Last April, public theologian Ekemini Uwan participated in an interview as part of the Sparrow Women's conference. The focus of the conference was on racial reconciliation.
Here is the uncut version of that discussion, along with a rough transcript.
During this interview, Ms. Uwan made some statements about "whiteness" being "wicked" and the result of "plunder" that led to quite a lot of confusion. Many Christians, including some of those in the audience, are not acquainted with the finer points of Critical Race Theory (CRT), which is the philosophical framework that Ms. Uwan operates within.
This confusion resulted in a firestorm of controversy, including the video being temporarily scrubbed from YouTube. In the weeks that followed, I did my best to assemble an "explainer" video trying to summarize these events and put them into a bit of context.
Months later, Monique (co-host, All The Things) and I were still talking about the importance of the ideas presented in this interview. We thought that it offered a great example of how Critical Race Theory is being introduced to conservative Christian audiences. So we decided to do an extended, 3-part look at Uwan's interview in order to offer some of our thoughts and questions about Critical Race Theory, as well as expose Christians to the basics of this philosophical framework.
Our goal here is not to ridicule or villainize Ms. Uwan. We see her as a sister in the Lord and we share several key points of agreement with her. Here are five such points:
While the Bible recognizes categories like sex, ethnicity, and religion, it does not divide people according to race (differences in skin color). Racial divisions are a social construct that rose to prominence in the 1600s.
Scientific data affirms that the variations in the physical features often associated with different races (e.g., eye color, skin color) are negligible. According to Scripture and science, there is only one race: the human race.
There are many ugly aspects to racial discrimination and abuse that are part of U.S. history. And we believe that it's good for these matters to be openly discussed.
We think that white Americans, especially those who identify as Christians, would be well served to learn more about black history, so that we can have empathy for the "come from" of our black brothers and sisters as we engage in public conversations about race.
While many aspects of systemic racism have been overcome in our country, some still remain. We think Christians would do well to be conversant about these realities facing people of color.
However, we also take issue with many aspects of the Critical Race Theory construct. In this series of conversations, Monique and I raised several questions that we have about Ms. Uwan's presentation of the CRT framework and its importation into Christian churches under the banner of "justice" and "racial reconciliation." Here are a few of those issues.
Should Christians use the framework of Critical Race Theory to interpret Scripture, including its highly specialized definitions of such terms as "whiteness" and "racism"? We think that a better way would be for Christians to construct our own framework for racial reconciliation, one that allows Scripture to shape the parameters of the conversation.
Since "whites" are supposed to "do the work" to return to their culture/ethnicity of origin (e.g., returning to their heritage of being Turkish or Polish), does that mean that Ms. Uwan opposes "inter-racial" or "inter-cultural" or "inter-ethnic" marriages?
How central is a Christian's ethnic identity? On the one hand, Ms. Uwan states that race is a social construct. But on the other hand, she repeatedly asserts that her primary identity is rooted in her race and that she is proud of her "blackness." This seems like a contradiction that can only be resolved if one adopts the CRT framework. We think that Scripture teaches that our identity in Christ supersedes all other racial/ethnic/cultural identities.
How does the Body of Christ become more unified by first becoming more divided according to our ethnic identity?
We don't claim to have these matters all figured out. We still have many questions about how Christians can provide effective leadership to engage in more productive, and respectful, race conversations. For now, we are simply trying to be in the public risk of modeling how to have hard conversations that are rooted in genuine love and relationship. We invite thoughtful feedback about our efforts at attlivestream at gmail dot com.
For more on these issues, we want to recommend these additional resources to help equip you to engage in conversations with those around you.
Article: "Reflections on Ekemini Uwan's Sparrow Interview," by Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer
Interview: "Are White Evangelicals White Supremacists?" interview with Neil Shenvi on the Freemind podcast.
Videos: Visit my extended playlist, "Race Issues and Social Justice" on my YouTube channel.