Through my doctoral program this semester, we are engaging with books from different starting points of understanding. We have read books on socioeconomic issues, race and ethnicity, and disability. Each of them has offered a different way of viewing what we regularly bump into every day. It has invited me to see and engage our world through another’s way of seeing and experience. I have found the journey truly eye-opening while offering a space to lament the systemic injustices hidden in plain view.
For example, I shared this quote by Rosemarie Freeney Harding in a meeting this week:
There is no scarcity. There is no shortage. No lack of love, of compassion, of joy in the world. There is enough. There is more than enough. Only fear and greed make us think otherwise. No one need starve. There is enough land and enough food. No one need die of thirst. There is enough water. No one need live without mercy. There is no end to grace. And we are all instruments of grace. The more we give it, the more we share it, the more we use it, and the more God makes. There is no scarcity of love. There is plenty. And always more.
Is this statement true for everyone? We trust it is true most of the time. We live in a place that represents abundance and not scarcity for the most part. Scripture states that we live an abundant life.
One of the comments that came up in our gathering was - well, what about those in ________? It is true; many places in the world do not experience a life defined as abundant, even here in the states. It feels like a false statement for those who are starving, oppressed, thirsty, or without a home.
So in some ways, this statement may be true for me but not for everyone.
Does your opinion about the falseness of this statement change when you hear that Rosemarie Freeney Harding was an African American civil rights activist, social worker, and healer? It was her spirituality that allowed her to experience this kind of freedom and generosity in her life.
The difficulty she experienced in embracing this kind of freedom becomes evident through watching movies such as Harriet and Just Mercy. I highly recommend both of them. They offer a glimpse into the way of life experienced by those impacted by the oppressive structures we have used to form our society.
One of the books I have engaged with this semester is The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. I can’t recommend this book highly enough because Tisby walks through how the systemic structures have been formed throughout history. He clearly states that when we combine power with prejudice, we experience racism. Whenever we view someone as an object to own or control, we experience a hierarchy that is hurtful and incredibly damaging. Taking another's agency is one of the most harmful and degrading ways of relating to another.
And yet, we do this when we do not see the view or the experience of the other. Throughout history, I am heartbroken to see how this has occurred by people who have stated faith in God. For example, those who enslaved others may have tried to treat the enslaved well to appease the uncomfortableness they felt in their oppressive actions. It made them feel better about it, as if they were good caretakers. Yet, their dehumanization and commodification of human beings is still horrific. No amount of proper care makes slavery tolerable.
Tisby also shared how the White American church wanted to see a gradual change to set things right. This statement can only come from the majority group sitting in a place of power. The understanding of gradual change allows oppression to continue and devalues those being oppressed.
It wasn’t the intention and clearly showed that those speaking for gradual change didn't fully understand the implications of what they held true. Tisby states this as a "failure to recognize the daily indignity of American racism and the urgency the situation demanded.”
Yet, we only know what we know, and we can only learn through our own distorted biases. We have to see the lens we use to understand the world to be able to begin to clear the distortion.
Lecrae, in the introduction in The Color of Compromise, shares, "education should lead to informed action, and informed action should lead to liberation, justice, and repair." This place of healing and freedom is the gift of learning more. As we learn, may our actions include opening ways for others.
So what can we do? We can read and discuss together books like Tisby’s and learn more about those who are different from us in a variety of ways. We can listen to those who are both fearful and angry without judgment, to be able to understand their viewpoint. Essential to this a posture of cultural humility. We can embrace the idea that we do not have all the answers or the full picture. And with humility, we can then confront language, thoughts, and actions that are unhelpful, even within ourselves. We can engage in effective advocacy with a community that already does so. We can risk action, knowing we will make mistakes and learn through them.
As we walk this out, may we find healing because it is only in our healing that we can hold space for others.
If you engage with this book or know of others, I would love to hear your thoughts.
 Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering by Rosemarie Freeney Harding with Rachel Elizabeth Harding quoted in Plough, “Daily Dig for February 6,” February 6, 2020, https://us2.campaign-archive.com/?e=99b263795b&u=a6bd3334790eff8d8da4188b1&id=054a111466.
 Tisa Andrews, “Rosemarie Florence Freeney Harding (1930-2004),” BlackPast, February 18, 2004, https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/harding-rosemarie-florence-freeney-1930-2004/
 Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI: 2019), 16.
 Ibid., 137.
 Ibid., 10.
 Ibid., 214.
Hello, I'm Kathi Gatlin. Thanks for stopping by!