Jen Kidwell brings you the fruits of her expertise. Here are three Discussion Guides on Anti-racism.
Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America
by Jennifer Harvey (Harvey)
This book, by Jennifer Harvey, is a game changer. I’ve been reading a ton and discussing wonderful and challenging books about anti-racism with church groups and other groups in recent months. In terms of practical application, this book has me thinking about parenting and race everyday and it’s created wonderful discussions in each of the three groups I’ve led it with. Abingdon has a Community Reading Guide you can find online that I found a bit overwhelming, so here are the discussion starters I found most useful when engaging the text in groups. Click here for Discussion Guide.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
As part of our effort to continue to center BIPOC voices in our programming, small groups, and theological reflection at church, we offered a book club style study on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2015 memoir Between the World and Me. We asked people to sign up and then I divided them up into groups of 5-6, provided them with discussion starters to structure their reflections, and asked them to find a time to meet “sometime around the end of August.” This is the first time we’ve done something like this – we sometimes do all-church studies that are usually multi-week and involve structured lesson plans, so I didn’t know what to expect, but we had great participation. It was a great mix of folks revisiting the book for a second time and lots of people who just needed a push to read it as it had been on their list for a while. It is astonishingly powerful and the writing is beautifully precise while describing experiences and relaying truths that I wish did not exist. Coates reads the audio book, which many participants found deeply meaningful. It’s technically a quick read, but it’s worth every extra minute you spend with it.
Coates is an atheist, so some of my discussion starters are designed to help folks make connections back to scripture. I don’t think it is important as a way to validate Coates, but more so as a way to give participants a way to orient what Coates is doing in the symbolic world and stories that they (we) use to make meaning out of their lives. My questions also come out of my position as a white person though were intended to be open-ended and useful for all group members.
You could talk about this book for hours and hours – and you probably will, one way or another, if you read it – but one of the reasons I think we had good success in participation was because it was a one-session commitment. People have been recommending the book for 5 years (it won the National Book Award and Toni Morrison called it “required reading”…my recommendation means nothing in comparison), but I can officially add that it can work really well as a way for Christians to reflect on the power of Coates’ words and experiences, and as mirror for readers’ own ideas about race, and also as a window into some deeply challenging and productive interpretations of themes in scripture as well.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
In June of 2020, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC suggested that all members of the conference read Ibram X. Kendi’s 2019 book How to be an Antiracist to help them reflect on their personal and corporate antiracism journeys. Like so many churches, mine has revamped its antiracism efforts in recent months. Our racial justice ministry has been a cornerstone of our ministry for years, but we are trying to take a more strategic approach to intentionally engage antiracism efforts across all ministry areas. One of the ways we’ve done this is by creating an all-church study around this book. Our pastor is doing a sermon series on themes related to the book, we have 65 people participating – at least half of whom do not regularly participate in small groups. The racial justice team is helping create some action items to capitalize on the momentum of the study.
This book should be required reading for all Americans. It posits definitions of racism and antiracism with precision and invites readers to reshape their understanding of the source of racist ideas (hint: it’s self-interest, not hatred). It takes readers on a truncated history of racist ideas, and offers a fundamentally hopeful paradigm: those whose behaviors are shaped by racist ideas can change. While his definitions will be challenging for some – and are intended to be – they are effective in helping readers reflect on power, self-interest, and the honesty and confession that are at the heart of true anti-racist work.
This 6 week small group resource is a collaboration with a scholar and a pastor, both of whom graciously agreed to assist me as I prepped these study materials. I am thankful for their insight, wisdom, and feedback. Each session includes a Bible study and questions designed to put the content of the book in conversation with the reader’s experience, faith, and spheres of influence in the world. Click here for Discussion Guide.