Book Review: Trouble I’ve Seen

Hart’s idea of isolating and dismantling overt racialism apart from a plan that includes nonwhite minorities as co-laborers in the multi-ethnic family of Christ is inadequate and destined to fail.

Throughout the book, Hart demonstrates in himself the inherent difficulty of negotiating the condemnation of white Christians for preserving a racialized culture while at the same time desiring to be acknowledged and addressed, racially. To be clear, if it’s wrong for white Christians to engage in racial preservation for divisiveness, it’s also wrong for non-whites to engage in racial preservation that also causes divisiveness.

 

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, by Drew G.I. Hart. Harrisonburg: Herald Press, 2016. 189 pages.

Drew Hart – a theologian, newly hired theology professor at Messiah College, and self-described “Anablacktavist,” (a syncretism of Anabaptist, black and activist) recently published his first book entitled,Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism as his contribution to the ongoing conversation regarding the Christian obligation to engage the struggle against the persistence of racial injustice.

Much of the trouble Hart has seen deals with the manner in which the country and American church have dealt with and responded to the presence and consequences of what he claims are the lingering effects of systemic racism on black Americans, particularly during the past several years. The historical election of the country’s first black president has demonstrated that the country might be even more racially divided now than it was immediately preceding the election of Barack Obama. This current social and political context has forced Americans, specifically Christians, into addressing the issues that have given rise to these racial tensions.

Writing from personal experience, Hart – who is black – describes the painful reality of living in predominately white “spaces” – which include having attended a white suburban high school and a predominately white Christian college. Having the lived experience and the social proficiency in the language racialism, Hart is convinced that not only does systemic racism and white supremacy still exist but the church in the American context, wittingly or unwittingly, enables this program of racial oppression.

Part of the Christian contribution to facilitating white supremacy is the rhetorical plea of “colorblindness” by white Christians.  For Hart, the earnest desire of white Christians to “see people as people” is disingenuous because it falsely gives the impression that white Christians have transcended racial issues (that they perpetuate by nature of being white) and because white Christians live intentionally racialized lifestyles that actively exclude blacks and other non-white minorities. Hart believes that racial and ethnic diversity must be acknowledged and celebrated to reduce racial tensions, but this betrays the fact that Hart and other Christian racialists purporting to fight for some manifestation of racial justice want to be addressed and defined by racial classifications and ethnic identities. That is to say, colorblind rhetoric threatens Hart’s non-white racial distinctiveness. Throughout the book, Hart demonstrates in himself the inherent difficulty of negotiating the condemnation of white Christians for preserving a racialized culture while at the same time desiring to be acknowledged and addressed, racially. To be clear, if it’s wrong for white Christians to engage in racial preservation for divisiveness, it’s also wrong for non-whites to engage in racial preservation that also causes divisiveness.

There’s an interesting thing about Hart’s distaste for colorblindness.

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