by Paula Harris and Doug Schaupp
Defensive about your whiteness? Cringe at the phrase “dead, white males”? This book would have been absurd thirty-five years ago. Now it puts a face to white pain—like the pain of the woman told that she could not speak in a Latin American studies class due to her whiteness.
InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2004, 192 pages, $13.00.
—Reviewed by Jim Sutherland, director of Reconciliation Ministries Network and missionary to African Americans.
Defensive about your whiteness? Cringe at the phrase “dead, white males”? This book would have been absurd thirty-five years ago. Now it puts a face to white pain—like the pain of the woman told that she could not speak in a Latin American studies class due to her whiteness. The book helps whites embrace their identity, and brings new and different meaning to the phrase “white man’s burden.” Both authors believe God wants whites to displace themselves and live as minorities. They understand that the way up is down. They humbly advocate “white power” on behalf of others.
The authors speak from personal experience. Both married spouses of different ethnicity, and have journeyed in self-scrutiny, repentance and displacement. You can’t “out-psychologize” them. Like defensive ends, they anticipate the ways we try to dance out of ethnic trouble, then nail us.
Insightful, well-reasoned discussion questions assist predominantly white groups to raise ethnic awareness and resolve conflict. The authors lead true guilt to the cross, realizing that sensitivity alone doesn’t atone. They warn against the immobilization that can result from fear of offense. Eloquent ethnic vignettes pepper the book and are helpful to field missionaries: “Making and keeping friendships with people of color,” “Going deeper in cross-cultural friendships,” and “Finding our white identity in Christ.”
Harris seems to confuse shame with guilt. “If we feel ashamed of being white, we are not confessing specific sins, replacing it with good choices and letting God restore us” (127). Confession befits guilt, not shame. Also, Harris contends that it is unjust that forty-two percent of death row inmates and fifty-four percent of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the US are black. Yet this disproportionateness is not necessarily the product of white racism. The authors place the blame on white sins of the past and on lingering systemic racism without addressing other factors, such as well-intentioned welfare programs that may contribute to the disparity between blacks and whites.
Despite outstanding scriptural insights in Nehemiah and elsewhere, some exegetical conclusions are questionable. Overall, however, this is a timely volume which leaves whites less defensive and more helpful among the nations.
Check these titles:
Grigg, Viv. Companion to the Poor: Christ in the Urban Slums. Rev. ed. Monrovia, Calif.: MARC, 1990.
Sowell, Thomas. Race and Economics. New York: David McKay Co., 1975.
Sowell, Thomas. The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1983.
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