Jemar Tisby’s How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey toward Racial Justice is more than just another publication highlighting the grave evil of race discrimination that has plagued humanity for centuries. The book is a practical guide authored in an understandable language and with stylistic writing tailored to address the tough topic of racism. Based on the “ARC of Racial Justice” model (“ARC is an acronym for “awareness, relationships, and commitment”), it offers techniques that can be employed to combat the “current racial caste system” (4) to foster racial equity and justice for all ethnic groups. Although the book is written from a Christian perspective, Tisby intentionally avoids making it another “how-to manual for forming multiethnic churches or increasing the racial diversity of communities of faith” (11).
The book comprises three main sections based on the core values (awareness, relationships, and commitment) of the ARC of Racial Justice model. The first section shows that people become better equipped to counter racist attitudes and strategies as they increase their awareness through the study of the history of race and racism, exploration of their personal racial identity, and by honoring the God-given dignity of human beings. History is replete with the discriminatory injustices that have resulted from the social construction of race, whereby one ethnicity is determined to be superior to another. Race, then, has been used as a tool to “stratify society” — those considered to be white benefit at the expense of persons who are deemed to be nonwhite or “of color” (23). This perspective denigrates the inherent value of groups with a certain physical appearance, thus leading to demoralizing and dehumanizing treatments. The Bible, however, uses race “to emphasize the unified origins of our common humanity,” as well as to refer to all human beings regardless of their ethnicity or the color of their skin (23). Furthermore, the Bible teaches that all humanity was created in the imago Dei, or image of God, which surpasses all social constructs and emphasizes intrinsic equity and mutual respect for all.
The next section, which focuses on relationships, builds on the assertion that getting to know people through friendships and collegiality will allow individuals to “form the coalitions necessary to take on a society rife with racial bigotry” (5). The Christian church is a place of reconciliation and social harmony that should transcend society’s exclusionary practices based on individual differences. As beacons of unity, communities of faith should incorporate the lamentations of those who are hurting from racially unjust practices, corporately confess the sin of racism, and regularly preach about racial reconciliation. Additionally, individuals should not isolate themselves in “homogenous social networks” (119), but should actively seek to forge healthy relationships with persons of different ethnicities, as well as create environments for racial diversity that foster loving interactions.
The last section stresses commitment to the work of racial justice. Christians should readily engage in activism based on their obligation to follow the love ethic — love for God and neighbor. This is the linchpin that brings together the awareness, relationships, and commitment necessary for the fight against racism. God has reconciled humanity to himself through his son, Jesus. Christians also have a social and civil responsibility to stand against unjust racial practices and to reconcile with each other. Consequently, the matter at hand is not “if churches should work for racial justice but how they should do so” (155; emphasis in the original).
How to Fight Racism is a systematic guide to a systemic problem. It features the ARC of Racial Justice which is the basis of Tisby’s prophetic imagination for the church and a model for Christians to follow. It is theologically and biblically sound, historically balanced, and filled with relevant definitions, varied examples, salient questions, and appropriate figures and tables that help to elucidate the main points. It makes for an illuminating reading experience, either for individuals or in a community setting, where meaningful dialogue can occur. It is intended for anyone who would like to participate in the fight against racism, but will be particularly helpful to Christian leaders and laypersons.
Kevin D. Clarke is an assistant professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
Kevin D. Clarke
Date Of Review:
February 17, 2023
Jemar Tisby (BA, University of Notre Dame; MDiv, Reformed Theological Seminary) is CEO of The Witness, Inc., an organization dedicated to Black uplift. He is also cohost of the Pass the Mic podcast and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Color of Compromise. He has spoken nationwide at conferences, and his writing has been featured by the Washington Post, CNN, and The Atlantic. Jemar is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Mississippi studying race, religion, and social movements in the twentieth century.
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