Summary: Making the argument that racism is antithetical to the gospel and that the church needs to work to overcome it. With the primarily example that reaching out and building relationships as the best means to more fully understand and build coalitions within the church to overcome racism.
If I had not met John Hambrick a couple times (he is one of the pastors at my church), I do not think I would have picked up Black and White: Disrupting Racism One Friendship at a Time. I do not need to be convinced that racism is one of the evils that must be confronted in society and especially within the church. And I am highly skeptical about the structure of addressing racism from individual relationships instead of from a more systemic perspective.
But I have met John and we have previously talked about racial issues more generally and within our own church. So I was willing to give this book a try. While this is a book that talks about individual relationships as a means to gain understanding about the racial divide in our world, it does not present racism as a problem of individual animus based on skin color, but as a systematic cultural problem (as I believe that it is.)
The friendship framing is not about solving the problem of racism as a whole, but to gain understanding. I do still have a problem with White people seeking out minorities to be friends with out of purely utilitarian purposes and not an actual desire for friendship, but that is not what this book is advocating.
Instead this is a look at what racism is, why the church needs to deal with it and a number of the common issues that prevent Christians from really addressing race. I have read pretty widely in research about racism and around history and methods of addressing racism, and there is much to commend here. Many of the best books I have read on racism are not from a Christian perspective. In most ways, the Christians writing about race are at least a step behind at this point. But while Black and White is pitched to a more introductory level, the background of the content is on point and not simplistic.
Coincidentally, I started going to a short-term small group dealing with racial issues within the church that is similar in theme. It is called Conversations and is based on a curriculum from another local church, which is also providing facilitator for the small group (you can read more about it here).
The small groups at our church are only four weeks, but after two weeks I was honestly extremely impressed with the work being done. So maybe I have under valued simple relationship building as one means to address racism.
Black & White is well written and easy to read. I finished it in just a couple days. The hard work is not reading or gaining information, but building relations. And while simple relationships are not a magic bullet, they can be as part of an intentional strategy of moving toward anti-racism, and they can be a helpful starting point for many.