After laying the groundwork for several chapters, Chanequa Walker-Barnes, in the fourth chapter of I Bring the Voices of My People, articulates a vision of reconciliation that is brilliant and bracing. It is profound in its theological grasp of the complexity of sin and evil, its articulation of historical and social realities, and its clarity and lack of sentimentality.
Her conclusion captures the heart of her project:
Having been disproportionately articulated and advocated by White Christians, racial reconciliation has heavily emphasized the importance of proximity, dialogue, bridge building, forgiveness, and friendship, while largely excluding issues of liberation, justice, and transformation. Much of what passes for racial reconciliation feels like an interracial playdate. Whites leave the playground feeling good about their new friend of color, but the material realities of people of color are unchanged (p. 203).
[R]acial reconciliation is part of God’s ongoing and eschatological mission to restore wholeness and peace to a world broken by systemic injustice. Racial reconciliation is a social justice movement that focuses upon dismantling White supremacy, the systemic evil that denies and distorts the image of God inherent in all humans based on the heretical belief that White aesthetics, values, and cultural norms bear the fullest representation of the Imago Dei. White supremacy thus maintains that White people are superior to all other peoples, and it orders creation, identities, relationships, and social structures in ways that support this distortion and denial. Racial reconciliation is a wholistic process that requires confrontational truth-telling, the liberation and healing of the oppressed, the repentance and conversion of the oppressor, and an ongoing commitment to building beloved community. Reconciliation is an iterative process. The tasks are neither linear nor mutually exclusive, and they are often cyclical in nature, as our journey into reconciliation draws us ever deeper into confrontation with the ugliness of racism and the hidden ways in which it has infected our psyches, our relationships, and our world. Genuine efforts toward racial reconciliation are at once spiritual, political, social, and psychological. They are rarely comfortable; more often than not, they are painful. And the seeming intractability of racism within our world makes reconciliation feel more like “mission impossible” than the mission of God (pp. 204-5).
She picks up this closing note of impossibility and elaborates a constructive vision in her final chapter.
I must say that this vision—which is clear-eyed and theologically rich—of living into kingdom realities does indeed seem to me to be impossible. I struggle to be hopeful because my American evangelical heritage is consumed with idolatries of money and power, hard-wiring it to resist this kingdom vision in every way, at every turn and on every level.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Lord, have mercy.
*Cited with permission.