“The more that white people killed and displaced Native Americans, the more they sought to shackle and bring over black bodies. The presence of the original hosts of the land constituted a threat to white identity and the sense of America as a ‘white country.'” Drew G.I. Hart, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (p. 145)
In Chapter 8, “Renouncing Every Hierarchy,” Dr. Drew Hart calls on the reader to examine and challenge not only racial hierarchy but all the “human-constructed hierarchies that exist in our communities. This is so that, as God’s people, we can live more and more into the new humanity of Christ.” (p. 146) He continues to make the case that we are called as Christians to live Jesus-shaped lives incompatible with white supremacy, but in this chapter he expands his view to include hierarchical bias against racial groups beyond black Americans, as well as the effects of sexism and classism in American culture. In each case he warns that as Christians we must “resist all types of lording over others.” (p. 146)
Hart begins with the treatment of Native Americans, and the persistent ongoing betrayals by white Americans in the form of treaties and covenants broken. He describes his own dawning understanding of the relationship between the black experience and the Native American experience. Then, drawing on the work of Katelin Hansen, David Park, and Jonathan Tan, Hart explores the bias Asian Americans face, in society and in the church. Why, even after generations, are Asian Americans treated as “other?” He particularly mentions the evangelical church, but we will want to look at our mainline denominations as well. In relation to current immigration standards and conversations about Hispanic people who want to come to the United States, Hart urges us to ask “Jesus-shaped questions: Does the law please God? Does the law reflect the inbreaking kingdom of Christ?” (p. 149)
Where sexism is concerned, Hart tells the story of a college professor who opened his eyes to the way Jesus saw women through an exploration of Luke’s anointing woman.
“I saw Jesus centralizing this woman while scolding a religious man who had clear social standing…From that point forward, I began to see that Jesus was doing something radical in his society, challenging patriarchal expectations and limitation of women in a manner I had not known or been taught.” (p. 152)
Hart notes that even within minority communities, women are oppressed, and that the double identification of black woman is a deeper disadvantage. He explores the story of Renisha McBride, shot and killed by a white man when she asked for help after a car accident in 2013, but he also notes that the deaths of black women do not get the same attention or level of protest as those of black men. He names the courage of black women in our history who organized, supported, and participated in the civil rights movement.
As he moves into a discussion of gendered and class privilege, Hart loses me for the first time in the book. In 2016, a book interrogating oppression that goes beyond anti-black racism to include people of other heritages, and then to lift up gender and class discrimination, but does not give equal weight to homophobia is missing not only an important factor in life today, but also a crucial area of misused power and prejudice on the part of the church. Hart writes, after naming how white men may not see that their experience is unique,
“Similarly, individuals can be women or part of the LGBTQ community and experience discrimination in some areas of their lives but participate in and benefit from dominant culture, forgetting other social realities beyond their own.” (p. 157)
While this is true – as a queer person, I am readily able to name my own privilege (white, well-educated, raised upper-middle class, frankly passing for straight most of the time unless I name my queerness) – I take issue with the generalized dismissal, because the book otherwise forgets the sisters and brothers in Christ who are less advantaged, including poor LGBTQ+ youth, queer women of color who face particular bias in the church, and trans people of all ages and races, to name a few.
The rest of the chapter goes on to make a familiar case, that white supremacy also depends on white male supremacy. Hart urges the reader to keep Jesus at the center of our lives and “embrace God’s beloved community as equals in Christ.” (p. 165)
Some of this week’s discussion questions are taken from Herald Press’s excellent discussion guide.
- Native Americans were forcibly removed from the same land that African people were forcibly brought to. How might this effect the interplay between these groups today?
- Hart writes, “More often than not, dominant-culture Christians describe undocumented immigrants as ‘illegal aliens’ and ‘anchor babies,’ rather than as brothers and sisters in Christ.” (p. 150) Does this reflect your experience in the church? If not, does it cause you to question your own experience as being non-dominant? How can Christians outside the mainstream affect the language being identified as “Christian?”
- Are you familiar with the hashtag, #SayHerName? Where have you seen it? What stories do you associate with it?
- What work have you done to understand the experience of oppressed people?
- How do you see “The Myth of the Superior White Male Figure” at work in your church or community? How can you work to undo it?
Find our post about Chapter 1 here, our post about Chapter 2 here, our post about Chapter 3 here, our post about Chapter 4 here, our post about Chapter 5 here, our post about Chapter 6 here, and our post about Chapter 7 here. Join the conversation here or in our Facebook group.
About the RevGals Anti-Racism Project: As a majority white organization incorporated in the United States, the leaders of RevGalBlogPals feel called to confront systemic racism in the U.S. As a global ministry, we feel called to oppose minority oppression and racial injustice in all nations. We hope this book discussion will be a step toward awareness and away from unconscious centering of whiteness.
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