Simran Jeet Singh:
Hi everyone. Thank you for joining us on “Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism.” I’m your host, Simran Jeet Singh, and I’m delighted to have you all here today, along with our guest, Reverend Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church. I’ve known Jacqui for years and I’m excited to introduce you to her if you don’t know her already. But before we turn to her, just 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 going on with racism, and that’s why each episode focuses on a particular aspect of it, with the hopes that we can better understand how racism affects people at a personal level, and to help us see what’s going on on a systemic level as well, because as James Baldwin said so beautifully, 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 to receive guidance from our expert guests on how to move from just understanding racism intellectually and into taking action. And this may come as wisdom on how to grapple with the racist ideas embedded within all of us. It may come as guidance on actions we can take to address the racism all around us. At the end of the day, the goal is — let’s do something about racism and that’s what it means to be anti-racist. So thank you all for being here. Thank you for being on this journey with me personally. I want to introduce Reverend Jacqui Lewis. She’s the first woman and the first African American woman to serve as a senior minister in the historic Collegiate Church, and last week she hosted a virtual anti-racism workshop through her church that drew in more than 3,500 participants.
I’ve known Jacqui for years. I’ve been drawn by her magnetism and her insights. I’d love to come to love her programs at Middle Collegiate Church, which is a multiracial, multiethnic congregation in New York City. And I’ve been especially moved by her social justice, the work that she’s done there the past few years. It’s been really incredible. She’s a known figure here in New York City, and I’m hoping to talk to her about social justice and particularly anti-racism and how they tie in to her faith and what we can do as people of faith. So I’m excited for you all to learn from her. And, Jacqui let’s turn to you. Thanks for joining us today. I know you’ve been really busy this week with everything you’ve been organizing through your own church. So let us know, how are you doing? How are you holding up?
Thank you, Simran. It’s so good to be with you today. I am a teeny tiny bit tired, but also really excited. You know, it’s been really fascinating to be isolated and sheltered in place. Our friend Otis [inaudible] says he’s sheltered in Wakanda, but to be sheltered in place in this time of COVID, to have COVID show the underbelly of America, to show the underbelly of the globe, of the kind of structural and systemic racism that leads to this pandemic being more costly, physically, spiritually, for people of color, for Black and brown people. So it’s been wild, you know, to just hole up here in my house with my two grandchildren and my husband and our daughter in law and our son, spending sort of intense and crazy and beautiful at the same time. But the kind of second pandemic that shows itself to us in this time as the way pent up energy and anger and violence have just really been epic against black people. So I’m tired. Cause when things upset me, when things hurt me, when things drive me to sorrow, they also drive me to busy. Like what can I do? And so I’ve been really trying to show up in the ways I can, to teach and do vigil, just all that stuff. So I’m a little tired, but I’m really glad to be with you today.
Yeah, I appreciate that. And you know, I follow your work closely. And so I know the kinds of ways that you hope to educate people. And some of what you do is taking on the burden of teaching folks of what it’s like to be in your skin. And I’d love to hear from you, if you could take us back to your earliest memory of experiencing racism, what was that like?
Thank you Simran. I was, my dad and mom were in the Air Force, which means I was. They were both Mississippi people who grew up in like a Jim Crow, Mississippi, single parents, single moms — lots of racism they experienced. And I think the Air Force was a parachute out for my dad. So he went to Nebraska after having done the training and blah, blah, blah — he was stationed at the strategic air command in Nebraska, Omaha Lincoln. My mom went, also to escape Mississippi, To go live with her big brother who turned out to be my father’s best friend. So Gus and Richard, my dad’s Richard, Gus and Richard, mom and uncle Gus, his wife, Geraldine were all best friends and they hung out and did the thing. My dad and my uncle were noncommissioned officers.
My mom worked in the officer’s club. They all went dancing on the weekends and all that stuff. Mom and Dad fell in love to “I Found my Thrill on Blueberry Hill,” I’ve been told and, and then they got pregnant with me. So I’m a preconceived notion and they got married and had me and really… and then had my sister Wanda 21 months after me. We lived on these Air Force bases. My brother Ronald came along and this Air Force base was like forced getting along-ness — like you, you know, you get along on the Air Force base, you — most military installments, you need each other, there’s rules about how to be rules of engagement. So I’m in kindergarten and it’s a white classroom with one girl who was biracial. She was Japanese and Black, and me and the other kids and me and the two Tommy’s — Tommy Holly and Tommy Hollister, blonde, red hair, freckles, you know, we had a thing going on because that’s what it was.
We were like the thing, like we’re besties until Lisa came. So Lisa comes from Mississippi to New Hampshire and brings her Southern ways. And, with stage whispers to the boys, I am the nasty n-word, and they should not sit next to me. They should not be my friend. And by the way, I get chocolate milk from my mother’s breasts. Now I don’t know which upset me the most, ’cause who knew milk comes out of breasts? I remember thinking, Oh, what is that? And also, I’m now the n-word. And I was like, wow. So I went home and told my mom and my dad. And I think this is the beginning of my activism, Simran, that my mom changes the story on me. She sits me down and says, Jacqui — she called me Jac –Jac, you will not believe how silly this is, but some people won’t think you’re wonderful just because you’re a Negro. I was a Negro, then — I’m dating myself. And I was like — the way she framed that for me, you know, not the world is vile, and not people — just, that’s so silly that they won’t know how you are, who you are because of the color of your skin. So, but you’re our kid. You’re a Lewis. God loves you. You can do anything you want to be, just be a good girl and be nice and smart and study hard and you’ll make it. It was like the most beautiful anti framing from my mom. And then my dad went to the base commander and reported it. And then it was like an apology to him and apology to me from little Miss Lisa. So I think between the two of them, I mean, I say in my teaching, I wasn’t raced before that. I was their little black girl. We were all little black kids. We lived in, you know, a multiracial ish community, but I wasn’t raced until Lisa called me the n-word. And then, then it was on. So it was formative. And I prayed that night that no matter — in my, now you lay me down prayers, I added “No matter how people look, that they will always feel loved.” So I think that was also the beginning of my theology.
Yeah. And you shared this story in your anti-racism workshop last week. I mean, I was really touched by it, especially given how young you were at the time. And one of the phrases you used that really struck me was this is, this is when I learned I was black.
Right. This is when I learned I was black and the original identity people, — I’m sorry, you guys I’m having allergies. Don’t be alarmed I’m touching my nose. I’m clean. I’m good. I’m just allergic. I have a PhD in psych and religion. And the comprehensive exams that I did were all about identity development. And my dissertation is a study of leaders who know how to be in multiracial contexts, ’cause this was my calling. And so that place where lots of racial identity development experts — I’ll drop the name, Robert Carter, and I’ll drop the name Janet Helms, Robert was a student of Janet. Janet’s white, Robert’s black, but there’s lots of models now. If you Google, friends, racial identity development, you’ll see lots of models that are kind of based on Erik Erickson’s linear stages of development, but almost every model like biracial identity or South Indian identity or Black or white or Latino identity, almost all of them start with a stage that’s pre-encountering encounter.
So my pre-encounter was, I’m just Jacqui, right? I’m just the kid in the thing. And I can see that Tommy and Tommy are different than I am. And that’s just lovely, you know, but I’m not… There’s no stigma or otherness attached to the difference- That’s pre encounter. But then Lisa gave me an encounter that opened up a whole lot of other things that clicked into place then. Where, you know, I’m five. And I remember Kennedy getting killed before I’m five. I have a memory of Mom watching the funeral, right. But now, oh, the four girls bombed, you know, all those stories click in to that spot in your story now, where you’ve been raced and you have this awareness that you are Black and your blackness — like we got to black is beautiful, but on the way to that, we got to, black is a problem for people. And that just blew my mind.
Yeah, I feel you on that, both in terms of the research, but especially from the personal experience. So, I remember the moment for me when that happened and realizing that… and then I remember multiple encounters along the way that made me realize — Oh, people see me differently than I see myself. And now that, you know, I have kids I’m thinking about their — and listening to they talk about race as a four-year-old and how they experience it. And I was thinking a lot this past week about the exercise you did. You know, you shared, this is how I learned that I was black. And then you asked other people in the workshop to think about the time, how they learned about their own racial identity and where it placed them within the racial hierarchy. And I’d love to hear from you, what is it about becoming conscious of our racial identities that feels so important to you? Like what’s at stake there for us.
Oh, Simran, that’s such a good question. Yeah. I mean, I have three things that I’m trying to do when I get people to do that. And sometimes I give them a really thick, long exercise, like a piece I used in my dissertation. And sometimes it’s just really simply like, how did you hear it? Where were you when you heard it? Right. What, who said it, were you the good guy in that story, or the bad guy in that story? I tried to… The first thing I’m trying to do is excavate that everybody has a race. Now, you and I both know that there’s only one race and that’s human. So in America, in this context, when we say race, we really mean ethnicity, right? But that’s cumbersome sometimes. And it also, like, we’re not post-racism, so I’m happy to use race and ethnicity together, but I’m like, everybody has one, the white people have one too.
They have been raced just like you and I have. They got raced and they’re not conscious of it. They’re not, they have not paid attention to it. When did they learn? They were white. They probably learned it as a counter-narrative or counterpoint to someone else, but they did learn it. They learned it when their grandfather called somebody the n-word, or they learned it when somebody shoved them around and said, you know, don’t do that. Or they learned it when somebody shushed somebody on the playground, or they learned it when they saw on TV, that all the people were white. They learned that white was normative and beautiful, and, you know, Dick van Dyke and Laura and all of those things, they learned it from Ivory Snow commercials, for God’s sake. Like they learned it from the hands in the Palm Olive commercial where weather, when the hands are white and glow-y, they learned it when they didn’t see, ever see, ever see a sick character on TV until they just finally did.
Right? And this is us. They were learning white. They were learning Latinx. They were learning all of the things. And so I’m trying to get people to get that everybody has one — everybody has an ethnicity. Everybody has a story. I’m trying to get them to, most important, To get the race is a story. It’s a story. White supremacy is a lie. That we are different because of our color is a lie. But if you can get people to think about it, Simran, in terms of story, I feel like the third thing is, since it’s a story, we can change the story. So I’m almost always trying to work in that narrative frame about it, ’cause it is not static. It can move, it can be changed, right. It can be blurred. It can be reframed re-storied.
And so those are the, those are the reasons I do it. I think it’s so important that we stop thinking of white as the normative narrative. It is the dominant narrative. It’s a harmful narrative. Whiteness is harmful, but it’s not dominant. And before the whites were whites, they were Irish and Scotch and Lithuanian, right? And British. And to get back to that, Ruby Sales would say, also takes us back to kind of memory of when there was a famine in our world or when, you know, when we had to struggle to survive that, and that kind of builds some empathy that down here, when we’re all ethnic, we find that we have more in common.
Yeah. I love that. And I remember the first time I heard this idea of rewriting the story, it was so powerful to me because it’s this acknowledgement that racism is not inherent. It’s something we’ve taught ourselves. And if it’s something we teach ourselves, we can unlearn it and we can learn a different way. Right? And so it’s such an empowering way of thinking about it, that we’re not just at the mercy of forces outside of us. We can change, we can tune into ourselves and we can change the people around us. Right? And do something if you’re just joining us, this is Reverend Jacqui Lewis, she’s a senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church, and she’s a personal hero of mine. We’re talking about race and faith. If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the chatbox.
I see one from Salaam who is sharing his own experience of coming to terms with his racial identity and race consciousness. And so, if you have stories like his, feel free to leave them in the comments and we can look at them as we go along. Jacqui, I want to ask you about your… About how this figures into your ministry. You know, you talk about this becoming your, you know, your activism coming at such an early age from kindergarten, thinking about racialization and pushing back against that. I’d like to hear about how did it come into your ministry? You know, anti-racism and social justice, we don’t always see that. And so where’s the story? Can you talk through that story?
Thank you. Yeah. I think you know that from the moment… I want to say that I’m not only a psychologist of religion, but I’m a big fan of therapy. So I’ve been in some, you know, but from the moment that I was saying that prayer, the moment I was praying, “God, make it be that no matter what color people are, that they’re always loved.” Like, I can feel the tears in my… that’s right there. That’s just one of those, right there nuggets, right? That like, that’s right there. And I’m five when that happens. And when I’m seven, I take Communion for the first time. And I just want to put those two together almost as like two different kinds of sacraments, Simran, in our context, you know, ritual? Of the one is, I’m wounded, and my mom and my dad in a way, wrap, like, you know, that’s a stupid story and we can do something about it around it.
And then my mom — and when I have Communion, the first time, this ritual of bread and grape juice, that used to be wine, but it’s grape juice, and it’s based on kind of like Seders and stuff — Mom says, when I take it the first time she says, the bread means God will always love you, and the wine means God will never leave you. So there’s this kind of early childhood mashup of — there is this loving other that is going to never, never leave us. Always love us. She didn’t say protect you, which was smart, ’cause that’s not my experience, but this kind of loving other, and then like millions of stars placed in the sky by one guy. Like my early childhood is — not only am I loved, all the people are loved. They all have one God, they all, you know, all that kind of stuff. And so it’s creeping into my faith life when I’m like really super young, I’m singing in a choir and singing these gospel songs and I’m singing songs from, you know, Godspell and I’m… Someone’s picking up on my energy. And so I’ve got mentors taking me on crop walks and I’m buying a heifer. I’m buying a cow for kids in Africa. You know what I mean? What is going on with that?
I’m getting Caesar Chavez’s newsletter when I’m like nine. And then Dr. King is killed when I’m nine. [Coughs] Sorry guys, again, allergic, don’t be worried. I’m just about nine. He’s killed in April, and I turned nine in May. And all these threads of, God loves you, we can change things. Great Uncle Ed was an activist. He helped people vote. You know, all these threads, and then King is killed. And he has been cast in my little life as this loving, peacemaking change agent. It was like, Kennedy, King, Kennedy, King you know, there you go, and he’s dead. Why? And I’m, I can’t figure it out. Chicago is on fire and I’m hiding under my bed from bullets flying. And I’m clear that I’m going to pick up his mantle. I’m just clear. I don’t know how, but I feel like I’m supposed to be drum major for peace. That’s what’s in my head, that I remember that. So I think all my life Simran, I was looking for the way to do the thing. And I did it in different ways. You know, before I went to seminary, I was like corporate chick, leading HR stuff and doing multiracial, blah, blah, blah. And I was a big sister, or I directed gospel choirs in college or was a deacon and I kept looking for the way to do it, ’cause I didn’t get a clear signal that I could be a minister as a woman. I got mixed signals about that. But when I was 30, I went to Princeton to seminary and then it was like, like — Oh my God, like, yes. Like this synapses of the world exploding with, of course, this is how you can do this. You can do this as a writer, as a teacher, as a preacher, as an activist. And, that’s 30 years later that this is my calling. Like I’m black, I’m African American and I’m a multiethnic, kind of multi… I’m a multiethnic kind of black person. I’m Christian, I’m Christian, but I’m a Universalist who believes there’s more than one path to God. And mostly, I’m post-Christian. If Christian means all that racist, evil crap. I’m not that I follow rabbi Jesus. You know? So this is like, this is what it is. And this is my calling and this is my life work. And it is in my ministry because it’s in me. I started a new church in Trenton, right after seminary that was a multiracial church. I went and got my PhD to figure out how to do it better, and I met Middle taking a biracial church into a multiracial church, taking a LGBTQ community into an anti-racist, pro-women, anti-poverty community. This is my body. This is my life. This is the only thing I’m called to do.
Yeah. It’s such an interesting response because, you know, I forget this and a lot of us forget this and some of us don’t even know it, but in while what you’re doing seems so novel to you, it sounds like there’s no other way — like of course this is what you’re doing, because this is just who you are. I… It makes a lot of sense to me when you describe it that way. I’d love to hear… So in the last few interviews and including in some of what you have talked about elsewhere, there’s been a lot of conversation around American Christianity being infused with anti-blackness. And you talked about this a little bit in anti-racism workshop. Could you give us a little taste of what that looks like? Where in American Christianity do people go to justify anti-blackness?
That’s the [inaudible] question. I mean, I think we have to get to the earliest spaces of Christian, period, before we get to America, and just imagine the world of Palestine and Rome and, you know, Israel and that kind of, you know, first century, you know, before the first century, empire-d world into which Jesus is born and the way that little sect of Judaism, because it’s not Christian, is going — no, no, no, like, no, love your neighbor, you know, as yourself. You’ve heard it said, but I say, like a kind of countercultural movement of putting the outside in, making the first last, making the woman count, making the children count. And Curtis DeYoung and I — a bunch of us wrote a book, Mickey Scott Jones, Scott Bay Jones, Becoming Creoles — Curtis’s exegesis of that early Christian time of how the movement starts on the margins, and then pretty soon it’s the wealthy people who join Christianity or join the new, the way. And that there’s a big creolization in that the wealthy have to be led by the poor, you know? But the Romans are led by the Palestinians — it’s just amazing. So there’s that, but as soon as Constantine makes it the state religion of Rome, we’ve got a whole other thing going on, and I don’t want to stay over there, but I want to say, that’s the thing. That’s the thing that travels. That’s the religion that has popes send people across the pond to go and get this land and make this land, the land for the Pope and take it from the indigenous. And sadly, my denomination — well, the denomination of my church, not mine, but the Dutch Reform people are those people too, right?
We’re going to just go on boats and get to Turtle Island and take the land from the Lenape and just have at it and build on stolen land with stolen bodies, wealth. It’s there. And so it’s there, already cooking, before we become a nation. The Collegiate Church, where I’m a part of it, is the oldest corporation, Simran, in America, in North America. We’re the oldest continuous church in North America. We are the sinful people who took the land and built our wealth within slave labor. There’s a slave holder — he’s coming down — outside of the wall of my office with all the old ministers, one of them held slaves. That’s what it is. So Jefferson, as a kind of founding writer — how many of those framers, you know, you look at that picture with all the red dots on the slaveholders.
They didn’t come here to make a land for me and you, they came here to make a land for land owning white people, men, and it’s built in. So the church is literally built on top of that. It’s not built outside of that. It’s built on top of that. The enslaved Africans were given a Bible without the exodus story in it — the story of God hearing the cries of God’s people and liberating them, and instead taught this little book [inaudible]. And this is like, you know — Hey, obey your masters. That’s what it means to be faithful. I mean, it’s just horrific the way Blacks in America were treated at the hand of white landowning Christians. Like you too, my friend, I’m sure. This is who we’ve been. And when you think about how entrenched white supremacy is then, into the founding of our nation and therefore in the building of the church, and therefore in the evangelizing of the people — we exported white supremacy to Europe when Thomas Jefferson sends his notes on the state of Virginia and then kind of, you know, half a century after that, the pseudo-race science has developed, which has Caucasian on the top and Negroid on the bottom. This is who we’ve been. And, you know, a modern day example of this is these Texas Christians who will say out loud and write treatises about how Jesus and justice don’t go together. And their theological premises that the sovereign God designed this order — of poverty, and implicit in that way, racial hierarchy is by design. Apartheid in South Africa, a theology developed at Stellenbosch — apartheid in North America, a theology developed in the early church. And even the, quote unquote, charismatic churches, the holiest of holiest churches, developing theologies that make it clear that Ham, you know, was cursed. And that’s why black people are. Cane… these Bible stories that imply the darkness, blackness and servitude are all designed by God, Simran, to be inferior. Isn’t that a pretty story?
Pretty isn’t the word that I would use, but I have this question that comes up that I… It’s an uncomfortable question, but I have to ask it. So what is it that keeps you in the church then, as a black woman who is talking about Christianity being rife with white supremacy and American Christianity not being made for people like you — what does that look like for you? What do you get out of it? What do you mean by post-Christian?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you ask some of my friends on the Nation of Islam and they’ll say — that’s why we’re not Christian. Right? I think for me, and for lots of my colleagues who are African American activists, I think it’s about Jesus, to be honest. I think it’s finding our, it’s finding an alliance and an identity in el pobrecito, you know, in the poor one, in the, by the way, African Semitic one. And that will really freak white people out, when you call Jesus Afro-Semitic, not you Emily, but you know, that freaks white people out. No, he’s not! Yes, he is! The Jews are in Afro-Semitic people. Read the genealogies and there he is. So here’s this story of one who is other, who God chooses to be a healer, to empower, to equip the world with a nonviolent movement for justice.
That’s… Jesus is my jam. You know, so I think gospel music and the texts of the Christ and the teachings of Christ and the pieces that go with that, particularly for me, those that came out of the Johannine community, all the writings about what love is and what love can do. Virgilio Elizondo… the Future is Mestizo is the name of that book — Catholic priest — says the mixed nature of Jesus in our story where Jesus is God in flesh, that God chooses to be flesh, that is a certain kind of flesh — African Semitic. So everybody can find their way in. Poor flesh, outside of flesh, homeless flesh is our story, you know. Crucified flesh, because he, like King, like so many of our martyrs, yours included, did love and got killed. We identify with that. I identify with him and I say, I’m post-Christian cause I am post all of that junk, all that empire junk — I’m post that, but I’m sticking with Jesus.
So, okay. I appreciate that. And then, there’s something else different about you that’s in this space and that’s your commitment to a multiracial multiethnic congregation. As I mentioned before, Jacqui’s congregation is one of the most successful multiracial multiethnic congregations in the country. And so what is it about multiplicity that seems important to you? Is that part of your way past white supremacy? What can you tell us about the value of bringing together?
I want to say three things to preempt, like something that someone might say, like, I don’t think all the churches need to be multiethnic, multiracial. Some people say that, and I think there’s really still place, Simran, for communities to be like, you know, we are indigenous and we were in this place and we need to hold on to that. Or, you know, generation, half-Korean, just, you know — do it. Black church has its powerful, incredibly important work in the world to do. And my particular calling, I think, probably shaped by my life in these poor, these black, Mississippi parents who end up on the Air Force, it’s all mix-y mix-y, and my experience in the work world before I go to seminary, where, you know, my particular vocation and gift set is creating communities where different people live together.
So I’m just doing what I do. And I think it’s an important part of this movement that they will be rehearsal spaces, Simran, where people will live in community together, work in community together, worship together, love together, fight together, ’cause it is conflictual in the mixed up place. It’s easier to not be mixed up, but I think it’s an important working out from which many things can happen and Middle is more and more interfaith. And so the reason you and I know each other for so long also is because I travel in interfaith spaces on purpose too. That’s part of what I see, is that I have the ability to be multi-vocal and to be a listener through different, you know, hear different inputs and synthesize. It’s really important. How does it work with white supremacy?
I don’t know that it’s the only thing that will disrupt white supremacy, but I think it’s one of the things. When white people… honestly, like I’m black and in charge. Can I just say it that way? I’m black and in charge. So I am the president of the Collegiate Churches. They’re so excited about that, sometimes. Hi, if you’re listening. I’m black and in charge. Okay? And I’m not afraid to be black and in charge. So, there’s some lessons to be learned right there. I’m black and in charge on my staff, I’m black and in charge on my staff. So you come to Middle Church and you are getting mentored by a black woman who will not kill you because you’re white, but will speak the truth to you in love about yourself. So woohoo! You know, interns flock to Middle Church to learn about what it’s like to work with black and in charge. And so it’s my calling, love, just to say that again. And I think it is a part of the process that someone has to do this work this way, and it’s mine to do.
That’s a great…
You think I should have a t-shirt called black and in charge?
Yeah. So, okay. So we have listeners and viewers and what we want to know, what everybody wants to know, is what do we do? Yeah. We’ve heard from you, we’ve heard your story. We’ve heard about your work. We want to know, what can each of us do to become less racist, and with the goal of becoming anti-racist eventually. How would you describe that?
Yeah, that’s really great. I think, you know, there are some really simple, early first things to do and they won’t be the end of it. But the first part is to decide that you’re going to be committed to an anti-racist journey and you don’t have to. White people can live in America and not ever have to be putting this on their radar. But I think we can see the world is erupting around this issue. And I’m going to say, especially to people of faith, who I think is the largest part of your audience, I don’t know that we can be people of faith and not have this as part of our faith walk. So I would say, you know, if you’re a yogi, if you do yoga, if you are a Sikh, if you are a Buddhist, if you are a Muslim, if you are a Christian, if you are Baha’i, if you are Jewish — whatever way you think about deity or whatever you think about the universe that is loving, I think you have to put inside that, and that would mean anti-racist. Period. Like that’s… don’t pray if you’re not thinking that… Don’t… this is, this has got to be a part of our commitment as a life of faith, is to make the nation just being national for a second. Like, can we really have a place where someone can be crushed to death with a policeman’s knee on their neck? Can we abide that as people of faith? I don’t think so. I can’t.
So I think that’s first, is making a commitment. And I think second, then, if you make a commitment, you become a student. And that’s why I offered the workshop. We’re going to offer to get at the end of July. But become a student. And there’s so many resources now bouncing around. Robin DiAngelo’s book, White Fragility, right? [inaudible] White Rage. Tim Rice, White Like Me. You know, read white people writing about white people, you know, do that. Read white people writing about white people, about their whiteness and be a student. You know, then read, you know, read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s beautiful monograph to his son, you know, Between the World and Me. Read Ibram Kendi’s How to Become an Anti-Racist. Read Michelle Alexander’s… New Jim Crow. Be a student and you could say to yourself — well, I remember… Don Lemon talking to Chris Cuomo — that cracking right up — get a white friend. And I was like, okay. Some black people will be your friend to talk to you, but like — be a student, be a student, read, be a student. And then find a relationship in which you can have safe and real conversations, ’cause I think that our stories do change people.
I think the fourth thing I would say is like, before you know everything before, you know anything, have zero tolerance for racism. And that’s what I… That’s my starting place. Don’t be sitting around like — this is going to sound funkier than I need to, but if you’re like devastated, ’cause like — Oh no, they shot another black man or, Oh no, it’s a hundred days since, you know, Breonne got killed, then also when you’re at the dinner table and someone’s saying racist things, be appalled, be anti-racist right there. “I’m not comfortable with the way, I’m not comfortable with that characterization. I’m really uncomfortable when you use the pronoun, ‘they’ meaning Sikhs or Muslims or Blacks or Latinx, I’m uncomfortable…” Just start there be in a room when there’s something going down and, you know — we’re giving out raises this year. Bob is going to get, you know, 8% and Malcolm’s going to get 4%. Why? Well, you know, be suspicious, right? About pay, be suspicious about behavior at work, be suspicious about who gets credit, be suspicious about who’s attributed. If you’re in a school setting, be suspicious about the curriculum. What kind of books are we going to read? What kind of music are we going to listen to? We’re not going to get to an anti-racist America, if everything we do goes through the lens of whiteness as bright, white, good, smart, fabulous, well-paid. Not going to get there.
That’s great. I appreciate that. That’s super clear, really simple steps that each of us can take no matter where we are in our anti-racist journey, right? Even those of us who have been practicing anti-racism, these are good reminders and good things that come up on a day to day basis. So yeah, I really appreciate that. Jacqui, thank you. Thank you again for taking out the time. It’s been a very busy week given your workshops and your Juneteenth celebration, and your regular service. So I really appreciate it. If you all liked what you had to say, you might do well to visit her congregation’s page at middlechurch.com. She’s great on social media as well. And I have a profile on her that came up yesterday on Religion News Service. So feel free to check that out if you want a little more Jacqui wisdom.
Middlechurch.org, just to correct and @RevJacquiLewis, all the things. So please come check us out guys.
Yeah. And for all of you who joined us again, thank you. You know, we’re on this journey together, to be anti-racist and I’m really grateful to have you as company. And I want to let you know our next episode on Thursday at 1:00 PM, we’ll be with Austin Channing Brown. She’s the author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World made for Whiteness, which is currently on the New York Times bestseller list. She and I will talk a bit about the spirituality of anti-racism, and we’ll try to learn as much as we can, as we always do, about what racism looks like in this country and what we can do about it. So take care of yourselves, everybody. And Jacqui, thank you again for your time. Really, really appreciative.
Thank you, Sam, Ron. Appreciate it. Bye, everybody.