Growing up in a rural all white community, Black History Month was a great excuse to highlight a few of the black experts in whatever class I was in, but that was about the extent of my exposure to topics like the Civil Rights movement and other black heroes. A few teachers took the time to try to chip away at the racial bias in our society, but my understanding of Black History didn’t really take off until college.
During these formative years, I no longer simply studied a few black heroes in books, but God brought black brothers and sisters into my life. Slowly black history was no longer a topic I read about, but people I cared about. Each of my friends had stories of both racial bias and outright racism. I shudder at my naivety and insensitivity back then, but my friends were gracious to my many questions. And as my university presented opportunities to learn and grow, I took them as God slowly opened my eyes to a layer in our societal framework that I had never seen before.
Since then, I have attended conferences on multiculturalism and diversity and have become an avid reader on the topic. I’ve been a part of a church that pursued diversifying its staff and congregation in order to better reflect the community it was in. And our family has become an interracial family through the blessing of transracial adoption. With that said, I am not an expert on Black History Month.
No, I am simply a learner.
But with racial tensions high, I am encouraged that many in the white American church are starting to have these difficult conversations that our black brothers and sisters have been having for a long time.
As a result of our family’s make-up and my own journey of learning, I frequently get questions from white friends wondering, “Where do I start the learning process?” I love that I am seeing God move in white communities and that He is opening the eyes and hearts of so many. There is still so much work to be done, but God is moving.
My first recommendation to friends just starting these conversations is to listen to black voices.
One thing I always recommend is listening to minority voices. For some of us, listening to minority voices can be more difficult than others. Some live in all white communities with little proximity to black communities. Others of us can become pretty defensive when it comes to the sins of racism and racial bias. Neither of these two excuses justify our lack of engagement in celebrating Black History Month or becoming knowledgeable in the systems of oppression that still plague black communities in our country.
As a result, my first recommendation to friends just starting these conversations is to listen to black voices through books and resources as they can open our eyes to a world we might not be able to see on our own. To be clear, books and resources aren’t the end goal. But they can be the catalyst for further work and reflection and for expanding our social circles.
With that said here are few books and resources that I’ve found helpful:
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This piece of fiction tells the story of a police shooting. But one of the things I love about this book is that Thomas doesn’t paint all police badly, and she shares a variety of viewpoints. (Be forewarned that this book does includes some harsh language.)
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
If you are going to buy only one book off of this list, this is the one I’d recommend starting with. It is a fantastic read and a powerful story.
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
These books explain so much about our history and what current societal norms contribute to the racial divide.
- Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr edited by Bryan Loritts
This collection of essays in response to King’s famous letter penned in prison was edited by Bryan Loritts, a pastor I highly respect.
- In Their Voices by Rhonda M. Roorda
This book is a part of an adoption series that discusses transracial adoption. I’m just starting this one because it’s important for me, a white Mom to a black son, to listen to the stories of those who have done this already.
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
This book that has not yet been released, but I’ve already pre-ordered. I have appreciated the author’s voice in other mediums.
- Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
- God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell
- When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner
- Who Was series by Who HQ (this link will take you to Harriet Tubman, but they also have Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., and other Historical figures)
Podcasts and Sermons
- Truth’s Table: A Podcast by Black Women for Black Women
Even though this podcast is not designed for white people, I think there is so much we can learn from listening in on these conversations. These are smart, Jesus-loving women with fire in their bones to see Jesus’s name made great.
- Sermons by Thabiti Anyabwile at Anacostia River Church
As believers, we believe that the church is God’s “plan A” for bringing about reconciliation to our society until He returns. White brothers and sisters, we must repent of our silence and lack of participation in racial reconciliation and restoration within the body of Christ. My prayer is that this list is not a substitute for being in community with people, but a starting point for beginning conversations.
May God open our eyes to see, ears to hear and our minds to learn this Black History Month.