Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 125

VOLUME 11 NUMBER 1 2015 Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation By Jennifer Harvey. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014. 272 pp. $25.00 paper. Dear White Christians is a book written by a white Christian, addressed to white Christians, about the need to make reparations to our Black (capitalization is Harvey’s original) brothers and sisters if we ever hope to live out the beloved community. In the introduction, Harvey outlines the course of her argument, the clarity and precision of which is evident from the outset. She describes and critiques what she refers to as a “reconciliation paradigm,” then makes a case for a shift to a “reparations paradigm” and finally concludes with examples of recent and hopeful efforts at utilizing the reparations paradigm in the United States. Now, before you stop reading this review because the word “reparations” was uttered, please consider that Harvey might just have a response to the longing that you have as a Christian committed to justice. Dear White Christians is a response to the reconciliation paradigm that is often backed up with the recitation of the fact that, as Dr. King pointed out, the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. The desire by many justice-seeking white Christians is to reconcile with people of color, which, for many, means jumping straight to a process of reconciliation. However, as Harvey argues, the desire to reconcile often shortcuts the necessary work that needs to be done in order for reconciliation to be just. In fact, her historical analysis shows that almost all attempts by Christians at racial reconciliation and integration in churches have failed and in some cases caused further harm to Black Christians. White Christians have benefited in more ways than one through chattel slavery, segregation, and many forms of subjugation and white supremacy that still exist today. Not only have white Christians benefited from these evils, they were also directly responsible as owners of slaves and the ships that brought Africans across the Atlantic. Therefore, before asking our Black sisters and brothers to reconcile with us (as if they had the same responsibilities in this reconciliation as the offenders), we must first redress the wrongs that have been committed and the ways in which we have benefited. Material transfer and structural changes to unjust systems are necessary steps because, as Harvey points out, the evil that has been perpetrated has resulted in both material and structural disadvantages to Black people and benefits to whites. We must move beyond hollow DOI: 124