Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Ruth Krall's New Study Course "Black Lives Matter": A Valuable Educational Resource.

Ruth Krall

If Robert P. Jones is correct when he writes that white Christianity has served throughout American history as "the central source of moral legitimacy for a society explicitly built to value the lives of white people over Black people," then white American Christians would appear to have a massive educational challenge confronting them. White US Christians would seem urgently to need educational resources permitting them to begin to understand and come to terms with their cultural effect as a major sustainer of white supremacy. Jones makes the claim I've just cited in his new book White Too Long, where he writes

White Christian churches have not just been complacent or complicit in failing to address racism; rather, as the dominant cultural power in the U.S., they have been responsible for constructing and sustaining a project to protect white supremacy. Through the entire American story, white Christianity has served as the central source of moral legitimacy for a society explicitly built to value the lives of white people over Black people. And this legacy remains present and measurable in the cultural DNA of contemporary white Christianity, not only among evangelicals in the South but also among mainline Protestants in the Midwest and Catholics in the Northeast.

For churches, academic groups, and others seeking educational resources to meet the challenge of understanding how white supremacist ideologies work and what we can do about them, I highly recommend a valuable educational resource that Ruth Krall has recently made available at her Enduring Space website. This is a curriculum for a study course entitled "Black Lives Matter." 

Ruth describes the objective of "Black Lives Matter" as follows:

[To] [d]evelop awareness of African-American culture and history. As part of this objective each student will begin a process of critiquing and de-constructing the dominant cultural history she or he has been taught by American popular culture.

Ruth's posting about her "Black Lives Matter" course includes a link that allows you to download the curriculum, including an extensive reading list she has compiled for her course — a very valuable contribution, since it's comprehensive and it creatively combines a number of resources in various media. Noting that she is certainly far from the exception in this regard, Ruth tells readers that she has compiled her study list after having recognized how little her education as a white woman in 20th-century America prepared her to hear Black voices, to appreciate Black experiences, or to know Black history. 

Ruth writes,

[N]one of my college religion courses, and none of my college history courses addressed the racial divide in North America not did it address slavery as a festering sore – a cancerous lesion - in the nation’s history. My literature classes did not assign black authors. My arts classes did not identify black artists. Black invisibility was almost – but not quite – 100%. 

After another presidential election in which it appears that more than half of the nation's white Christians once again voted for the candidate who has openly espoused white supremacy and openly attacked immigrants, I'd love to see Ruth's course adopted by more than one white church seeking to educate its members about why Black lives matter. (It costs nothing for me to dream, does it?)

As John Gehring wrote recently,

The dividing line of race is old as our democracy, and as enduring as evidence from the presidential election. After four years of watching President Donald Trump demonize Muslims, enact cruel policies that target migrants, refuse to clearly condemn white supremacists, and disparage the Black Lives Matter movement, white Christians stuck with Trump in large numbers.

Race and ethnicity continue to eclipse religion as a driver of voting patterns. According to preliminary data from AP Votecast, more than half of white Catholics (57%) voted for Trump, compared to 67% of Latino Catholics who supported Biden. 

If we care — and that's, of course, a big proviso — we need to do a better job of educating ourselves about why Black lives matter. We white Christians in particular very obviously need to do a much better job in that regard. For that reason, I very much appreciate Ruth Krall for compiling and making available these educational resources in her course entitled "Black Lives Matter." 

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