In my search to understand important justice and human rights issues of our day, I continually find myself coming back to education. I think so highly of the work and calling of teachers, principals, and administrators, and believe we need to do everything we can to support them and encourage the best of them to invest in under-served communities.
When I saw the title of this article, I was obviously intrigued. It is from Urban Faith and looks at a new book entitled “The Black-White Achievement Gap,” written by Rod Paige. The following quote is a summary statement of why he felt he could back up the bold nature of the title of the book:
“In today’s America, one would be hard pressed to identify a single area, in medicine, literature, music, the arts, business, or sports, in which African Americans have not ascended to the very top in their chosen fields. The swearing in of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth President of the United States of America is highly visible evidence that racism and discrimination no longer represent a ceiling to African American success. Educational underachievement is a much more powerful obstacle. There is a street saying that makes the point: Racism and discrimination can slow you down, but lack of education can knock you out. Enough said! To be sure, the black-white achievement gap is not the only obstacle standing in the way of racial equality and social justice. It is, however, the major barrier impeding progress for African Americans and primary civil rights issue of our time.”
I am a lifelong Chicagoan, a pastor at River City Community Church, and an author who writes a lot about resisting and confronting white supremacy from a faith lens.
Our church was founded in January of 2003 in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, and is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. We long to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. It is also through the gift of this faith community that I have learned to see the profound historical and spiritual impact of the stronghold of white supremacy, and where I have been challenged to broaden and deepen my understanding of discipleship in the hopes of becoming a serious enough Christ follower who is able to meaningfully participate with those who have risen up in defiance of this evil principality.
The lessons learned in this journey have been captured in a pair of books on race. The first, White Awake, explores the barriers that white people tend to face – white Christians specifically – when we attempt to awaken to and understand white supremacy through a faith lens. I spend a lot of time here addressing the internal defenses that are bound to go off when this journey is taken seriously, and I chart out a path for developing a resilient spirit that steadfastly moves towards truth, justice, and equity. The second, White Lies, further builds out the path for the white Christian who longs to actively participate in the resistance and confrontation of white supremacy. I spend a lot of time here exploring why it is so hard to tell the truth about race, as well as expose the lies that sustain it, within white, Christian, Bible-believing environments. I then propose nine practices that position us for engaging in this task.
On the personal front, my career started in the marketplace, as I was part of three dot.com startups in the 90’s. My vocational path shifted when I joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in 1998, and I spent five years working there. I started River City Community Church in January 2003 and have been happily serving here ever since. On the education front, my undergrad was in Business (Purdue University), my graduate degree in theology (Moody Bible Institute), and my doctoral degree in community development (Northern Seminary). On the family front, my wife is a Professor of Psychology, and we have two amazing children (Xander and Gabriella).
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