WTL Conversations S2E10 [video]: Jesus, John Wayne, and Biblical Womanhood - With Beth Allison Barr, Aimee Byrd, and Kristin Du Mez
A powerful trilogue to kick off Women's History Month, courtesy of "Birds of a Feather"
Dear #WhiteTooLong readers,
I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off Women’s History Month than with this engaging trilogue between Beth Allison Barr, Aimee Byrd, and Kristin Du Mez, hosted by Mike Bird and Devi Abraham over at “Birds of a Feather” on YouTube.
Before we get to that, a few updates on my end.
Updates from the Field
I’m happy to report that I have my next book, tentatively titled Until Hope and History Rhyme: How Communities are Healing from Racial Violence in America, well underway. The demands of that writing may mean that my formal writing here may be a bit more spaced out, but I’ll continue to give weekly updates on that work, including insights from ongoing research and site visits, as it progresses between now and the end of the summer. And I’ll keep bringing you weekly conversations from a wide range of writers who are contributing to the work of truth-telling and healing from the legacy of white supremacy in the country and in Christian churches.
White Too Long is a reader-supported publication. To support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Why I Write
Before I present this week’s conversation, I’d like to share a personally meaningful experience—one that reminded me of why I write. Like all writers, after laboring over a book for multiple years, I am of course gratified to see positive outward indicators that the work is having an impact: positive reviews, formal awards, speaking invitations, sales, book club adoptions, and even the “good trouble” of controversy.
But every now and again, I get a window into a positive difference the writing has made in a specific community, in a particular person’s life. Often, this revelation comes from a personal note that arrives at the PRRI office or in my inbox. But yesterday afternoon, it arrived via Courtland Milloy’s column at The Washington Post, in an article entitled, “The making of a global citizen means teaching your kids about racism.”
Milloy is a beltway fixture who has been covering DC metro area politics and culture since 1975. He has a knack, as he puts it on his Twitter profile, for “discovering people on the street and putting them in columns for The Washington Post.” His deeply personal profiles are always windows into the wider cultural fabric of the community.
Milloy tells an inspiring story of creative and courageous parenting by Jacinth and Miguel Green. But he also reveals the heartbreaking reality of the racism their two daughters have encountered while attending a public elementary school in Fairfax County, Virginia—the state that where Governor Glenn Youngkin made opposition to Critical Race Theory central to his campaign.
After returning to the U.S. from six years in Senegal and India, where their daughters attended international schools that upheld the values of pluralism and global citizenship, the Greens found their daughters the target of racism.
“Almost as soon as my kids started school, one of them came home asking why somebody had told her that her skin looked like dirt,” Jacinth Green recalled. Teachers were making comments about their hair, and a white student disrupted a presentation about slavery by joking about the cost of buying an enslaved African.
Milloy’s article is powerful not only because it shows the real harm to African American kids that is happening because of the climate of fear created by the bluster over Critical Race Theory, but also because he shows how parents of color are creatively resisting these destructive forces at home. The Greens, for example, are creating a multi-room mural depicting 5,000 years of Black progress together as a family and reading a broad range of books to help their children understand the present conflicts.
I was deeply moved that Jacinth Green cited my book, White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, as a resource that she and her family have used to help understand the historical and cultural forces at play.
Here’s the full quote from the column:
Another book she found helpful was “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,” written by Robert P. Jones in 2020. Jones was head of the Public Religion Research Institute, a polling firm that looks at politics and religion.
The book makes a case, as Jones puts it, that “American Christianity’s theological core has been thoroughly structured by an interest in protecting white supremacy.” He lays out the ways White Christianity has been the primary cultural and religious institution creating the nation’s racial caste system, and he calls on his fellow White Christians to cease with their imagined sense of superiority and anti-Black racism.
In other words, racism is not just personal. It’s also institutional. Just bigger obstacles to overcome.
This difference in the life of one family—more than any other metric—is why I write.
A Trilogy of Books Against Christian Patriarchy
This week, I’m featuring a wide-ranging and insightful trilogue between Aimee Byrd, Kristin Du Mez, and Beth Allison Barr about their respective books concerning Christianity, culture, and patriarchy. The conversation (60 minutes) was hosted last May by Mike Bird and Devi Abraham on the “Birds of a Feather” YouTube channel.
Byrd, Du Mez, and Barr cover a lot of ground in this discussion, but key questions include the following: Why did your book have to be written? How has your book been received? How do male responses to the book prove the point of the books? What would a man get out of reading your book? What is the # 1 thing that has to change in the churches?
Before closing, a quick shout out to Mike Bird, who hosts the YouTube channel and also has a substack newsletter. Here’s a column where he’s responding to a negative view of Barr’s book.