Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism By Drew Hart - An Excerpt


Trouble I've Seen** :**

Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

By Drew Hart



After my junior year of college, ten friends and I planned a trip to drive across the country. We attended a Christian college in Pennsylvania, and one of our friends lived in the state of Washington. He lived out in a rural part of the state, and someone had the idea of dropping him off at home and exploring the country by car along the way.

So eleven of us piled into two cars in central Pennsylvania and first headed toward Chicago. We drove leisurely, taking almost a week to get to Washington. We saw Mount Rushmore. We made a stop at Yellowstone, which is apparently a dream destination for many young white adults (who knew?). We stayed at some homes of people we knew along the way, and we camped at campgrounds a few times as well. One night we were behind schedule, so the five of us in my car decided that we'd just sleep in the car rather than set up the tent in the dark. That wasn't necessarily the best night's sleep.

I felt a bit out of place while stopping in some all-white small towns across the country while we traveled. I was pretty certain there weren't any other black people around for hundreds of miles. But thankfully we had no problems or incidents on the way, and we finally arrived at our friend's house in Washington.

Watching the change of landscapes across the country was unforgettable. But my friend's house was also amazing. The hills were beautiful, appearing for miles like ocean waves. We really were in the middle of nowhere. You couldn't even see a neighbor's house.

It felt like I had truly jumped into an alternate world. We played basketball, football, and Frisbee-because many young white Christians love them some disc! I played piano for the group, and we sang together. We discussed our faith and our deep questions. We were all totally disconnected from our regular, day-to-day concerns.

And then I got a phone call from my mom.



I have a brother who is one year older than me. For much of my young life we shared a bedroom. We often played and fought together. Others have frequently told me that we look alike. I personally don't see it, though we certainly have similar complexions and builds. We often played basketball together and had a lot of the same interests and experiences growing up. No matter how much we got under each other's skin, as young black men and as brothers, my life was deeply bound up and connected with his.

So there I was, frolicking in the advantages of college life with ten white friends in the middle of nowhere, without a care in the world, when my mom called to tell me about an urgent situation that had developed.

Late one night, my brother was hanging out with friends. They were just minding their business and having a good time. A police car drove by while my brother and his friends were outside and enjoying each other's company.

The cop car drove by again.

Once more the car drove by, but this time the police officers stopped and got out. They immediately arrested my brother for "fitting the description" of someone who had recently committed a crime.

I am still troubled by the lack of description that my brother apparently fit. The only description they had of the guy they were looking for was "black male with a black T-shirt and blue jeans." My brother and his friends were not even at the scene of the crime, nor were they doing anything suspicious at all. But that description was evidently enough for these police officers to arrest and take him to the station.

I later found out that the police also initially claimed that my brother had a bloodstain on his shirt. However, when the lab results came back, they learned that it was just a ketchup stain.

My brother was eventually put into a lineup before the victim in the case. Of course he was not chosen, and finally he was released.

But not before he had spent four months locked up in the county correctional facility.

His crime? Being a young black man in a white-controlled society.



Things could have ended up much worse for my brother. I can't exactly call him "lucky," but when black males encounter the police and the judicial system in the United States, things often go very, very badly, whether or not those arrested are guilty. I had always known that being black left one vulnerable in this country, and I certainly had heard about many other black folks dealing with similar or worse situations.

But when my brother, whom many people have said I resemble, was arrested purely based on the description "black male with a black T-shirt and blue jeans," I began to realize how easily something like that could happen to me. Though far worse things happen routinely for black people when going through the judicial process, this event awakened me to the way our nation collectively and quietly accommodates the terrorizing of black people's everyday lives.

Blackness is a visible marker that justifies suspicion, brutality, and confinement by white society. In America, being black has always been defined and understood by the majority group in negative ways: criminal, lazy, obnoxious, ugly, and depraved. White society often deploys static stereotypes and then throws a single blanket over our diverse African American community, denying the beauty and uniqueness of each of us. My brother's experience immediately increased my awareness of my blackness in a country that continues to stigmatize it as a problem to solve.

It's not always evident how divided our country is. We are inundated by singing and dancing celebrities, intrigued by suspenseful Thursday nights of scandals and murders, and allegiant to the multibillion-dollar corporations that feed us our sports. With these weapons of mass distraction being deployed, many people ignore the ongoing suffering and the deep racial division that is pervasive and has never gone away. But right below the surface, for four hundred years, deep disagreements about race in America have been boiling.

Trouble I've Seen by Drew G. I. Hart pp. 13-16. Used by permission.


Drew G. I. Hart  is a blogger, PhD candidate in theology and ethics, and activist. His blog, Taking Jesus Seriously, is hosted by the Christian Century, and he speaks regularly at churches, universities, and seminaries. He and his family live in Philadelphia.



What if racial reconciliation doesn't look like what you expected?

What if all Christians listened to the stories of those on the racialized margins? How might the church be changed by the trouble we've seen?

The high-profile killings of young black men and women by white police officers, and the protests and violence that ensued, have convinced many white Christians to reexamine their intuitions when it comes to race and justice.

In this provocative book, theologian and blogger Drew G. I. Hart places police brutality, mass incarceration, anti-black stereotypes, poverty, and everyday acts of racism within the larger framework of white supremacy. Leading readers toward Jesus, Hart offers concrete practices for churches that seek solidarity with the oppressed and are committed to racial justice.



In this raw, honest, truth-telling book, Drew Hart offers himself-his life, his story, his tears, his fire-in the most vulnerable way in the hopes of interrupting the vulgar disposability of black lives in our society.  This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in this country. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you -and our blood-stained streets. Drew Hart's Trouble I've Seen is a memoir in the tradition of the blues . . . it is theological blues . . . and it will move you to do something about the ugly residue of racism that still haunts us. -Shane Claiborne, activist and author of The Irresistible Revolution

Trouble I've Seen** :**

Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

Author:  Drew Hart

Product Code:  00004

ISBN:  9781513800004   

Publication Date:  1/19/2016

Retail:  $16.99 USD

Binding Information:  Paper

Pages:  256

Size:  5.5 x 8.5  

Category:  RELIGION / Christian Life / Social Issues


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