This is my first book of Miquela de la Torre. It is unlikely to be my last. It has now been about three weeks since I fairly quickly read Burying White Privilege. The large movements of the books are not unfamiliar to my previous reading.
Dr de la Torre is not writing against people who have less melanin in their skin, instead (like most writers and thinkers working on issues of race in the church) he is more nuanced:
When I write white Christianity, you might think that I am generalizing and essentializing a broad Euro-American demographic group based solely on the pigment of their skin. However, ontological whiteness has nothing to do with skin pigmentation. This is important, so I will say it again: the word white in my usage has nothing to do with the color of one’s skin. Instead, it has to do with worldview, a way of being, thinking, and reasoning morally. A white Christian can be black, Latinx, Muslim, or atheist. While it might be easier for those with whiter skin to embrace white Christianity, those of us who would never be considered white by our physical appearance have also had our minds so colonized that it is difficult to break free from this white, Christian milieu.
He starts by looking at the narratives of Jesus as anticolonial narratives. “Jesus does more than simply show empathy for the poor and oppressed. He does more than simply express some paternalistic concern. Jesus is the poor and oppressed.”
There is a long middle section that describes what ‘whiteness’ (the culture of white superiority) and then the necessity of self-deception that is required to maintain that culture of whiteness. I certainly highlighted portions of these middle areas (I have 28 highlights for the book that you can see here). The book was written after the election of Trump and there is a lot of frustration expressed about Trump and the support of White Christians for Trump.
I know, because I continually encounter, that many want to talk about racial issues but resist discussion of the politics that are disproportionately connected to racial issues. We, White Chritians, cannot separate discussions of theology and Christian practice from real-world politics, even if we would like to. Part of this is because Christianity in America has been influenced by a type of nationalism as Taking American Back for God discusses. But also because of history.
Most communities of color feel a chill running up their collective spine whenever white folk, ignorant of their own history, chant the need to “Make America Great Again” because those of us who carry the stigmata of United States’ history know all too well how the grinding of our forebear’s lives and the crushing of their bones into dust was the price paid for America’s greatness.
My favorite section of the book was the chapter on ‘Badass Christianity’. It is here that Dr de la Torre is really reconstructing faith after he has deconstructed whiteness.
The Eurocentric modernity project, the so-called Age of Enlightenment, of replacing God with science and reason, has succeeded in giving birth to a God created in its own image, a God who became foundational in the rationalization of necessary murderous and oppressive acts required for the establishment of the global empire of the United States. Such a God has been used to justify what Nietzsche called “master morality,” practiced today by nationalist Euro-American Christians because it encourages power, freedom, and strength. From this God followed an ethical discourse that might challenge humanity to be compassionate (recall George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism), yet seldom challenges the structures that caused inhumane conditions, for such a challenge would threaten the privileged space of those who embrace guts, guns, and God. We embrace patriotic sentiments of supporting our troops or ensuring no child is left behind even while passing massive tax cuts, which assure that the wealthiest segments of society are enriched at the expense of our moral rhetoric and proclamations. Yes, we have killed God, but obviously the wrong God.
Burying White Privilege is not tiptoeing around
The voice of the powerless is permitted to be heard only if it is expressed as a token squeak, in deference to the privileged. Although the white Christian’s foot is on the neck of the marginalized, the oppressed must meekly ask, Good afternoon, Sir, sorry to bother you Sir. May I kindly bring it to your attention that our group is not advancing due to the foot you unintentionally placed upon our neck? Do you have a moment to discuss what we perceive to be an unfortunate situation? We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss your foot in a manner which provides you with a positive and uplifting self-understanding and enlightenment. If not, then perhaps we could schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience. White Christianity prefers to remain ignorant or silent rather than explore how their faith is but a political ideology detrimental to the vast majority of disenfranchised communities.
And his call is clear
For Christianity to be liberating, to be badass, it must move beyond the decent Christianity of the empire. Why? Because the prevalent Christianity of the United States was established on providing justification for the prevailing structures of oppression detrimental to people of color. The failure of Euro-American Christianity to address oppressive structures means we are left with no other choice but to envision new paradigms for marginalized communities, paradigms rooted within their context. Those who benefit from the power and privilege accorded by the dominant culture are incapable of fashioning an objective faith-based response because their standing within society is protected by the prevailing social structures. Whites who chose to become liberated must also move away from their white Christianity and join in solidarity with marginalized communities in order to participate in liberating praxis—that is, they must take actions rooted in the social location of the marginalized.