If we wait until we are sure we’ll get it “right,” we may never start. Experiment with antiracism work through book studies, speakers, and one time events. When you notice energy around these conversations, don’t be afraid to keep the conversation going!
There are a number of books on antiracism or celebrating diversity that work well for small group study. We have highlighted a handful below. Leave us a comment to let us know about your experiences using these or others that you love!
13 Faith Based Books on Antiracism
The ABCs of Diversity: Helping Kids (and Ourselves!) Embrace Our Differences by Carolyn B. Helsel, Y. Joy Harris-Smith (Chalice Press, 2020) is a great book for opening up conversations with parents about teaching antiracism to children. Each Chapter has an “Activity for Personal Reflection” at the end that could easily be used by a conversation group. Chalice Press also provides downloadable Worksheets to help readers reflect. One drawback is that although faith is clearly important to the authors, scripture passages and principles do not seem to be as explicit as they are in books like Be the Bridge.
Anxious to Talk About It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism by Carolyn B. Helsel (Chalice Press, 2018) has a downloadable Group Study Guide provided by Chalice Press. The guide provides space for participants to journal each week and in addition to a helpful framework and discussion questions for group facilitators. Each session drills down on one or more specific scripture passages.
Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison (WaterBrook, 2019) has discussion questions at the end of each chapter that are both thoughtful and thought-provoking. The author also includes explicit scripture citation throughout the book, which can be helpful for those who are hesitant to join conversations on race at this point in their journey. Digging into these passages as a way of engaging the material can be an onramp for discussion about topics folks find less comfortable. She also offers prayers and liturgies in the book that would work well in small groups.
Black & White: Disrupting Racism One Friendship at a Time by Teesha Hadra and John Hambrick (Abingdon Press, 2019) rolls memoir, practical ideas, and a scriptural basis for antiracism all into one book. Every chapter has multiple questions for personal reflection or discussion. Authors Hadra and Hambrick include excerpts from actual conversations they have had with one another and with other persons which are helpful for readers to reflect on and practice how they might go about a conversation.
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone (Orbis Books, 2013 reprint) is a revealing book in which the author explores the history of two major symbols in African American faith, and the interplay between the two. There is a free Reader’s Guide PDF Download available from Cokesbury (36 questions) that is pretty brief. The Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island offers a more robust “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” Study Guide for download. Participants should be prepared to learn about and discuss specific lynchings that have occurred.
Dialogues On: Race by Lenny Duncan, Rozella Haydée White, Daniel Hill, Broderick Greer, Kristofer Coffman, Cami Jones, and Jim Bear Jacobs (Augsburg Fortress Press, 2019) is the most comprehensive package in this list for groups that prefer that sort of study. There is a Facilitator Guide, a Learner Book, and a DVD with interviews to give viewers an inside look at the center of race today. Contributors come from different denominational backgrounds.
Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation by Jennifer Harvey (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Second Edition 2020) would be particularly helpful in churches or denominational bodies where reparations are being considered. Participants should be prepared to discuss concepts relating to ethics and morality. Dear White Christians Study Questions was written by Ashley Harness (posted by All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Maryland) and Dear White Christians Study Guide based on the first edition is available via the Racial Justice Network of the Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland (2013, InterVarsity Press) is a great study to open up conversation about the social forces at play in church and broader communities. There are group discussion questions at the end of every chapter and Cleveland cites scripture in the first couple of chapters but leans on broader (though accurate) statements about the church more generally later in the book. Still, it is relatively easy to think of examples in scripture, Christian history, and one’s local church that correlate with the social forces being described and those could be utilized in discussion.
Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman (Beacon Press, 1996) was first written in 1949 and is a brief, but powerful, book that stands the test of time. Thurman outlines how Jesus is a co-sufferer in the pain of the oppressed and the example of his life offers an answer to it. Through self-love and love of one another, God’s justice can overcome injustice. Cokesbury offers a Reader’s Guide PDF Download that would be helpful in guiding conversation.
Living into God’s Dream: Dismantling Racism in America edited by Catherine Meeks (2006, Morehouse Publishing) is a collection of essays from individuals involved in the work of dismantling racism in the 21st century. Parts read more like a memoir, parts like a field report, and parts are theological reflections. Some parts include more scripture citations than others. The book includes 3-5 Questions for Individual or Group Reflection per chapter that would be helpful in facilitating a discussion group.
Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson (InterVarsity Press, 2020) turns from focusing on acquiring diversity to the faults of our discipleship that have resulted in the segregation of the church. He suggests that by rethinking our habits, liturgy, and discipleship practices, we will begin to see the diversity of Christ’s body reflected in our churches because we have changed how we imagine and live in the world. David Swanson’s own Discussion Questions are available for download from IVP. Seminary Now offers a Rediscipling the White Church Course that could potentially accompany a group study if a church purchases a Group Viewing license, though this is a bit pricy if your group will not be utilizing the license for any other courses during the annual subscription.
Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil (Second edition 2020, InterVarsity Press) is particularly helpful for groups seeking to make changes in practice or structure (I.e. vestries, councils, leadership teams, etc.). McNeil provides relevant examples from her many years of consulting on reconciliation, scripture passages to explore more deeply, and “Getting Practical” questions to help groups make actionable changes. The clear structures she provides can be empowering for groups.
Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by Kelly Brown Douglas (2015, Orbis) is a fantastic examination of the history, ideology, and theology behind ‘stand your ground’ laws and how we see those lived out in our culture today. Resource UMC offers extensive Stand Your Ground Study Questions written by Kristin Henning. Questions dig deeply into participants’ understanding of particular lynchings, chattel slavery, and concepts like Manifest Destiny and moral identity.
2 Additional Ideas
The following are books written by persons of color who are doing antiracism work and their faith plays an obvious role in their work, though their books are not specifically written for the church or people of faith. Many church groups are utilizing these books by fleshing out the references to the authors’ faith or supplementing reading and discussions with additional faith-based material.
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi (One World, 2019) is a New York Times bestseller that weaves together the author’s personal story, history, ethics, and more. Readers will learn to see different forms of racism more clearly and how to work against racism in both themselves and the systems in which they move. Kendi offers Discussion Questions and Penguin Random House also offers Discussion Questions that could be helpful in facilitating conversation.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (Convergent Books, 2018) is another New York Times bestseller that examines how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility and invites readers to both recognize and be a part of God’s ongoing work in the world. Brown offers a free Downloadable Discussion Guide and has Videos available for purchase.
The Rev. Katherine A. Malloy is the Associate for Lifelong Learning, Director of Christian Formation Resources at Virginia Theological Seminary. She is a Deacon in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church with a secondary appointment at Floris UMC in Herndon. She is passionate about justice and equipping the saints for ministry.