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Now is the time to learn all you can about racism and white supremacy

Bishop Carlye J. Hughes

We can't simply wish racism and white supremacy away, says Bishop Hughes – we will have to do the work. To prepare for that work, we need to not only work on our spiritual lives, but also learn as much as we can about the history of racism and white supremacy in our country, and she suggests some books and films as a starting point. (Time: 5:17.)

Video Transcript

This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. Last week I sent a message out to the diocese encouraging every member of the diocese to take intentional steps to support the growth and the deepening of their spiritual lives. My sense at the time, and even stronger now, is that with the level of need and intensity and pressure that we are experiencing due to continued racial violence, that it is going to take strong Christians. It is going to take people who think like Christians, act like Christians, and steadfastly bring the love of God into the world. It is going to take people who are strong in their faith in order to go the entire distance needed to make a difference, so that we bring not only racial violence, but racism in any form to an end.

I want to add to that encouragement. It's important to work on our spiritual lives and then the next step is let's work on our learning. Let's make sure that we know what we are talking about. I find that when we start talking about racism, and especially when we start talking about white supremacy and the impact on people in our country and on their day to day experience of life, that there are many people with many opinions, and there are a few people with strong experiences, and very few people that know our history. That understand why those experiences are happening, that understand why they have the opinions that they have, that understand that in our country we have enacted laws, some 400 years old, some more than 300 years old, some more than 200 years old, some decades old, but we have enacted laws again and again and again that have created a climate of racism enforced by white supremacy. But you have to know our history to know that. But there's nothing personal in our history there is simply the truth.

So I want to invite you to continue doing the work on your spiritual life, continue naming the promises of the Baptismal Covenant out loud, continue reading and meditating and thinking and praying about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and giving that as much time as you do to reading the news or listening to the news or a news talk show. And to continue starting every day and ending every day asking yourself in the morning, "God what do you have me to do this day," and in the evening, "How did I see God in this day," and then add to that – do some reading. Do some studying.

If you have not read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, now is the time. If you have not read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, now is the time. If you have not read Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy, now is the time. By the way with Just Mercy and with Michelle Alexander's book there are film versions of those that you can see too. 13th is the story, is a documentary based on some of the teaching from Michelle Alexander's book, and Just Mercy is the film that is streaming for free on all kinds of platforms right now. I would suggest reading the book first before you see the film versions of those.

No matter what now is the time for study. If you've already read those books then I want to refer you to our Namaste Virtual Library. Find something else to read. Learn all that you can about the history of this country regarding racism and white supremacy. Some of it will take you by surprise. Some of it will help you understand what you are doing. But most of all, it will inform the work that we as individuals and as a diocese and as a community and as a nation have to do.

We can't simply wish racism and white supremacy away. We will have to do the work. It will take knowing that we are Christians, that God is leading us on this path, and it will take knowing our history.

Bishop Hughes' Recommendations


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander


Just Mercy (2019)

13th (2016)


At a time when it is easy to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start to repair this world, I am grateful for your leadership, Bishop.  Your concrete suggestions for learning and for daily self-examination and your challenge to us to better understand how we came to this place as a country are all good guidance.

We are fortunate to have your leadership in this moment, and I am hopeful that we can use this moment to spur ourselves to both prayer and action. 

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