More than a few white people have asked me for a racial justice reading list over the past few weeks. Part of this is because they have seen me speak out; part of this is because their black friends are exhausted.
Before I give you the list, you should know that the Bible has been the single strongest justice-influence on my life. By far. Please stop dumbing down the Bible. Treat it like the razor-sharp, two-edged sword that it is. Every time I hear somebody claim that Scripture reinforces injustice or that Christianity is a white man’s religion, I realize they either don’t read the Bible, or they are performing gross interpretive malpractice. I beg you to consider reuniting the terms righteousness and justice the way that God does. This was a game-changer for me. The separation of personal “morality” and structural “justice” is an unbiblical tragedy. (Go check out this sermon if interested: What is Justice?)
What follows is in no way a comprehensive list of resources (you can always google search a thorough reading list), but I tried to come up with the first 10 books I would love for you to read, each of which has influenced me.
Woke Church. Eric Mason was with our church in February during our series called, “Jesus, Justice, and Diversity.” This is a God-centered call for the people of God to be awakened by God. Almost a day does not go by that I watch another person make the predictable descent into some “justice” cause devoid of the name and truth of Jesus. Mason’s wake up call could not be more timely.
Stamped From the Beginning. This is an intellectual history of racism in America. The most compelling thought for me was this: discriminatory action comes first; racist ideas are developed to justify.
The New Jim Crow. Blacks make up 13% of the US population, but 40% of the prison population. Something is up. It is truly difficult to entertain the notion of structural and systemic disadvantage, but this book moves the reader to understand.
Just Mercy. We rented a theatre and took our church to watch the movie earlier this year. Love the work this attorney does with inmates on death row.
The Half Has Never Been Told. We know slavery was brutal. But what I didn’t really learn in my childhood education was all the ways our country ascended to the top of the economic food chain. Cheap cotton, planted and picked by slave labor, provided an economic advantage that changed history and violated generations.
The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois wrote this in 1903 to describe the progress of African Americans in America. It is a sobering read, especially when comparing his commentary to that of people in our day.
Daddy King. This is the story of Martin Luther King’s father. I’m not sure why this has meant so much to me, but it helps me trace the making of a leader and the backdrop of moral legacy.
There Are No Children Here. The tragic story of growing up when the cards are stacked against you. Bad neighborhoods, bad systems, bad families can rob a child’s innocence.
The Warmth of Other Suns. The story of the black exodus from parts of the south and the sociological implications upon the people forced to endure it.
White Fragility. Bring up racism and the emotions run high, people become defensive, and things get awkward very quickly. The title is surely an obstacle for some (who wants to see themselves as fragile?), but the conversations need to be had.
Also: Parting the Waters (very long), Long Walk to Freedom (long), The Slave Narratives (long), Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, and everything by John Perkins!
Scripture: These 10 passages have become like like a filtration device for my thinking toward justice.
- Jeremiah 22:16 – He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know Me, declares the Lord?
- Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppressions, bring justice …
- Micah 6:8 – He has told what is good and what the Lord requires of you: Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God,
- Matthew 25 – Whatever you did to the least of these you did unto Me…
- Matthew 23:23 – You hypocrites! You have neglected the weightier matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
- Galatians 2:10 – Remember the poor.
- Romans 1:17 – In the gospel the justice of God is revealed from faith to faith.
- Amos 5:24 – Let justice roll.
- Colossians 3:17 – Whatever you do in word of deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
- Luke 4:18 – The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor … liberty to captives … liberty to those who are oppressed.