Why should Christians in particular participate in the work of reparations? Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson, the co-authors of Reparations, talk with Amy Julia about white supremacy, the harms and thefts of centuries of racism, and the imaginative, beautiful, restoring work of reparations. (scroll down for book giveaway!)
Duke L. Kwon is the lead pastor at Grace Meridian Hill in Washington, DC, and Gregory Thompson is a pastor and the executive director of Voices Underground. They are the co-authors of Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair.
On the Podcast:
“If we understand racism for what it really is, the harms go far beyond personal relationships. They go deeper, they go longer, they go wider, and for centuries.” - Duke
“We are calling people not simply as white people to engage in the work of reparations...We’re calling the Christian church—everyone who bears not whiteness per se but everyone who bears the name of Christ—because the Church itself as a community, as a corporate entity, was complicit in, and actually active perpetrators of, the evils of white supremacy.” Duke
"Could it be true that our theological tradition actually invites us to [the work of reparations]?” Greg
“…we invented education, markets, city planning—I’m not worried about our creativity once we start asking questions. What I’m worried about is our resistance to asking questions.” Greg
To enter to win a copy of Reparations:
1. Share this podcast episode on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and be sure to tag Amy Julia Becker when you share.
2. Go to this episode post on Amy Julia's Instagram and tag a friend in the post's comments.
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Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.
Head, Heart, Hands, Season 4 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast, is based on my e-book Head, Heart, Hands, which accompanies White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES that are designed to help you respond to the harm of privilege and join in the work of healing. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
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Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
We are calling people, not simply as white people to engage in the work of reparations. If that were our only argument, then I would have no place in it. We're calling the Christian Church, everyone who bears, not whiteness per se, but everyone who bears the name of Christ because the church itself as a community, as a corporate entity, was complicit in an actually active perpetrators of the evils of white supremacy
Friends. I'm Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of social division. In this season, we are talking about how we can respond to the brokenness in our own lives and in our society with our heads, hearts and hands. And man, when it comes to these topics, it has been an intense couple of weeks. Last week, we learned about the guilty verdict for Derek Shovin. And that came in a season of repeated reports of police killings of black and Brown teenagers, repeated reports of violence against Asian Americans, and plenty of other signs of social harm all around our nation.
1 (1m 16s):
And it's in the midst of those conversations, those heartbreaks, those ongoing concerns and deep wounds within our society that I get to talk with Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson. These men have written a book called reparations, a Christian call to repentance and repair. And today, yes, we are going to talk about heavy topics like reparations, white supremacy, theft, injustice. But what I love about this conversation is how much it illustrates. The fact that when we do that work to talk about the harm of our history and the ongoing problems of our current moment, it can open up so many possibilities to talk about creative, imaginative, beautiful work, the work of restoration that we all are invited to participate in.
1 (2m 7s):
If we can open our hearts and minds to those glorious possibilities, one more thing. We are giving away a copy of reparations, and I do recommend it highly to enter, to win, share this podcast. That's all you need to do and just share it on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and tag me when you share it. So I know you've done it. If you want to get more details about this giveaway, just go to the show notes.
2 (2m 33s):
I'm here today with Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson, they have, co-authored a new book. It's called reparations, a Christian call for repentance and repair. And we are going to get to talk pretty much about all the words in that title as we move forward. But first I just want to say Duke and Greg, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
0 (2m 53s):
Thanks for having me. Thank you. It's wonderful to see you.
2 (2m 57s):
So at the very end of the book, you mentioned that this book emerged out of a conversation that the two of you had and Nashville a few years ago. So I thought maybe that might be a way for us to get to know you a little bit. If you could introduce yourselves, just who are you, but also how did this book come to be? And why are the two of you, the ones who are the right people to write this book?
3 (3m 19s):
Well, I can kick it off by just saying hi, I'm Duke Kwon. I'm a pastor in Washington DC been here for about 15 years and I'm a joy to walk with people not only through gospel life, but the implications of the golf school for the complex issues of cross-cultural community and social justice, mercy ministry. I'm grateful for all the challenges of urban life that we're walking through together. And that is part of where these convictions for me have been rooted, just plowing this particular mission field over these years, but to the story that you were referring to.
3 (3m 60s):
Yeah, Greg and I we've known each other for some years. I guess our roots get tied together first in through the campus ministry network that we were both both a part of some years ago, but got reconnected and reacquainted over the years. And then one day found ourselves both at a, a conference, the Q conference where I was doing a talk on reparations and sort of in our church and ministry space, there, there aren't a lot of people that were barking up that tree. And, and I think we just started finding each other, maybe like-minded dudes that wanted to work through this, talk through this.
3 (4m 39s):
And that was when we just started thinking about, gosh, what would it look like for us to partner together and work on this right on it, and sort of advance this conversation publicly for the good of the church. Yeah. So for me, so this is Greg Thompson and I have a little bit of a complicated vocation. I was a pastor for a number of years now I'm leading a project to build a national Memorial, the underground railroad. I'm a scholar on, on civil rights history did my PhD at UVA on MLK. And by nature of my work, find myself both in exclusively black communities and largely white communities. And I realized that the conversations about race and its redress in America are very different between those two communities that often in African-American communities.
3 (5m 28s):
And historically, this is certainly true. The conversation conversations around reparations, but in other communities, I'm a part of, it's largely about reconciliation or maybe some sort of institutional reform or personal repentance. And that, that felt to me like a, a real, it feels to me still like a real gap and mutual understanding that needed to be addressed. And I had been thinking about this topic and how to communicate it. And I heard Duke give his talk. I was actually in the audience when he gave the talk and I texted him during the talk and said, let's do a book together on this. And by the next day, we had met with a producer, with a publisher who agreed to do it.
3 (6m 9s):
And, you know, I think also it's important to note that the first time Duke and I really spent substantive time together was the month after the Charleston shootings. He and I were both invited to an event in DC, a small event where we met. And I think both of us at that time were, were, you know, he'd been doing cross-cultural ministry, I'd just been doing academic work and African-American history. But what I think we both realized that our lives are being taken in a different direction and that somehow they were going to be bound up with common word, but we didn't know what that was going to be. And that was in 2015. And here, you know, these five or six years later, this is where it led.
2 (6m 48s):
I love hearing that story and it did seem like a timely, you know, it just, obviously all those roads collided in a good way, if that conference in Nashville and I'm grateful for what you all put together, for those of us who are pretty new, I think for many listeners of this podcast, I would guess that we are new to a conversation about reparations. And I think one of the things I was thinking about as I read your book, even among people who care about injustice, who want to participate in healing, social divisions, and Greg, you kind of spoke to this reparations is not the word, at least in white Christian circles that I've been in that usually comes up.
2 (7m 29s):
And in fact it can be a dead end for conversation and for action. And I want to quote you all for a minute. You wrote, we believe that the racial healing so desperately needed in our nation in white and black communities will be found not merely in personal repentance, relational reconciliation, or institutional reform, but in the work of reparations, I wanted to start there and ask you all, first of all, just to define reparations, because there may be listeners who aren't clear on what that is in general, but also what you mean when you say it. And then also, can you speak to that? This is the only path for healing. We can't do it through these other, perhaps more conventional means that we have to involve reparations.
2 (8m 15s):
So what is it and why do we have to involve it?
3 (8m 19s):
Yeah. Well, I'll take a crack at that. Did you can augment anything I'm leaving out here? I mean, we define reparations as the self-conscious act of restoring that, which has been stolen by white supremacy through the act of restitution, where we are culpable in the act of restoration, where we are not culpable, but it's still responsible to work and love. That's, there's a lot in that definition, but that is, that's how we think the Christian scriptures in the, in the Christian theological tradition lead us to think about this thing called reparations. And, you know, and I think part of the reason that we, we think that this is really the only way, let me, let me just qualify that slightly.
3 (9m 2s):
It's not that we don't think that repentance and reconciliation and reform are, are necessary parts. We just don't think there's sufficient parts. And, and so we think there's a really important, and we're engaged in all those in our own lives, but we, I think we think both pragmatically, what we're seeing is that, for example, just in evangelicalism, there's been a strong, there's been a strong emphasis on racial reconciliation really since the 1970s, the late 1970s. And yet we can see the limitations of the effectiveness of that. And so I think that, and I think that like, you know, like King did toward the end of his life, really from 65 to 68, we ourselves have been coming to terms increasingly with the massively systemic nature of the consequences of American racism.
3 (9m 53s):
And we think that they have to be addressed through the work of repair. So it's a, it's a, it's a pragmatic claim based on what we're observing. It's also a theological claim based on what we think are the scriptures and the tradition teach. And this is, and we see that it's no accident that, you know, kind of an American broadly white Christian Church doesn't know how to think about this. And so part of what we're trying to do is to say, we need to bring this part of our theological and historical and scriptural tradition to bear, to inform people who for a whole series of cultural reasons are just not aware of this conversation.
4 (10m 30s):
Yeah. I'd simply just add part of what we're arguing is that the nature of racism and the particular expression of racism that we find in American history, which we call white supremacy is far more robust and comprehensive than most American Christians think it is. And so most of our approaches only look at a certain angle of it and especially racial reconciliation, that's sort of our go-to sort of healing strategy as it were, where we see racism primarily as being an evil or a harm that's exchanged between two people or between individuals interpersonally. Now that's true and that's biblical, but what we're, what we're saying is if we understand racism for what it really is, the harms go far beyond personal relationships, they go deeper, they go longer, they go wider and for centuries.
4 (11m 18s):
And so if we're really gonna do the work of not just forgiving and not just moving forward, but actually undoing the harms, actually repairing the wide, broad and deep harms social harms, the harms that have been done to the narratives of truth as with respect to black dignity, with, with respect to American history, with respect to the identity and the history of the church in America, we need to restore these things. And that is why we can confidently say just reconciliation for is not
3 (11m 54s):
Comprehensive enough to truly bring about the healing that God has called us to be a part of. So we're not calling reparations morally superior necessarily. We're just saying it's, it's scooping up and it's sort of scope of it. And it's Herat moral horizon, something more sort of comprehensive than most visions of racism, really account for it.
2 (12m 22s):
Yeah. So within that, I want to also just define white supremacy because I think that's another word that often is treated as taboo. And certainly not a word that most white people like Christians would like to identify with, right? Like white supremacists are those guys over there with their robes and hats, right? That it has nothing to do with me. And yet you tackle this question head on and are like, no, no, no, white supremacy is something far bigger and deeper and wider than that. And it's really important that we name it as such. So can you define white supremacy in the way that you're using it and also why it's so important that we actually start to reckon with the idea and reality of white supremacy in this nation.
3 (13m 7s):
Yeah, sure. You know, I think it's important to understand that. And in one sense, what you said is that people say is actually true in that it, it doesn't fundamentally have something to do with what's going on in your, with you or what's going on in your heart at a given moment. That is because it is, it's what we call a cultural disorder. And to understand that disorder, we basically make two claims. The first is that whiteness is weak. As we understand it as a modern invention, you know, we have this line in the book that once upon a time, there were no white people. And, and, you know, Dubois himself says that he's like th the notion of, of whiteness as a category organizing category for human beings is a very modern notion.
3 (13m 49s):
Indeed, this is what he says. And so I think first that we have to understand that whiteness is a modern invention and that it was invented because of its poles, because it was invented and endowed with a political function. And that political function is supremacy. And what we mean by that is that we live in a cultural order that for a whole series of cultural and historical reasons, bestows the privileges of this order, namely pursuit of life, Liberty, and happiness, primarily on those people that it deems to be white that's, that is not a commentary on an individual person. Like whether they have black friends, it is not a commentary on, you know, whether they own slaves. It's not what we're talking about.
3 (14m 30s):
We're talking about a cultural disorder, a cultural disorder that we all have inherited that has designated certain people, white and other people, not white, and that it could relatively bestows particular kinds of blessings on people that it designates to be white over those that it does not deem to be white. That is historically beyond controversy. And I think that that once begin to see that this is not primarily critiquing my grandpa, that this is not primarily, you know, trying to dismantle the goods in America, the good things about the American nation. And we can see, is it in fact true or not true that the American nation has designated certain people wide and other people nonwhite in a way that has not been true historically around the world, a and B, is it, or is it, or is it not true that that group of people has largely been the beneficiary of social economic, political, and cultural benefits in this country or not?
3 (15m 28s):
Our very clear claim is that both of those things are true and that the Christian tradition has something to say about that. And so that's, that's what we mean that white supremacy is a cultural disorder whose racial designations are modern. And in the function of those designation is in fact political advantage or what we call supremacy.
4 (15m 45s):
I mean, Amy, Julia, you know, we want to acknowledge that that phrase is one that evokes a lot of discomfort and even offense in some people, right? It's a hard phrase, but like you said, we, we made the decision to take it head on and actually to employ it throughout the book, because we felt like not only would that be the most honest account of history and understanding of racism, but actually that we really can't get to the bottom of all this without actually naming it for what it is. And again, at the risk of being redundant here, repeating what Greg has said, it's that racism in America did not just operate generically, but actually operated to the advantage of people that were designated white people often forget that the idea of white or white people as a racial category is a nebulous thing that didn't used to exist.
4 (16m 32s):
But what Greg said again, I guess I am repeating him, right? That we used to operate more by nationality and ethnicity, right? We would identify people as Italian or as Irish or German or Jewish or et cetera, but people started to be categorized, grouped and identified with what became a social designation, not an ethnic, not a biological and not a physiological, doesn't a social categorization that arranged all of society according to hierarchy. Right? So the whole point here is that at the essence of racism is not hate, not interpersonal hate, but rather hierarchy. And there's a, there's therefore a system and a culture that privileges and advantages people that are at the top of that hierarchy, namely white people, and then disadvantages those who are at the lower rungs of that hierarchy.
4 (17m 25s):
Now, again, that's something that many people will acknowledge. I think if you look at history, if you take an honest look at history, look at the antebellum era era, the beginnings of, of the United States, Jim Crow, and the civil rights era. I think a lot of people will acknowledge that even if they're uncomfortable with that, but they then won't acknowledge that there are enduring effects that we still need reckon with
3 (17m 50s):
That. Those evils that were committed to the advantage of white people is something that was not just a part of a bygone past, but actually endures even to this day and accounts for a lot of the disparities and the brokenness in our society that we see all around us every day. So again, acknowledging the discomfort of it, but inviting people to talk about it because there's really no way forward until we actually nailed this down a little bit better. Yeah. I totally agree with them.
2 (18m 20s):
Yeah. And kind of embedded in what, well, certainly embedded in what both of you were saying is that we're not just talking about the advantages that have been bestowed socially upon people who are in the category, white, but also the disadvantages and harms that are bestowed upon the rest of the people. And I'm curious within that, you all both mentioned a whiteness, which as an idea, as much as it is a reality, a constructed idea that is evolved over the course of many hundreds of years. So I'm wondering from a more personal perspective, in what ways, like, do you identify with whiteness, where do you see your selves in that hierarchy and how has that perhaps affected the way you approach this topic?
3 (19m 11s):
Yeah. So as a white guy, the white guy talked for a few Reverend Quan, would you like to address, I mean, look, I think that, so I'm, I'm obviously a white, a white man. I'm from South Carolina, I'm from a relatively historically poor family, not like a slave owning family. And I think that's important to acknowledge because you know, people have speculated that I have like some plantation guilt. I don't, I don't, this is a, this is a recognition of the fact that I grew up as a white man in a society that even though I didn't have like tons of economic advantages or things like that, and things are not always easy.
3 (19m 58s):
I was very conscious as early as high school that I, I mean, I'm embarrassed to say this, but I had the conscious thought is early as like ninth or 10th grade that I was thankful that I was a man and thankful that I was white, because I was just aware of, and I wasn't thinking about these things at all. I certainly wasn't, wasn't thinking about how to address these matters. I just was very aware of this. And, and I think that what I was aware of was in some ways like the boys called the psychological wage that is paid to even the poorest white man that at least he's non-black. And I think that, that, that that's. So I identify with that, but I want to say this Duke and I are both Christians and we operate out of a Christian anthropology, which is to say that what defines a human being is that they are created by God made in God's image with all the particular glory that an individual has.
3 (20m 51s):
And so when I talk about identifying as white, I'm using a sociological designation and not a biological or a theological one, I'm just simply acknowledging the fact of the matter is that because of the social designation that I have, that I occupy a certain space in this society, even if I'm poor, I occupy the space of, at least I'm not black, or at least I'm not this and that, that is really broadly attested even, and, you know, kind of Appalachian history that there was this deep awareness of this fact, even with people who have been marginalized, I think so. I just think it's important to understand that.
3 (21m 32s):
And so I'm coming at this from saying as a white person who has been at times a bystander at times, a beneficiary of this system, but yet believes that it's wrong. What are my responsibilities? And that is really primarily what has driven me into this conversation. So I am not white. Yeah,
4 (21m 55s):
I am. I'm Korean American, but I think, you know, actually what's been going on over the last couple of weeks, really the last year in regards to racist violence against Asian Americans. And it'd be uproar over the Atlanta shootings and stuff. I think highlights a little bit of the, sort of the inescapable reality of sort of our, our racialized existence in America, every single one of us. So Asian Americans are, our struggle is related to this fact that who we are and where we land in, you know, what we described earlier as a hierarchy really has been arranged by people who are designated white, right?
4 (22m 43s):
And so there's always been throughout history, this question about proximity to whiteness proximity, to, you know, how much do you sound like, feel like, look like, smell like, right. I mean all these ways, but to people that possess social power and social acceptance within society. And the fact that African-Americans have been from the very beginning designated to be at the bottom rung of the social ladder and everyone else is arranged in relation to those two poles. Right. Which is why for me personally, one of the reasons why I have a deep interest in serving and loving and partnering with our African-American brothers and sisters is in part, this isn't the primary reason, but that I believe even the liberation of Asian-Americans as it were, can only be found in the liberation of African-Americans that our destinies are all bound up with one another, because we, we are understood in relation to the struggle between white and black in this country.
4 (23m 48s):
So all that to say, since you were asking about where each of us are located in this, this is, you know, even as an Asian American, this is an inescapable, racialized reality that all of us have to reckon with and deal with. We pretend each day that we can sort of avoid it or pretend that we're untouched by it, but it's simply not true socially, economically, and even spiritually. But I want to be quick to note though, that the main thing that drives both of us into this project and into the writing of this book is our Christian identity. In other words, it D it might seem like a strange thing for a Korean American to be calling people to the work of, of reparations.
4 (24m 34s):
I mean, I'll be quick to say, look, not a single person in this country. Hasn't benefited from the thefts of white supremacy in some fashion, right? This entire country has been built on the backs of enslaved people who were stolen, kidnapped, and whose wealth was also stolen and so on, so forth. But we are calling people not simply as white people to engage in the work of reparations. If that were our only argument, then I would have no place in it. We're calling the Christian Church, everyone who bears, not whiteness per se, but everyone who bears the name of Christ because the church itself as a community, as a corporate entity, was complicit in an actually active perpetrators of the evils of white supremacy.
4 (25m 29s):
And so this is why I've got a big responsibility, right, though, my family wasn't even here for much of the history that we tell in the book, I am responsible corporately as a Christian, as a minister of Christ's church. And we together, regardless of the particularities of our identities are called to be about the work of Ripon.
2 (25m 55s):
Thank you for that. That's really helpful. And I'd actually like to talk about that history just for a minute, and maybe this is for our resident historian to answer, but I'd love to get a little sense of the history of reparations, but also whether when you all are talking about reparations, how that fits in that history, are you talking about the same thing? Are you talking about something that's more, I don't know this nuanced or different, or, and particularly obviously it is informed by your Christian faith. So can you give us just a sense of like, what is the historical scope of this conversation, you know, in a few minutes and, and where does what you all are talking and writing about? Where does it fit in that history?
4 (26m 37s):
Yeah, sure. So I'll, I'll, I'll start. And Duke actually wrote a lot of the parts about the theological of this
3 (26m 44s):
And that. And so I'll let him speak to that. I would say that it's important, understand that very early on in, in enslavement, in the, in the project of transatlantic slave trade, and then the domestic enslavement, there were people who were not only promoting the abolition of enslavement, but were also promoting reparations for slavery. For those who had been enslaved, that this is a very early part of the American tradition. A lot of those folks are coming out of the Anabaptist or like Quaker tradition, but there were also Presbyterians and other people who were, who were in certainly people in the, in historically black churches, AME, et cetera, that are talking about this.
3 (27m 25s):
And they see it as a Christian response to people who had had things taken from them that they be restored to wellbeing that not only restitution be given, but they'd be restored so that they themselves can flourish. There's been a very consistent tradition of in the American empire abolitionist strain of American history. There's also been a history of American government practice with respect to reparations. Now, as you, you know, we, we currently have reparations bills that are on the table for native Americans, that, that some tribes would refuse to sign. Some nations have refused to sign because it, what they want is their land back.
3 (28m 7s):
But we, we also has, as we note in the book, we paid reparations to slave owners at emancipation that we paid reparations to victims of interment, the Japanese camps. We actually have forced nations overseas to pay reparations. So in our own, not only our own American abolitionist anti-racist history, but in our like government practice, we understand that this is true. And as we note in the book, when the United States government, the United States government has shown the capacity and the political will to do reparations when it's in its interest domestically or internationally. And it's really important for people to understand that. And it's just a matter of like historical trajectory, but Duke has, I think a lot of really helpful things to say about particular theological arguments and people who are talking about re restitution and repair.
4 (28m 58s):
Yeah. I mean like, like Greg said that the impulse, the moral impulse to see reparations as a necessary response to the thefts of slavery started very early on in our research. We were able to dig up and discover that it appears that 17, 15 was the earliest public appeal made to Christians in America to make restitution for slaves and to actually give not only money, but also provisions and care to emancipated slaves. So again, not just to freedom, but actually to restore them to their original condition as it were so 17, 15, what's important about that, that it predates the founding of America.
4 (29m 43s):
And it goes way, way back in old, long theological history and heritage that we have inherited and that we need to reclaim and, and, and act upon now, because Christians though, there were a scattering of Christians that actually did make restitution to former slaves, especially in the Quaker community. Generally, that was not something that was widely practiced. Of course, at the end of the civil war, there was a renewed interest in restitution reparations, including among Christians, but by this point, several decades, decades in it became an exclusively African-American endeavor.
4 (30m 26s):
So white folks, politicians, activists, initially express interest in restoring formerly enslaved people. But by the turn of this century, it was only African-Americans that were lobbying for this interested in this. And part of that was because the rest of the nation was more of the rest of the white part of the nation was more interested in sectional reconciliation, not racial reconciliation, but peace and solidarity between North and South, that was the priority. And so all this other stuff about enslavement and about race difference and all that, that's secondary that's tertiary at that point by the civil rights movement, especially as frustrations grew over progress that didn't appear to be made the call for reparations also Rose up.
4 (31m 19s):
But, but after that point, then again, it quieted down and it died. And then it peaked back up again in the eighties after president Reagan offered reparations to Japanese Americans and that sort of restart conversations, Oh, I guess the government is willing to do this. Well, how about for African-Americans why Japanese Americans not African-Americans this sort of unpaid invoice, this debt that had yet to be reckoned with that, that people started stoking up that conversation as well. So that headed brought us into even the nineties and the two thousands. But so again, there's just this rollercoaster ride of interests. And then, and then forgetting in a negligence and then rise and interest.
4 (32m 5s):
Again, our hope is that there can be a new conversation, not just across the nation, but especially among Christians right at this time. And part of the reason why we wanted to write the book.
3 (32m 17s):
And I think that could just underline the phrase, Reagan offered reparations, like seriously, because, because part of what we're experiencing is people hear about this. They're like, ah, this is just like a bunch of Marxist, whatever. And we're like, wait a minute. The president who was like the cold war champion is the one who had the category for this putatively Marxists thing called reparations. It isn't, it isn't, it is, this is like basic dependency, like basic act of citizenship, of governance, of diplomacy, of international relations. Like it's just that, that American Christian emancipation in a largely American cultural imagination has been inoculated to thinking about this with respect to African-Americans.
3 (33m 9s):
And I think that that there's something that really, really important that needs to be explored there as to why, why we can see it when we talk about Israel and Palestine, why we can see it when we talk about other nations, but we cannot see it when we're talking about what everybody in the world recognizes is this, you know, this 400 year history of, of degradation of people who were viewed as not white in America, why can we not do it there? And that is the moral question that we're seeking to raise in the press.
2 (33m 39s):
Yeah. And I, I, those are all great points and it's really helpful within that. Also just say, this has been a Christian idea for a very long time. This is not new, and it's not emerging out of Marxism. It's emerging out of biblical readings and you all do a great job in the book. I think of going back to saying, okay, when God, I mean, there's a provision literally in the scriptures for what happens if something is stolen from someone else. And I love the distinguishing line you put between restitution and restoration that simply being paid back, what you are owed is not the same as being restored to wholeness and to fullness. So there's a lot in all of that.
2 (34m 20s):
There's also though, and I think this is where I'm, I don't think people, I don't know. I don't know if they say this, but I think money is a big stumbling block, taboo subject again, and you're writing about theft and you're writing about theft of more than just financial terms, but there is a financial reality right. To all of this. And I would just like to think, well, I'd like you all to explore a little bit with, for us, this history of theft, and also, what does it mean to address that theft? Maybe not only in monetary terms, but including the financial, like the actual monetary aspect of the theft that we're talking about.
3 (35m 4s):
So I'll say that one of the things that people don't, I think fully appreciated about this book and we haven't really made it explicit. And I think we're seeing that as we're reading responses is that this is in some way a call for American Christians to re-imagine it's, we're speaking to the imagination. And so when people say, what does this look like? What are we supposed to do? Exactly. I think, and, and people were saying, you don't give us a no specifics. I think that they're right about that. And I think the reason for that is because what we're saying is we're not at the place specific shit, because we have not as a, as a community, meaning, you know, the kind of broadly white Christian community that we're a part of yet even imagined our own theological history, or imagine our cultural history in such a way that allows us to even ask the right questions.
3 (35m 54s):
And so part of, part of what is a victory for us is that people are just going, wait a minute, could it possibly be true that our theological tradition actually invites us to this because people don't have the imagination for it yet. And our conviction is that because we believe in the, you know, father, son and Holy spirit, that once people begin to ask the questions and get their minds in this redemptive and repairative frame of imagination, that people will figure out what to do. We actually think that that's true. I mean, look, we, we, as a Christian Church, we believe things that are very difficult like that, that a being could be both one and three at the same time that another being could be both fully God and fully human at the same time, we have no problem navigating that kind of conceptual complexity.
3 (36m 47s):
I think we can probably figure out how to navigate this kind of cultural complexity, but we can only do that if we're willing to get in the sort of repairative and doc's logical imagination and missiological imagination that allows us to ask the questions, non defensively, but creatively in the first place, I'm not avoiding the question. I just wanted to acknowledge the difficulty of this and the fact that we don't specify and to try to articulate why that, why that is I've rambled a lot. So I'll let do,
2 (37m 18s):
Right? Yeah. I'll let you talk to you, but I will say that you do, you do spark the imagination. I mean, it's, and not in completely a theorial ways, right? I mean, you do talk about what would it look like for a church elder board to think about sharing some of their financial, you know, whatever they're taking in from their congregation with another congregation that has been historically excluded from whiteness, right? I mean, things like that. So I, I just, as a little plug for what you all have done, I think you spark those conversations and we'll get to the local level in a minute, but there's also that aspect of it that you're not trying to prescribe what this looks like for everyone in every context, you're trying to suggest that we should be having the conversation in every context and figuring out what that might look like.
2 (38m 9s):
So, sorry. That was
3 (38m 10s):
My little intro.
4 (38m 13s):
No, thanks for that. And I mean, look, this is, this is how my imagination personally gets sparked. The heuristic that I use is just this language that we do have in the book of the call to reparations is to reverse engineer all the ways in which these harms and these thefts and this plunder, the African-American community was in a sort of a mass comprehensive multi-generational fashion. Right. So then, so how does your imagination get fired up? Well, you got to know history, you got to know exactly how thefts were committed with specificity and with depth and with great evil.
4 (38m 54s):
And if you don't know that, then you don't know what you're going to have to do to undo those things. Right. And so it feels like a lot of people are asking the question, well, what do we do? What do we do? It's like, well, let's look back and find out what has happened. Right. We talk about white supremacy is a cultural disorder in part, because it is by definition, hard to define it's an ecosystem of organisms of an environment. It's a whole system and the space in between it's the air we breathe, right? So it's hard to pin down definitionally, but we can see the effects of it. So we see, we talk about in the book, the theft of not just well, but also of truth, the way in which the truth about black dignity has been stolen, not just with our words and rhetoric, but with images.
4 (39m 42s):
I mean that itself, you could just run with that and say, what are all the ways in which the image of the black face and body has been defaced and vandalized? In other words, their glory and dignity has been robbed from them over 400 years and all notes. If that is what has been uploaded into our collective minds and hearts, how long do we think it'll take to extract those defaced vandalized images, the theft of black didn't dignity? How long will it take for us to remove that from our collective minds and hearts before we can say, we're done, this is a long word. So that's the theft of, of truth. And that includes the overriding of historical lies that have been told again and again, not only about American history, but again about the truth of black dignity in black lives.
4 (40m 32s):
There's the theft of power, social power, political power, electoral power, right? So we talk about these three categories of theft, truth, power, and wealth. The call to reparations is to find ways to restore all of these ways in which African-Americans have been terribly robbed. But again, just to, to end where I began some of our lack of imagination and creativity, you know, people are asking us to, well, Hey, you gotta prescribe with more specificity. What we need to do. I think our answer is what we need to do is look back and understand history better.
4 (41m 13s):
And actually that's where we'll find the templates. And that's actually where we'll find a enormous possibility because there's a lot of work to be done. We're not going to give you six pages of an easy to follow guide. What we're going to do is give you history and then let you unleash your love upon a broken and wounded world. That's the call. That's right. And I think that the structure of the book, I mean, Julia really actually illustrates the point. There are three chapters about history, three about theology, and one about the application. And that's not because we're trying to equivocate it's because we actually don't think that many, many of our readers are yet prepared for chapter seven, that they have to do chapters one to six.
4 (41m 56s):
And then once they do, it's actually expression of our confidence in the spirit and in the work of the church to say, how do we, how do we do this? I mean, the Christian Church, like we invented educational system. So we envisioned admitted markets. We've been in lots of versions of city planning and, and, and the university, like I'm not worried about our creative capacity. Once we start asking the questions to figure some stuff out, what deeply worries me is our resistance to ask him the questions precisely because we don't see where they're going to lead. That seems to me to be a form of an impoverished theological imagination and a moral of impoverished moral life.
2 (42m 34s):
Yeah. I think that's absolutely right. And I do want to bring the conversation to the local level because you all do that. And I think that's important. So I have two questions within that. One, what role does the individual play within the work of reparation and to why is the local church so important to this both imaginative and ultimately what we would hope would be a constructive work in the world?
4 (43m 4s):
Well, I'll take a shot at that, just for that, especially the first part of the question. I mean, I think there's a lot that the individual can do, especially in regard to moral formation and cultivating these convictions. I will say though, that this is such a new and even foreign and in many cases, threatening topic that I think it is best fostered nurtured in community. And so whether, if it's not just the reading of this book, which I think is best read in community and discussed and all the rest, but even just sort of talking and normalizing the language of repair, normalizing the language of white supremacy and normalizing reparations as a biblical idea and a calling to the church.
4 (43m 50s):
So I think there's a vital corporate dimension, even in the work of reparations, I would say it works best in a corporate setting. So before we started this call here, right, and Amy, Julia, we were talking about, you know, an example of people in your life and people that I know in my life that are saying, well, what can I individually do? And what's, what's at the forefront of their minds. Is this idea of like handing over money to an individual? Well, it gets really awkward real quick, and it even becomes a paternalistic though, well-intended endeavor, right. If we're not careful when it, when we start to think of it as just an individual endeavor or a transaction that I just need to execute, here's my reparations.
4 (44m 32s):
That's not going to go over well. Right. So, and, and, and that's even not even addressing the issue of impact in terms of actual social change and all this will work better when it's executed institutionally and corporately, which is why we talk primarily to the local church as the agent and instrument of, of reputational change in, in, in the book, of course, there's going to be things that individuals can do and maybe in some cases must do, or a family must do. But as far as the wider movement of reparations, we see that being a corporate endeavor.
2 (45m 10s):
I'm yeah. I'm thinking about how though, even the fact that our churches are so functionally segregated can still runs the risk of perpetuating that dynamic of paternalism, even in that context. And that I think brings us to this history of the church in terms of, okay, what does it mean? Why, why are we so functionally segregated, I've talked with David Swanson, who was the author of recycling the white church on the podcast a couple of weeks ago in ways that I think if any listener is listening to this and has not listened to that conversation, they dovetail really nicely, as far as just these questions of, you know, the church itself is a victim of white supremacy.
2 (45m 56s):
If that's the right word in the ways in which we have been torn apart from one another and made choices to be apart from one another and harmed one another, even within the body of Christ. And so there's just a tremendous work of repair that of, and they're chicken and egg, as far as what it would mean as you all have mentioned, just hugging someone who is black as a white person, or even truly befriending is not the work of repair. That may be part of it in terms of reconciling great, but that's not this more comprehensive understanding of things. So with all of that said, there's so much more we could talk about, but I did want to, as we come to the end of our time, ask you all to give a little bit at the end of the book, you give some examples of the beginnings of repair.
2 (46m 47s):
And I would love to just end with some of those stories where you've begun to see that work in action in local communities. So you can take your pick on what you want to share, but I would love to end with a little bit of a kind of hint in that direction. There are communities that are starting to do this, and here's what it's starting to look like.
4 (47m 8s):
Yeah. Well thank you for ending there because I think part of what animated this word is, what we sense to be a sort of despondency and a resignation in the broadly white church about is this even possible. And I just, I want to acknowledge that the fact that we are legitimately having to talk about hugging another human being
3 (47m 31s):
As an act of social courage, it's simply a sign of how deeply sick this culture is. Okay. And I just, we just want to continue to like, hold that in front of us. That that is not normal. I mean, it's sociologically normal and historically tragic, but we understand just that, that we sense in the, in the kind of in the church, this, and we sent him the criticisms of repair of reparations as sort of despondency about, about is this even possible. And I, I want to say to you how overwhelmingly consistent it is that people are essentially rejecting the book when they reject it based on the grounds that they cannot imagine how one could do it.
3 (48m 12s):
And that that is not, that is not a sign of the failure of the argument or a failure of the account of history, but a failure of the imagination. And I think we just have to continue to say that we are at the beginning of thinking about this as a people. And so we have yet to imagine what's possible. That said, I think, you know, we, we talked about several different things. I'll talk about one of them in terms of examples of reparations. We talked about, you know, reparations of truth, wealth, and power. I want to talk about the truth part. And I think, I think the, the Memorial for lynching victims and Montgomery is really an important example because what we're, what that is, these are people who were forgotten, whose names were erased, who were killed in public spectacle, and then it was hushed up and were never, these people were never held.
3 (49m 2s):
People are never held accountable for these murders. And now what has happened is that there is a Memorial to these people, would their names, would their places, would their dates with the soil, from the places where they were killed on display as an enduring testimony to the fact that this is real and that this is a part of our history. And I mean, my own work is in public memorialization, you know, and, and that re my work is in the area of reparations of truth. And I think that that, that what Brian Stevenson and his team did there is profoundly important because they are literally re narrating the American landscape, a landscape that is, that has like hidden and been premised on a certain sort of self-serving forgetfulness.
3 (49m 48s):
And now they're insisting that counties all over the United States can put these things as he, as like perpetual witness to what is true. And I think that that churches in their own communities ought to ask why, why don't we know anything about the black churches in our town? Why don't we know anything about what African-Americans have done in our town? Why do we know more about the church in Iran than we do about the black churches in our town, and begin to sort of collaborate, to learn those stories and tell those stories? And I think churches, I personally think that churches ought to be leading the way in the re memorialization effort in the United States.
5 (50m 25s):
3 (50m 26s):
There's maybe I'll mention there's a,
4 (50m 29s):
There's a growing movement of churches that are engaged in what they've described as justice deposits. I think it's even a hashtag. If you look it up where people are, churches and individuals are intentionally moving their personal assets, checking accounts, savings accounts to black owned and black led banks across the country. And the idea there is that black owned banks actually historically do a better job of actually serving the black communities in their local areas. And as far as black entrepreneurs or supporting local black endeavors. So there's a reinvestment into the black community that tends to happen.
4 (51m 10s):
And that's also because non-black banks generally tend to persist in a strange sort of racist obstruction of its lending practices. And, and, and no one's doing this intentionally, but it's still happening as different surveys and research continues to show. So simply by moving one's personal assets, your checking account, your savings account to a black bank, you are by doing so you're recapitalizing. These banks that are doing a better job than Wells Fargo or bank of America is in serving the black community. This is a form of sort of a precursor to reparations that we talk about in the book.
4 (51m 51s):
It's sort of removing the obstacles of wealth and increasing the capacity for wealth in the local community, in your area. And here's the thing it's low hanging fruit, because it doesn't cost you a dime, right? You're just literally moving your stuff to the bank that you're now going to call your own little actions like that are very actionable by local churches. I'll also point out for instance, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they were about to celebrate the a hundred year anniversary of the Tulsa massacre, where one of the wealthiest black communities at that time in 1921 was absolutely decimated by a racist riot.
4 (52m 39s):
And so there's a lot of memorialization remembrance and sort of a look to the future that's happening in the coming months. And I know a number of churches are trying to get involved, right? So this is sort of the restoration of truth, as well as a posture of repentance that these churches are taking in supporting what our civic efforts. So again, it's not that the church needs to come up with their own ideas in every instance, right? They don't need to be the creators of these initiatives, and we kind of need to get over that churches. Sometimes we feel like it's not really ministry on ice. It was our idea. Sometimes what we need to do is get behind it and not even put our name on the banner, right. Just get behind good work that's being done.
4 (53m 19s):
And that actually bears fruit in the African-American community. That's something that I know Christian communities in Tulsa, Oklahoma are doing.
0 (53m 26s):
That's the sort of thing we need to do more.
2 (53m 28s):
Yeah. Well, thank you for these examples. I actually have been to the Memorial in Montgomery and with our family, and it is an incredibly powerful experience and actually just watched the HBO documentary true justice, which is about Bryan Stevenson, but also about the creation of that Memorial and for any listeners just commend those as examples. And I love the, I love your comprehensive truth, power and wealth in terms of thinking about the work of repair and to your point that there are lots of imaginative possibilities. And I, and I just want to also say, this is certainly first and foremost about repairing the wrong that has been perpetrated upon an entire group of people over the course of many centuries, but the way that what is true and right, and good works is that everyone is actually bound up in that repair in the goodness and justice and love of it.
2 (54m 33s):
And so sure might that mean that at the end of the day, my bank account is smaller. I don't know maybe, but the, what would the end of the day would be joy at the end of the day would be love the end of the day would be goodness. And so the smaller bank account would be just a peripheral aspect of what we're talking about or the perceived loss of social status. When someone else is actually raised up into the dignified position that they deserve within our relationships. Again, that's my game.
2 (55m 14s):
That's not my loss. So I just appreciate the portrait of restoration that's holistic. And again, this is not the point of your book, but I do think for white Christians to imagine this in terms of loss is really erroneous. Like it's just wrong. It's just not how God does things. And so that sense of we could all together be a part of this healing, a beautiful, imaginative, creative healing work together. I think that's really exciting. And I do hope that this is one piece of, as you said, kind of animating the church's imagination around it.
2 (55m 55s):
So thank you for your time. Like I could go on and on, but I really appreciate what you've shared with us here today.
0 (56m 1s):
Thank you love being with you really appreciate all you do.
1 (56m 5s):
Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than fear. I do want to remind you that we're giving away a copy of reparations, and if you want to enter to win, just share this podcast episode on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and be sure to tag me when you share it. So I know to enter you there more details about all of this in the notes, as well as all the references to various books and movies and historic sites that we just talked about. I will be back next week with an interview with Oshida Moore. She's the author of dear white peacemakers. I'm really excited to talk to her and to be able to share this new book with you as well until then, I want to say thank you for listening.
1 (56m 45s):
Thank you to breaking ground to Jake Hansen, to Amber Barry, for all your support of this podcast and for you, the listener as you go into your day to day, I hope you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.