white Christians can do, you know. This is listening, doing your own history, family history. I mean, for me, that was a big part of it. I mean, I have my family's Bible from 1815 that I kind have been handed down from generation to generation -- you know, that's slaveholding folks in middle Georgia that are part of my family. And so, taking that seriously. What does that mean? And to really think it through that, like, you know, and even how do we get to Georgia? We got to Georgia in the early 1800s by inheriting, uh, not inheriting, but like occupying land that was being given away by the US government after the Native Americans were cleared off the land -- they were encouraging white settlement from Virginia. So that's how we got there in the first place. And then, you know, farmed -- even as kind of, we weren't big plantation owners, but even as a kind of small subsistence farmers, slave owning was a way to make even small subsistence farms work. And so taking all of that seriously and thinking about that legacy and how it's impacted again, things as common as a personal relationship with Jesus, the hymns we sing, the way that we think about, kind of the logic of the faith, just realizing that it got constructed in a way that really had to be compatible with white supremacy. And what does that mean for us today?

Singh:
I'm getting two questions from people that I'm trying to decide which way to go first, because what you just said touched on both of them. Let's start with...

You've sort of gestured towards Native Americans in your last comment as well. Could you talk a little bit about the... okay, so let me start by saying it this way. This is my own preface, not the commenters. In anti-racism work and in racial justice work, we often talk about proximity, that through contact theory, for example, right? If you know, people of different backgrounds, you're less likely to be skeptical or fearful or racist to people from that background. Can you reflect a little bit on that and tell us if so, some of your own relationships with folks from indigenous or Black backgrounds and how you have tough conversations about world events?

Jones:
Yeah. Well, look, it's really hard. I mean, we did a survey a few years ago looking at, I think that proximity and what we found is that the country is still largely socially segregated. I wrote a piece in Atlantic called [inaudible] Ferguson after the Michael Brown shooting there and [inaudible] there. If you take their core social network of like their closest five or six friends. If they're a white person, their social network because 93% white. And there's just not a lot... if you don't take, you know, somebody you see at the store or just pass on the sidewalk, but people actually have conversations with, yeah, I think it's rare. And I think that's one of the challenges -- that we don't have so many institutions that bring people together across these lines of racial and class differences as well, to have these conversations.

I think it's one of the reasons why we're kind of stunted, you know, on this issue. So I think that's just the real challenge and, you know, in my everyday life, having conversations really in the office where we're trying to figure out, like, how do we ask questions that get people on a public opinion survey. Right? How do you ask about these issues? And then what do you do with, you know, when you get a result that says like, look, white Christians are 30 percentage points more likely than religiously unaffiliated whites to say the Confederate flag is more a symbol of Southern pride than racism. Like, what do you do with a finding like that? Right? That's deeply troubling. I think, for just the kind of theological moral vision. So, you know, we have a fairly diverse office, and so thinking about like, just how do we handle, how do we write about those? How do we understand it? And then just being, you know, honest that if you're white, the current events, you know, that we've been going through the last few weeks, something like that, they don't have the psychological impact on you than they do if you're African American or a person of color. Right? And trying to figure out how to be sensitive about that and how to kind of walk through these things together, realizing that still, you know, being white has its own privilege, even from the kind of psychological effects of, you know, these larger dynamics.

Singh:
So let me ask you, I have another question from Drew that I want to get to -- but before I do you've given us statistics, and given us numbers and data that help illustrate the ways in which white supremacy manifests itself. Well, let me ask it this way: do these numbers mean anything to people who don't fall in line with your beliefs? Meaning for people who espouse those racist ideas: for a KKK member in Georgia or Mississippi or wherever -- would they look at your numbers and accept them, or would they reject them as fake or falsified or having some political agenda?

Jones:
Yeah. Well, it's one of the troubling things about the current moment we're in, right? Is that, what counts as facts are often disputed just because people don't like the outcome. I'll say a little bit about PRRI's data though. You know, one of the things that we have done from the very beginning is to be transparent. So we... Like for example, all the questions I use in the book, you can look on our website, you can pull down the questionnaire, you can see exactly how they were asked, in what order, exactly what the word ordering was. And then we actually release our datasets, you know, for secondary analysis. So, after a year of embargo, so even the raw data itself is out there, to produce the methodology, is all there. You know, what it means to be a random probability survey, the margin of error is out there, all the kinds of things that... now people could still dismiss it, I suppose if they're just, you know, hell bent on doing that. But I think there is a kind of integrity to the data and -- it's not just here. It's not like PRRI is the only place finding this and you see very similar patterns in the data across surveys. That's another thing that gives you reliability from whether it's Pew or Gallup, you know, the general social survey, [inaudible] a lot of these questions around racial resentment and racist attitudes. I mean, these patterns have been there in a lot of different places and they're fairly consistent, even across time. So, it's pretty tough to just sort of say, ah, you know, it's not really a problem. You know, these patterns don't really exist. I mean, they're there, they're just pretty broad and pretty deep and the public opinion data, not just from PRRI, but kind of across the board.

Singh:
Thank you. Okay. I have a question from Drew and I love the question and you're welcome to hate if you prefer, because it may not be a question you feel comfortable asking, so feel free to pass. His question is, is the racist anti-black colonial imperialist logic of Christianity -- is this something that's inextricable from the logic of Christianity itself? Or is there something specific about white Christianity? UYeah, I don't know if you're comfortable fielding that... It's, yeah, it's a tough one.

Jones:
That's a great question. I mean, I think, you know, the way that I... So I'm, you know, background in theology and sociology, and I think about religious traditions is that they are... I'm going to borrow a little bit from Alistair MacIntyre here. I mean, they are culturally and institutionally embodied arguments that persist over time. So I don't think there is a thing that one could point to and say, that's Christianity, this is an aberration from Christianity. What I think is that Christianity is a, you know, a set of texts and practices that are passed down over time and they shift, right? I mean, you don't have to study very long at all to see how things shift. And I think what I'm trying to point out in the book is, they're all historically contingent, but the particular historical contingency that we're dealing with in the US has to do with the way that the US was set up initially as a slaveholding country that moved into a segregationist country, and that it has only been, you know, in the very short piece of our cultural history, where those explicit ways that it was like literally a white supremacist society, right, in the most basic and concrete way that you can understand that term, in our history, where that has not been explicit, has been very short. And so I think that what I'm trying to say is that, look --there were other ways Christianity could have gone. There were other ways that white Christianity could have gone, but it chose to go this way. And because it chose to go this way. Yeah. And the next generation continued to choose that it does mean that there are other options out there. There are other threads that can be pulled in. Kou know, there -- just one quick digression that I talk in the book about a slave owner's Bible they got created for slave owners to use with slaves. And one of the things they did there to make it more compatible with slave money is they excise the Book of Exodus from the Bible, right?

Which is the story of the liberation of slaves. And actually the book was still in there. They didn't take the whole book out, it's Exodus, but they just cut out the entire story of the Israelites being freed from slavery, from within the Book of Exodus. And there's ways in which that's really drastic, but there are ways in which Christianity historically in a contingent way developed to be, again, consistent with whites being at the top of society and a culture protecting that place in society and Christianity sacralizing it as if it were the way that God and the divine intended the world to be. And that piece of it, I think, you know, can be rethought. Now, I don't think that's... It's not being, that is inextricable, [inaudible] from Christianity, I think [inaudible] is that we see in history and there are other [inaudible] with a Christian tradition, but that's work that needs to be explicitly done. And it is being done. But I think it's been less done in white Christian churches that have just assumed everything's fine with their theology as long as there are no longer slaves and no longer talk thinking about segregating, you know, protecting segregated schools.

Singh:
Right. And I think that's why the historicizing aspect of your work is so important -- so that, you know, people understand that these aren't the traditions that have been handed down, you know, as purity over time, that they've developed and evolved over time and in context and for political purposes as well. And so, I think that's really powerful.

Thank you, Robbie. I mean, it's been a pleasure to chat with you and to learn from you. If you all liked what he had to say, you might like his new book again. It's out July 28th. You can preorder it now. It's called Too White, Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Thank you all for joining us in our second episode, as we embark on this journey together to become less racist. I'm grateful to have you all as company. I'm hopeful we all move together towards anti-racism. Our next episode will be on Thursday, right here, same place, same time. And like today, we'll try to learn as much as we can about what racism looks like in this country and what we can do about it. So, thank you all and take care of yourselves until then. Bye. Thank you.