Can our children really make a difference in the fight against racism? Dr. Jemar Tisby, author of How to Fight Racism Young Reader’s Edition, talks with Amy Julia Becker about practical ways kids can stand up to injustice and how courageous actions will transform them (and us) into agents of healing in this world. “It’s not just about what we’ve done. It’s about who we’ve become.”
“Dr. Jemar Tisby is the New York Times Bestselling author of The Color of Compromise and president of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective where he writes about race, religion, politics, and culture. He is also cohost of the Pass the Mic podcast.”
On the Podcast:
- Books by Jemar Tisby: How to Fight Racism, How to Fight Racism Young Reader’s Edition, and The Color of Compromise
- Previous episodes: Now Is the Time for Justice and How Do We Fight Racism?
- Colin in Black & White
- Josh Mosey
- Fannie Lou Hamer
- Blessed are the poor…
“I hope young readers get the sense that they have agency, that they do have the power—not unlimited power, not unblockable power—but they do have the ability to influence the environment around them. If they see something is wrong, unjust, unfair, they can do something about it, whether in ways big or small.”
“Hopefully in [reading this book] you get a picture of a different kind of Christianity perhaps than makes the headlines, a different kind of Christianity than you hear about in politics or on the news. And it is the kind of Christianity that looks like Christ in the sense of its promoting dignity and equity and justice.”
“The one thing I do know is I am safe with Jesus…it’s a relationship with a person who’s living and alive and active today. And that’s what keeps me grounded and gives me hope and…is that lighthouse guiding me to harbor amidst this storm of trying to understand and reconstruct my faith.”
“We have to begin with the assumption that young people are already learning about race, and it’s just what are they learning and from whom.”
“There is value in doing the right thing just because it’s the right thing…Hopefully, we do change some systems and laws and policies. Hopefully, we make life better for ourselves and our neighbors. But at the same time, it’s not just about what we’ve done. It’s about who we’ve become.”
“I hope with a young readers edition like this, we can be intentional and explicit from an early age with our young people about the kind of character we hope they have, about the kind of courage they exhibit in the face of injustice, about the kind of initiative they’ll take to make things right or to make things better.”
“We may or may not be successful in the specific goals we want to achieve [in this racial justice work]. But the effort is making us into people who bring light and healing in the world…that’s what I hope.”
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Season 5 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast connects to themes in my newest book, To Be Made Well, releasing Spring 2022…you can pre-order here! Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day, as well as a video with closed captions on my YouTube Channel.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
And so I hope with a young readers edition we can be intentional and explicit from an early age with our young people about the kind of character we hope they have about the kind of courage that they exhibit in the face of injustice about the kind of initiative though, they’ll take to, to make things right, or to make things better.
Amy Julia (29s):
Hi 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 personal pain and social division. So I have to tell you, I love all of my guests to come on. This show tend to end the conversation and feel like we’ve been friends forever, but Dr. Jemar Tisby is really high up on my list of favorite people ever, who have been on this podcast. And I’m really excited that you get to hear our conversation today. I’m also excited to tell you that you have a chance to win a copy of his new book, which is what we’re talking about today. So check out the show notes and my social media accounts, and you can get the details of how to enter to win that.
Amy Julia (1m 10s):
I also just want to mention, so I always record these conversations through zoom and that way I can see and feel like I’m making eye contact with whoever I’m talking to. And I really wish that you had a chance to see Jomar as well, because he just exudes warmth and grace, which you will probably have a tense of just from hearing his words. But I still, I wish you could see him in person. Anyway, today we get to talk about faith and race and justice. Jemar is going to share with us his own journey. And we’re also going to talk about equipping our children to become who God has created them to be. It’s a beautiful conversation and I’m so glad you’re here.
Amy Julia (1m 51s):
So I’m so grateful to be here today with my guest, Dr. Jemar Tisby welcome.
Jemar (1m 58s):
It’s good to be back. I was so looking forward to this conversation, thank you for having me
Amy Julia (2m 3s):
Well, and I do just want to note that the word doctor, I did not use to introduce you when we talked, I don’t know, a year ago or something. So congratulations on completing a PhD in history. Am I right in that?
Jemar (2m 16s):
That’s correct. That’s correct. Just still a couple of months old from defending a dissertation and people say Dr. Tisby, and I’m like, who are you talking to? What?
Amy Julia (2m 28s):
Yeah, well, it’s a huge accomplishment. And it’s an accomplishment that has happened in service of many other people. So thank you for that. Because as we’ll talk about a little bit today, the work you’ve done to understand history is incredibly important in the work that you also are bringing not to academia, but into the public sphere and particularly to the church. So we’ll get to that in a second. Let me explain for our listeners that we talked last on the podcast, I think in early 2021, which is when your book, how to fight racism had just released. Am I right about that timing? That’s right. Okay. And you’ve now got a new book also called how to fight racism.
Amy Julia (3m 9s):
And yet we’re here to talk about it because this is the young readers edition. So I would love for any listener who didn’t hear our conversation last time for you just to give kind of an introduction to the work that you’re doing in both of these books, but also why a young readers edition about, you know, and why that coming out now.
Jemar (3m 29s):
Yes. So my first book, the color of compromise sort of diagnosis the problem, it lays out how we got to where we are racially speaking, especially in relation to the church and Christianity. And so that’s a historical survey of American churches, complicity and racism. And then you get to the end and I do have a chapter in that book on what to do about racism, but I had always wanted to expand on that. Always wanted to address that more fulsome Lee. And so the second book, how to fight racism, I say, prioritize, prioritizes the practical. So this is a book that answers that question.
Jemar (4m 10s):
What do we do? What do we do about racism? And that’s the question I get the most often, whenever I speak, write or talk about racial justice. So that’s what that one was for. And then the folks that is honoring came around and said, Hey, we think there’s space for you to talk to younger readers about this same topic. So how to fight racism. The young readers edition is geared toward young people, ages eight to 12, around that fourth to sixth grade range takes much of the themes and concepts from the adult version, puts it in a way that I hope is more accessible to young people and add some other elements to that I think are going to help pedagogically for adults who really want to walk through this, have discussions and take action along with the young people in their lives.
Amy Julia (5m 2s):
Yeah, that’s such a great summary of what, as someone who’s read all three books now in that order, I think you’ve succeeded in what you were trying to do because there are, on the one hand, it is a lot of the same, I guess, information or maybe action. And yet it really does feel like, oh yeah, that’s the way I could tell the story to my son or daughter, or really not even just to them, but with them, talk about these things with them. And again, we’ll get back to some of that. I did want to just put a little plug in for the color of compromise because that’s the first book which you just mentioned has, I think been a transformative book for many, particularly for white Christians in America.
Amy Julia (5m 46s):
It was timely in terms of what the church in America has been encountering and confronting in recent years. But what is so wonderful about your work is that although it’s so relevant to our time, because you’re setting it in this really big story of both American history and God’s Providence like who God is and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I think it helps us to understand that this is a long story, this story of racism, but also the story of what it means to be a hopeful and faithful follower of Christ even now. So I just want to give a little plug for that and actually we’ll put it in the show notes, but you and I got to talk about the color of compromise or maybe two years ago as well.
Amy Julia (6m 30s):
So we’ve got now this series of conversations, which certainly are joy to me, I’m sure they are too many listeners too. So I wanted to also say from the top, you mentioned this in the book, but I thought it was important to note, what do you think the experience of reading this book? How should it, and would it be different for white readers and for readers who are black or indigenous or people of color? Can you just speak to that a little bit?
Jemar (6m 56s):
Sure. It’s always a little tricky writing these books, right. You know, as an author, you, you constantly sort of want to foreground the audience so that you get the right voice, you’ve covered the right topics. You answered the right questions. I’m very well aware that readers of these kinds of books and my books in particular are, are white folks and black folks and other people of color. And there’s, there’s sort of different, there’s, there’s similar information, but there’s differences too. So if you’re a white reader coming to this book, how to fight racism and young readers edition, or even the adult version, and a lot of, I mean, it’s, it’s a difficult pill to swallow, but a lot of the responsibility falls on white people because we’re in a system that benefits them, right?
Jemar (7m 49s):
So, so there’s a lot of responsibility to do something about an unjust system where the injustice is, is what you benefit from, which, you know, in various different ways and for black people and people of color, we didn’t create the problem, but we’re saddled with it. And so we still, we still have to do something about it, but there’s also an element of survival and self care in there. So it’s this very nuanced way of, of approaching it. It’s very difficult to kind of communicate that in a single volume to these broad audiences.
Jemar (8m 30s):
So hopefully that gets a little bit at what you were saying, but if not, feel free to follow up and we can dive deeper into it.
Amy Julia (8m 36s):
Yeah, no, I think absolutely. I think it’s important to just recognize that the, who we are as a reader is going to affect what the purpose of this book might be. And I think you do a good job of essentially, I think you’re actually quite pastoral to everybody throughout there’s. This is not a guilt and shame and you got to go make a difference or you’re a bad person type of book. And I want to talk a little bit later about the energy and hopefulness that you bring to what is also a really hard set of truths in this book. But I think there’s also, it’s really interesting to hear you talking about like the white person’s responsibility. I really agree with what you just said. And yet I also often feel powerless as a white person in two ways.
Amy Julia (9m 18s):
One, because it just seems like such a big problem that even if I agree that I am, which I do that I’m benefiting from this structure, it often, I often feel powerless to do anything in the face of that. How much more would that be true for a black child who is powerless both in terms of the child aspect of that, as well as just being born on the unjust side of that system. So anyway, but it’s interesting cause I’m like, oh, but I often feel powerless too. And then I think the other way, I often feel powerless is on the relational side and I’m getting us off track already, but this is something you write about in terms of what it means to have relationships, because I know that I am owed nothing as a white person when it comes to me as kind of a symbolic person, right.
Amy Julia (10m 8s):
By a person of color. Like I, I just don’t. And even, even within the church, I feel like I’ve been on the wrong side of this certainly symbolically, but even actually, like, I know that my patterns of being in the world are changing now and have been changing even for many years. And yet I still feel what I hope leads me to some humility and not just certainly not apathy, but I don’t want it to lead to pacivity either. And I guess my point is just that I think there’s a, there are different types of powerlessness and it’s important for white people to recognize. I think that sense of humility is good.
Amy Julia (10m 49s):
The sense of like needing to lament and not quite know what to do is good. And yet we do also have an opportunity to respond and, you know, resources like this book are a part of that.
Jemar (11m 2s):
I mean, that’s the core of it, right? So, so in many, in many ways it’s, it’s, it’s about realizing that we have power, but we’ve been disempowered by choices, individual systems that have taken our power from us. But what I hope that young readers get from this beyond the specific and practical action steps, one can take, I hope young readers get the sense that they have agency, that they do have the power, not unlimited power or not, you know, unbelievable power, but they do have the ability to influence the environment around them.
Jemar (11m 45s):
So basically if they see something is wrong, unjust, unfair, they can do something about it. Whether in ways big or small, whether that’s a conversation writing a letter, organizing fellow classmates or, or younger folks going to adults, there’s a lot of different ways. One can take action. But, but if, if folks only take away, one thing from the book is that you do have power. You do have agency and you can change things no matter how young you are, no matter how big the problem is. And hopefully this book that’s, that’s talking about the practical aspect sort of takes this gigantic problem of racism and white supremacy breaks it down just a little bit so that we can take one action, one step and get started and get going now.
Amy Julia (12m 33s):
And that for me is the only way to begin to approach any of these problems is by remembering that one step at a time, one person at a time local, like learn locally, what’s happening as much as you might want to understand what’s happening nationally. And again, I think you do a great job of laying all those things out. I think some of that, though, for me also is a recognition. I can come at this a little bit differently. This is a racism is a concern in our culture that is within a concern within the church and a concern that many, many people share who are not Christians. And yet one of the things for me as a Christian is a sense of if God is actually Lord and I am serving him in the world, that I really do have one small part to play and I, I need to play that part, but I also get to not worry about the rest of it.
Amy Julia (13m 31s):
Like that’s not my job. And so that’s actually freeing as a Christian is not to be like, oh, I’m off the hook. I don’t have to do anything but more like, no I’ve been given a responsibility. What is that? What is my small piece of this? And let me participate in that. And so I just wanted to speak, have you speak to the idea in this book and in all your books, you have written pretty explicitly from a Christian perspective. And I’m wondering because this is obviously applicable outside of a Christian sphere and there are many people who care about it. And yet you’ve also been really intentional in writing to fellow Christians from a Christian perspective. Can you just talk about that decision and why you’ve taken that position?
Jemar (14m 10s):
You know, it’s such a big part of my life. I haven’t figured out how not to write with God. Like I can’t understand this stuff apart from my faith in many ways, but with the racial justice stuff in particular, I mean on a very basic level, a huge swaths of the Christian Church in the United States have been such a big part of the problem that they have to be part of this solution. And it, and it’s actually quite frustrating to me to look in the public sphere and see, for instance, people talking about critical race theory or opposition to teaching racial history like through the 16th project or what have you, and not understand the religious elements that go into that because we saw the same kind of resistance in the same kinds of dynamics within our churches long before it hit sort of the national headlines.
Jemar (15m 8s):
And we simply cannot understand race without understanding religion and in particular Christianity. So that’s one factor. Another is I think the, why it’s the why? Right? Like why do we pursue racial justice? Why do we think this is important? And for me, it goes back to the transcendental truths that, that God has laid out from the Immigo day to love of God and love of neighbor to ideas of justice like that for me, is formed and shaped by the word of God and what I try to do in the books and, and, and the young readers edition actually is I’m hoping actually is, has a little bit broader appeal to it than, than even the adult version.
Jemar (16m 1s):
But what I try to do is not sort of proselytize in the book like, Hey, being a Christian, it’s the, water’s great. You know, it’s, it’s more like, you know, these, these are the undergirding principles that shape my outlook and perspective on racial justice. Hopefully in reading about it, you get a picture of a different kind of Christianity perhaps then makes the headlines a different kind of Christianity that you hear about in politics or on the news. And it is, I think, you know, it’s the, it’s the kind of Christianity that, that looks like Christ in the sense of is promoting dignity and equity and justice, and it’s applied to a particular area of race, but you know, it’s also the last thing I’ll say on this.
Jemar (16m 55s):
It’s also the, kind of the way I’m thinking about Christianity and the Bible in these books, I think is highly approachable for any principal person, whether they’re a Christian or not. So if you are a Jewish person, a lot of this stuff is coming from the Torah, the old Testament, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s going to be very familiar, is broad concepts like love and justice and care and respect. So I think that’s approachable to anybody who cares about other human beings and their wellbeing. So hopefully it’s not a hurdle for folks to get crossed and hopefully it’s actually even attractive if they, if they dig into it.
Amy Julia (17m 39s):
Yeah. I think all of those things are true. I also think you have a particular voice because of your own particular love for God that enables within it’s a big piece of the American situation to say the church needs to reckon with this. And you are able to have a voice within that, that, you know, a person of faith would not necessarily be able to have that same voice, which actually brings me, I wondered. So one of the things I really appreciate about your work, you’re trained as a historian, as we’ve already mentioned here, and you’ve got all this academic heft, but you’ve also got a personal faith and a personal story, and you bring those together in these books.
Amy Julia (18m 21s):
I’ve gotten to hear some of that from both listening to you on pass the mic and also in reading these books. But I wondered if you could tell us a little bit just about your own experience of Christianity, you know, from kind of whatever you would call in terms of childhood experiences, but also as an adult, because I think that has shifted over time and it’s related to this work around race and justice. So could you give us some of your own just story, not just a personal faith, but of like of Christianity as a, you know, young man and who’s growing up in this country and trying to put the pieces together about God and, and our on our country.
Jemar (19m 6s):
Thank you. I mean, as you know, when, when we write so much of it is autobiographical and connected to our personal stories. So, I mean, for me, all of these books, color of compromise, how to fight racism and the young readers edition, they’re, they’re sort of acts of survival. You know, these are, these are the books that if we put them into practice and understand the content will, what would make life easier for folks like me, also my family and my son and all those kinds of things. So I, I, I, I, I didn’t grow up Christian. And when I became Christian in high school, it was through white evangelical circles.
Jemar (19m 48s):
And so this issue of, of sort of race and religion was always on my radar because it was my lived experience. And through different experiences got deeper into something called reformed theology, which has even more white, if you can imagine, and had all these experiences at churches at congregations of not intentional exclusion, but all these signals that I was different. You know, whether it was the music, the illustrations in a sermon, the demographic composition of a congregation, the physical location of a church, you know, in a particular area, right? All of those cues I’m, I’m picking up.
Jemar (20m 31s):
And then just to fast forward, a lot of this stuff comes to a head beginning around 20 14, 20 15, first with black lives matter. And it seems like a lifetime ago now, but for a good year or two, we were, we were, there was an onslaught of cell phone videos of different unarmed black people getting killed usually by law enforcement, in various situations. And every time that came out, you know, there would be this huge national conversation about race policing justice. And I remember just how bracing it was to see how white Christians responded to that all lives matter and blue lives matter.
Jemar (21m 15s):
And why are you talking about this? And I remember, I think it was probably 2017, maybe 2016. I was invited to do a talk called the heart cry of black lives matter. And I did, they gave me the title and the subject, but I remember being so nervous preparing for that talk because I knew how controversial it was. And I wanted to anticipate every argument and every pushback. And we were on family vacation. I brought an extra suitcase full of books just to prepare for it. It was, it was nerve wracking. And that just is like the, the, the environment.
Jemar (21m 56s):
And that’s just one thing. So, so, so then in June, 2015, we get Trump who comes down the escalator of his own hotel, talking about some Mexican immigrants being rapists. And, you know, we, we looked at June or November, 2016, the election, but for a year and a half leading up to that, we’re watching this like slow train wreck happening in the electoral process of this, this man who at first we were like, no way was like, wait a minute. And like, no way. And then all of the political rifts that were exposed, not created, but exposed through Trump ism, not just the man himself, but the whole ideology.
Jemar (22m 39s):
And this is when the idea of white Christian nationalism. It really is to me, helpful in explaining a lot of what we’ve called Christianity is this conflation of patriotism. And Christy had this notion that the fate of the church is wrapped up in the fate of the United States of America. And that there’s one way to be Christian. So all of that is, is why I think books like the color of compromise that say, this has a long history of racial division and Christians behaving badly when it comes to racism and how to fight racism is also part of a long tradition, but also our responsibility in what I’ve been calling the civil rights movement of our day.
Jemar (23m 26s):
And my hope and my burden is that we, as people of faith in particular, would not miss this moment to stand up and be witnesses for, for justice. And for the one we follow
Amy Julia (23m 40s):
Amen to that. And I’m curious just as a little bit of a followup for you in terms of personal faith, coming to know Jesus through a white evangelical lens, and then essentially growing up and seeing, wait a second, there’s some things that are really distorted about this. And I think I have had that experience, many people I know have had that experience, whether they’re black or white, right. And it’s very disconcerting because this really positive thing of coming to know God, and this really negative thing of saying, oh, wait a second. There’s like racism involved here. And there are all these, and there are people who are, seem to be defending that, like, what is going on?
Amy Julia (24m 24s):
Like, did that prompt a crisis of faith for you? Or were you able to be clear throughout as far as like, these are separate things? I, yeah. I’m just curious for you how that worked itself out.
Jemar (24m 38s):
It was always pretty separate things. I think I knew enough of the black church tradition to say that this is not the only way to practice Christianity, and this is not the only conception of Christ we have to follow, but you know, our relationship with God is communicated through people and through communities and through congregations. So I would say probably the biggest sort of crisis of faith has been, how do I practice the faith when I’ve been trained by people and in traditions that have so tragically missed it when it comes to racial justice?
Jemar (25m 23s):
So in other words, I went to reform theological seminary in Jackson. Mississippi had great knowledge imparted to me, you know, on the biblical languages, on some of the history of Christianity. You know, some of the things that I carry with me and have shaped me, but also I’m wondering, can I trust the hermeneutics tools, hermeneutical tools I’ve been given?
Amy Julia (25m 51s):
Well, you explained for just a minute, what hermeneutical tools are just in case
Jemar (25m 56s):
Just biblical interpretation. Yeah. How
Amy Julia (25m 58s):
Do I see what I’m reading? How do I explain it and explore it today?
Jemar (26m 2s):
Exactly. You know, how, you know, if I’m reading any given passage of the Bible, let’s say, you know, the, the sermon on the Mount, right. You know, and you say, bless it, or the poor. Right. And it, it typically we think of that purely in spiritual terms, but there are other people groups who are Christians who have been, who have experienced marginalization, who’ve experienced poverty, suffering. All of those things who have a more robust reading of the poor is actually the material poor. Right. And, but that’s not necessarily the way I was taught to interpret scripture apply scripture.
Jemar (26m 43s):
And so it has caused me to, to sort of question or second guess my, my kind of initial understanding of the word of God, of how to relate to God in a good way, because I think it makes me more thoughtful about it. It makes me look more broadly globally at the Christian community and certainly at the black church tradition to understand God in ways to relate to God. But at the same time, it’s, it’s also, you know, how much can I trust the training I’ve been given? And if I can’t trust that, well, how do I do any of this thing? You know, how do I pick a church? How do I pray? How do I read the Bible?
Jemar (27m 23s):
How do I preach all of those kinds of things? And it’s, it’s it, I’m still in process. I’m not done with this. This is not a before and after story. This is a journey because I still don’t quite know. The one thing I do know is I am safe with Jesus. So if I can bring it back to Christ somehow, because it’s not, you know, we, we have a very high view of scripture in the Bible, but it’s not ultimately bibliocentric, it’s Christ centric, the religion that we practice. It’s a, it’s a relationship with a person who’s living in a live and active today.
Jemar (28m 5s):
And that’s what keeps me grounded and gives me hope and sort of is that lighthouse guiding me to, to Harbor admits this storm of trying to understand and reconstruct my faith. Yeah.
Amy Julia (28m 21s):
Well, I think you’re not alone in that, but I also just appreciate the, the way you just spoke to that, because I similarly feel as though I, and the beautiful thing actually about, I don’t think it is wrong. Let’s take blessed are the poor to think about more than material poverty. I think it is probably wrong to think about it as less than, or not, including material poverty. Right. And so it’s, it’s more the sense of, okay, that verse alone just got expanded. And for me, as someone who has not experienced material poverty to actually say, I don’t know how to understand this, unless I’m in relationship with someone who is a fellow brother or sister in Christ, like, and can speak to this.
Amy Julia (29m 10s):
And yet I do have experiences in which I have felt stripped down and like, I have nothing to give. And so, you know, so there’s just a richness. I think that can come from seeing that there are greater depths and that there’s a greater materiality actually to our faith than we might’ve been taught, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that our faith is also something that is spiritual and transcendent and eternal. It’s just that it’s also earthy and personal and real for real people. I
Jemar (29m 43s):
Mean, that’s such a critical point that you bring up that it’s, it’s not necessarily saying that everything we’ve learned was bad. It’s just saying there’s more to it. And, and there’s even with a seminary education. There were, like I said, there were great things that I gleaned from it from professors who have literally spent decades studying the Bible and the faith. And so of course, there’s going to be good stuff there. And much of my critique is not really about what was there, it’s about what, what was absent or what was missing. And, and, and that’s the journey I’ve been on is, you know, there are some things that, that, that, that, that probably need to, I wouldn’t say jettison, but readjust like, like it’s, it’s, you know, the, the, the, the Christianity I learned was very cognitive and intellectual, which obviously it is, I mean, the, the wisdom of God is unfathomable.
Jemar (30m 39s):
So it was gonna occupy our brains forever in an, in ways that, that we can never quite wrapper wrap our heads around, but at the same time, it’s emotive and it’s soulful, and it’s, it’s, it’s, it, it hits on multiple levels. It’s even, it’s even physical, you know, with, with physical worship. Right? So again, expanding our definition of what it means to be a Christian, to follow Christ, relate to Christ. That’s the journey I’ve been on. That’s the journey of these books is to say we can, and absolutely should include ideas of racial justice in what it means to follow after Christ.
Amy Julia (31m 24s):
I do think this book in particular, yes, is great for kids, but I also, I mean, I do feel like I could give it to my son who is 13, and he could go read it and come back to me, my daughter, who is 10, I would want to read it with her and pause. And, and probably that would be even better with my son too. But I’m just saying, in terms of just what you’re approaching in the book, in terms of some of the really hard stories from our history, as well as some of the theological concepts, which I think you do a great job of making, putting it in terms that they can understand still to kind of slowly walk through the history of that theology and then the action. But I’m just thinking about parents. And I honestly, I’m thinking specifically about white parents and maybe teachers who are not used to talking about racism and justice with kids, because that has been historically the posture of many white people is like, we don’t really talk about that.
Amy Julia (32m 19s):
We don’t talk about it when it comes to our faith. We don’t talk about it when it comes to our history. We just, you know, somehow it’s not polite. I don’t even know. Certainly it’s scary and uncomfortable is probably the bigger truth there. So I’m just wondering if you have advice for how for parents and teachers who aren’t used to talking about these topics on how to it yeah. In a way that allows people to enter in gently.
Jemar (32m 46s):
I love that that’s, that’s a critical principle to, to talk through. So we’ll start with what you mentioned. The, the absolute worst thing to do is, is not to talk about it and pretend like it’s not going to affect your, your young people. Right? So, so we have to begin with the assumption that young people are already learning about race, and it’s just, what are they learning? And from whom it’s almost like it’s almost like sex as awkward as that is, right? Our young people are getting messages about it constantly, and whether they’re ready or not, whether we are ready for them to receive those messages or not.
Jemar (33m 32s):
And the only question is what messages are they getting in from whom? So with a topic, as important as sex, we recognize that as adults in children’s lives, we care for them. And we want to teach them as best we can so that they can be very careful with this very powerful thing in our lives, right? It’s the same with race, in a sense that is, it’s this huge, powerful force. And we would, as people who care for children, want to want them to learn it from the people who have their best interests in mind, which then makes it incumbent upon us to equip ourselves as best we can. I’m not expecting anyone to become a quote unquote scholar on these things, but to be conversant enough, to help young people navigate in a healthy way, the racial dynamics.
Jemar (34m 20s):
So that means as adults, you begin with making sure that, you know, a little bit, making sure that you’re actively learning and on this journey, along with your young people, it’s not a matter of throwing a book at them and saying, there’ll be better than I was. Right. It’s really, this book is designed as much for adults as for young people. It is designed, you know, if you haven’t read or, or, or you’re just entering in these guns, it’s very accessible for adults to read as well. It’s designed to read along with the young people in your lives, you could give them the young readers version and you can read the adult version.
Jemar (35m 4s):
You know, there’s all kinds of ways to do it. What this is doing. I think in, I hope is opening up a conversation. I also hope that it’s just one piece of a bigger effort that you’re making. So I just, you know, it comes to mind. It keeps coming to mind. There’s a, a Netflix series that just came out in the end of October of 21, and it’s called Collin in black and white. It’s called. So it’s about Colin Kaepernick and in high school, and sort of the identity challenges he’s facing as a adopted black biracial kid of parents and artistically, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it takes a little getting used to like, there’s Colin Kaepernick, the adult guy, giving some narrative and commentary.
Jemar (35m 58s):
It’s interspersed with some other sort of video documentary style. And it’s sort of a sitcommy thing in terms of it has humor and whatnot. So artistic is very, it’s very different than probably what folks are used to the reason I mentioned it. I think it is super helpful for white parents to a, get an idea what black teenagers go through and be enter into a conversation with their own kids. So, you know, and then alongside something like that, what they’re learning at school activities they’re involved in, you have a book like how to fight racism, young readers edition, and part of a bigger process of, of helping our kids figure out this thing called race and what to do about it.
Amy Julia (36m 50s):
Well, that’s what I was going to say, because in some ways, as I’m asking my question, I’m answering it, which is what we need for parents and teachers who aren’t used to talking about these topics, a they need the awareness that they want to change something, right? Like, okay, I do want to talk about this and, and be okay. That probably means I’m going to have to do some learning on my own, but to your point, there are guides out there and this is one of them. I mean, it really is. It’s broken up into short segments. It has stories from your own life. It has stories from the past. It has a questions to discuss at the end of the chapters. It has biblical passages and, or references that help put this in the context of more than just, you know, our contemporary moment or even our history.
Amy Julia (37m 39s):
And yet all of that together, I think would help any parent or teacher say, oh, okay, this is my map. Like I can start here and we can, we can kind of move through this together. So even as I’m asking the question, I’m like, you gave it, you gave it to us.
Jemar (37m 55s):
I’m so glad you mentioned that. Let me just say a quick word about the structure and how this book is different from the adult book. I actually think it’s a, in some ways, this is a, the young readers version is a better written book than the adult version. Cause we, we, we, we took, I had a co-writer on this who helped me adapt to Josh mosey who has extensive experience writing for younger audiences. And so he was a great advisor on this. We took such care to try to try to make concepts accessible. So there’s a glossary in there and it talks about things like anti-black police brutality, white privilege, the black power movement, you know, all of those kinds of things that, you know, an eight, 10 year old wouldn’t have a context for yet, but, but you know, just like they’re used to in their textbooks or something, they can flip to the back and get a quick definition.
Jemar (38m 48s):
We incorporated a lot more stories and a lot more narrative element in the young readers edition, knowing that abstract concepts are a lot harder for younger folks to grasp hard for adults to grasp too, but by conveying it through stories, and I’m super excited about the stories I was able to tell about my own youth. It was a fun trip down memory lane to try to put myself back in, you know, fourth, fifth, sixth grade, and talk about my experiences of race and racism. So one of the stories in the introduction is just about one of my early experiences of racial inequality, going to a working class blue collar Catholic school, and being on the basketball team and traveling to other Catholic schools.
Jemar (39m 37s):
And we went to this really affluent way, predominantly white school and walking into their gym and seeing the, you know, brand new that was a rubber floor. I didn’t know, rubber floors existed at this point. And they’re beautiful logos on the walls. Brightly lit. It was huge. They had stands and we meanwhile had this all wood gym floor that had all these dents and divots in it that you could never predict where the ball was come up, you know? And, and so being able to incorporate those stories, I hope is really relatable and we shortened the chapters. So, so it’s really digestive.
Jemar (40m 17s):
So you could, you could read, you know, two or three chapters in a sitting, and that gives you a sense of momentum, especially as a young person that you’re, you’re plowing through these chapters and it’s little bite-size chunks. The other thing we did was we incorporated a good bit of history into it. So, so it sort of combines the color of compromise and how to fight racism, because so much of what we want to get to in terms of the practical aspect relies on some understanding of the past and how we got in the predicament that we’re in. So, and then in the back, there’s a, there’s a, you know, an appearance guide to help you facilitate these conversations.
Jemar (40m 57s):
There’s, pendencies that, that expand on certain ideas, it’s all geared and tailored toward younger people. So there’s a lot of things about peer situations and school situations and peer pressure and all of that. So I’m just really excited about the, the very intentional moves we made to make sure that this is accessible to young people. And I hope it works
Amy Julia (41m 22s):
Well. I hope so too. And I will say my son looked at it and he’s like, well, it’s a good cover. So, so that’s good. So I do, I have like one more question for you with a little preamble. Obviously this is an intense topic, right? These are not, these are challenging hard. We’ve already talked about how it’s easy to feel powerless or to feel like a despair. I often just look at the news or, you know, things that kind of seem to keep happening, keep happening, keep happening, and yet what I actually, and you, you do not shy away from the things that are really hard and challenging in this book. And yet I really felt like I read this and there was a sense of hope that was really animating the book you write at one point about it as an invitation to dream.
Amy Julia (42m 12s):
And then I just want to read this is from very early on, but in the introduction you say, whatever your reason for reading my hope is that you’ll come away with a better understanding of where we’ve been as a nation, a deeper knowledge of who you are as a person, a vibrant connection to people of all backgrounds and a stronger sense of purpose to fix what needs to be fixed in our broken world. So I just loved the honest and hopeful spirit to what you see coming out of, you know, an intentional reading of this book. And I just thought at the end, like maybe we could ask you to just share a little bit about, yeah. What is your hope for putting this book out into the world?
Amy Julia (42m 53s):
I’ve, I’ve read the summary of that, but did it give you a sense to expand a chance to expand on that a little bit,
Jemar (42m 60s):
The more I do this sort of racial justice advocacy work, the more persuaded I am that God is concerned, not just about how we change the world outside of us, but how this work changes us. And so what really gives me hope is not, did this log it past, did this official get elected? It’s who we become in the process of doing the right thing. Wow. There is value in doing the right thing, just because it’s the right thing. And this is where one of my historical heroes, Fannie Lou Hamer comes into play. I mean, at the end of her life, she didn’t have much to show for her effort.
Jemar (43m 44s):
She was in a, an all-black hospital as one of the few places that would, you know, for sure except and take care of her, but it was not didn’t have the latest equipment or, or the best resources. She was basically still poor because when she went around speaking, she was fundraising for humanitarian efforts, you know, not for herself. She was basically alone. She had a lot of people who supported her around the country, but she never left the Mississippi Delta and nobody moves here. So, so it, in a way, if you’re looking purely at extern, she had run for office three times and been, you know, handily defeated.
Jemar (44m 31s):
She never really had a realistic chance, but, but, but did it for almost the symbolism and, and to make a statement, right? So if you look purely at like what she achieved or accomplished, you would say, well, I’m not sure if she was that effective, but the reason why we’re talking about her, you know, 40, 50 years later is because of the kind of person she was not just what she accomplished. She was incredibly courageous. She was outspoken about her faith. She was, she, she wasn’t just about civil rights. She was about human rights. She was interracial in her understanding of justice and all of this stuff. And I just think there’s something to that that hopefully we do change some, some systems and laws and policies.
Jemar (45m 18s):
Hopefully we make life better for ourselves and our neighbors, but at the same time, it’s not just about what we’ve done, it’s about who we’ve become. And so I hope with a young readers edition like this, we can be intentional and explicit from an early age with our young people about the kind of character we hope they have about the kind of courage that they exhibit in the face of injustice about the kind of initiative they’ll take to, to, to make things right, or to make things better. And, you know, I was an educator in my first career. I was a sixth grade teacher and a middle school principal.
Jemar (45m 59s):
And I still live in the same town where I first began teaching almost 20 years ago. And it’s so interesting because I’ll run into my former students who I barely recognize now because they’re fully grown adults, but they remember me, Mr. TSB, and they’ll say, hello, and there’ll be working at the gas station or at Walmart, one’s a truck driver. You know, one’s a pharmacist who gave me my vaccine injections, which is amazing. She was in my first class and she gave me both my vaccine injections. But what I’ve come to understand is I was teaching social studies and science. They probably don’t remember a lick of what I taught, but what I’m most proud of is who they’ve become the kind of people that kind of character they have.
Jemar (46m 45s):
And that’s what I think is so important about this racial justice work. We may or may not be successful in the specific goals we want to achieve, but the effort is making us into people who bring light and, and healing in the world. And that’s what I hope.
Amy Julia (47m 4s):
I love that so much. And we’re going to end on exactly that note, bringing light and healing into the world, not just for us, but our kids being equipped and, and to do the same, not only for the world, but also because when we bring right light and healing into our own lives, well, that’s a good thing for us too. So thank you for your time. Thank you for the work you’re doing. I can’t wait to let people about this book and hopefully have lots and lots and lots of them start reading it.
0 (47m 34s):
Thank you. Thank you so much.
Amy Julia (47m 38s):
Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than fear. And do remember it head over to any of my social media accounts, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and you can enter for your chance to win a copy of the young readers edition of how to fight racism. I’m always going to ask you to please share this episode with friends, subscribe to this podcast and give it a quick rating or review wherever you find your podcasts. That way more people can benefit from these conversations. I’m also always going to say thank you to Jake Hansen for editing the podcast and to Amber Berry for doing everything else to related to my life on the internet. So thankful for them.
Amy Julia (48m 18s):
Finally, 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.
We’re giving away a copy of How to Fight Racism Young Reader’s Edition. To enter, complete the following 2 steps:
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Thank you to Zonderkidz for the giveaway. Shipping to continental US addresses only. This giveaway ends on Saturday, January 15, 2022, at 11:59 pm EST.