Jemar Tisby: How One Person Can Take Us Closer to Racial Justice

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, march on Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Burdened by the brutality of racism in America, Martin Luther King Jr. stepped to the microphone near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. That was August 28, 1963. More than 50 years later, how far has the American church come in terms of race relations?

If the 21st century is to be different from the previous four centuries, then the American church must exercise even more creativity and effort to break down racial barriers than it took to erect them in the first place.

The most frequent question I get when presenting about racial justice is, What do we do? After years of listing random action items, I have now grouped them into three broad categories.

The ARC (Awareness, Relationships, Commitment) of racial justice helps distinguish different types of antiracist actions. Though not the final word on antiracism, the ARC of racial justice provides a useful framework for taking decisive action against discrimination.

To increase your capacity to fight your own complicity in racism, you can start by increasing your awareness of the issues and the people involved. One particularly fruitful place to start is by reading and learning more about the racial history of the United States. History is about context, so studying history remains vital. It teaches us how to place people, events, and movements within the broader scope of God’s work in the world.

Context is something Bible-believing Christians should understand better than anyone. In our passionate pursuit of biblical interpretation, we know that we must always look at the context. It’s no different with racial justice. We have to develop an awareness of the context to properly exegete the times and apply biblical solutions.

“The Color of Compromise” and author Jemar Tisby. Book photo courtesy of Zondervan. Portrait courtesy of Acorn Studio

Some action steps to increase your awareness include the following:
• Watch documentaries about the racial history of the United States.
• Diversify your social media feed by following racial and ethnic minorities and those with different political outlooks than yours.
• Access websites and podcasts created by racial and ethnic minorities.
• Do an internet search about a particular topic instead of always asking your black friend to explain an issue to you.

Awareness isn’t enough. No matter how aware you are, your knowledge will remain abstract and theoretical until you care about the people who face the negative consequences of racism.

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Source: Religion News Service