On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I asked Jemar Tisby—president of the Reformed African American Network (RAAN) and co-host of the Pass the Mic podcast—about what’s on his nightstand, what he re-reads, books that have shaped his understanding of racial justice, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
I’m in the seminar phase of my doctoral studies, so I have almost no time for “extracurricular” reading. But since my focus is on 20th-century race and religion, I have the distinct blessing of enjoying all of my required reading. I just finished W. E. B. Dubois’s Black Reconstruction in America (1935), a correction to misinterpretations concerning black people and the period after the Civil War.
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?
In my work with race and Christianity, I keep coming back to Michael Emerson and Christian Smith’s Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. These two sociologists do an excellent job of diagnosing the problem of why we have a black church and a white church in the first place. Part of the analysis includes an explanation of how white evangelicals’ cultural tools actually short-circuit their attempts to achieve the racial reconciliation they say they want.
Another book I keep circling back to is Matthew Lassiter’s The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South (actually, the whole series is great: Politics and Society in 20th-Century America). Lassiter observes:
The ascendance of color-blind ideology in the metropolitan South, as in the rest of the nation, depended upon the establishment of structural mechanisms of exclusion that did not require individual racism by suburban beneficiaries in order to sustain white class privilege and maintain barriers of disadvantage facing urban minority communities.
He links class, space, and race to explain how and why conservative politics became embedded in white suburbia. In doing so, he shows why personal animus isn’t required to support racist structures.
What books have most profoundly shaped how you view gospel ministry?
Christians in the United States should read more books by those who could be termed “black evangelicals.” The example par excellence of these leaders is John Perkins. His book Let Justice Roll Down is equal parts biography and framework for gospel justice. It demonstrates the vital connection between personal salvation and the public good. Perkins taught me there is no contradiction between a gospel that saves individual souls and a gospel that agitates for justice toward the oppressed. Individual faith that doesn’t express itself in the vigorous pursuit of equity is a faith that must be re-examined.
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition