Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines
Those people. Their issues. The day’s news and the ways we treat each other, overtly or subliminally, prove we are not yet living in post-racial America. It’s hard to talk about race and racism in America without everyone very quickly becoming defensive and shutting down.
What makes talking race even harder is that so few of us actually know each other in the fullness of our stories. A recent Reuters poll found 40% of White people have no friends of other races, and 25% of people of color only have friends of the same race.
Sandhya Jha addresses the hot topic in a way that is grounded in real people’s stories and that offers solid biblical grounding for thinking about race relations in America, reminding us that God calls us to build Beloved Community.
Discussion questions at the end of each chapter provide starting points for reading groups.
Hardcover edition available through Amazon.com
ERRATA: A footnote on page 129 was inadvertently truncated. The full text should read, " Liberation theology is the study of God with the understanding that God is on the side of the oppressed, and that the voice of oppressed peoples should be privileged in the work of addressing systems of oppression." Chalice Press regrets the error.
.....When I write on and reflect on issues of race and ethnicity, I must acknowledge my own social location. I am white, middle-class, male, and highly educated. ....We’re moving quickly to a time when European Americans no longer represent an absolute majority. That can be frightening for some.
It is this growing reality that Sandhya Jha, a Disciples minister and activist who comes from a mixed race family, addresses. Jha currently serves as director of the Oakland Peace Center and serves as an anti-racism trainer for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). ....Sandhya Jha has chosen to identify as mixed race. Although due to being lighter skinned she can pass as white (especially since she has red hair thanks to the Indian contribution of henna as a hair dye), she shares two ethnic heritages. Her father is Indian and Hindu. Her mother is Scottish and Christian. Religiously she has followed the Christian tradition, but respects her father's religion. It is from this perspective that Sandhya writes this wonderfully powerful book for the church.
In the course of the book she takes from the Civil Rights Movement of fifty years in the past to the present situation. We are invited to wrestle with immigration, the stereotype of the angry black man, the stereotype of the perpetual foreigner (where are you from?), class issues, race and religion post 9/11, and more. For some of us the most important chapter may be the one where she deals with the issue of white privilege and how this is navigated. As one who is white and male, I appreciated her challenging but compassionate discussion of this issue. While we who are White benefit from certain privileges that we never asked for but have received anyway, we often feel uncomfortable talking about them. As she continues on she speaks to the challenges of living in a mixed race context, and what she calls the oppression Olympics. What is this? Well it has to do with the way in which minority communities are often pitted against each other. In this regard, she seeks to move us toward a more integrated self and an intersectional faith. What is intersectional faith? Well, it has to do with the fact that there are likely many layers to our lives, which intersect to form our identity, including our spiritual identity. These include things like gender, ethnicity, social class, religion, orientation, and more. While it is important to name these intersections, we also must move beyond them, so that they don't limit us.
The goal to which we are hopefully moving is the creation of the Beloved Community. Martin Luther King spoke of this, and I believe that Jesus himself envisioned it. What is this Beloved Community? Sandhya Jha writes that for her it is "where you and I get to express the complexity of who we are and share the richness of our gifts with one another in ways that benefit the whole community" ((p. 152). Beloved community emerges when we begin to listen to each other's stories, both the beautiful and the painful stories, and recognize our brokenness so as to find healing. In many ways we're not there, but that doesn't mean we can't move toward this vision, even as we seek to navigate life in "pre-post-racial America."
This is a powerful book that uncovers the richness of America’s diverse populations. While it is uncomfortable at points to read this as a person of privilege, and yes I benefit from White Privilege, Sandhya doesn’t allow us to wallow in guilt. The point is not to feel guilty about something I have little control over, but to move in a direction of listening, learning, and partnering. My ability to do this depends on my recognition that I have certain benefits due to my race, gender, and educational standing. Speaking from my own social location, I am greatly appreciative of Sandhya's message. At points it is a difficult message to hear, but at the same time she offers a word of hope for the future. That is a gift to be received! — Excerpts from Robert Cornwall, “Ponderings on a Faith Journey,” April 27, 2015 (Read the entire review here)
"This book uses the powerful tool of storytelling to speak prophetic truth in the most disarming way. It is an excellent resource for pastors, leaders and lay people who want to help their communities journey across the complex terrain of race. Sandhya Rani Jha is a wise thinker who understands that race is best comprehended by those who are brave enough to listen to multiple perspectives. And she invites readers to lend an ear to a diverse collection of wonderfully rich and pointed stories that illuminate the various complex issues — from immigration to black stereotypes to privilege — that impact individuals and racial groups in our far-from-post-racial society. This book will make you want to pray, cry, laugh, reevaluate and act — all in the service of true racial healing." —Cristena Cleveland, author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart
"Sandhya Rani Jha touches our hearts with this compelling vision of the Beloved Community by probing themes of racial/ethnic identity and structural oppression through a spiritual lens. Her soulful intersections of policy analysis, personal narrative, and theological exegesis will resonate with all who seek to address privilege, profiling, and discrimination across racial and religious boundaries. By representing a new generation of freedom activists, Jha effectively challenges racism and fosters solidarity within the human family.” —Ethan Vesely-Flad, organizing director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
"In Pre-Post-Racial America, Sandhya Rani Jha takes us on a tour of the rocky landscape of race and faith in this country. As a seasoned anti-racism teacher, community activist, and faith leader, Jha brings sensitivity and levity to these difficult but deadly important conversations. As protests grow against racist policing and a new generation declares, 'Black Lives Matter,' it is vital that people of faith rise to the challenge of ending racism. Jha has given us a tremendous resource to spark much needed conversations about race and religion, and much needed reflection on how each of us can live the values of our faith and be part of courageous change for a better world.” —Chris Crass, activist and author of Towards Collective Liberation
"Weaving together a complex personal narrative, insightful stories of others, and pointed observations about faith and race in the United States, Jha bridges theory, practice, story, and faith with an economy of words and an an abundance of grace. Great for the classroom, book group, or personal study, Pre-Post-Racial America is a welcomed addition to the ongoing conversations about race." —Bruce Reyes-Chow, author of But I Don't See You As Asian
"Sandhya Rani Jha’s Pre-Post-Racial America is an apocalyptic of the racial landscape of America. Wisely using both personal and social narrative, Jha’s offering gives opportunity for followers of Jesus to practice racial penance in a society that presumes to be post-racial. Jha goes beyond a sterile analysis of race and extends a creative invitation to participate in the Beloved Community.” —Anthony Smith (aka Postmodern Negro), parish pastor, Mission House, Salisbury, NC
“Just when I think Jesus won't survive being deprived of oxygen any longer under the weight of our suffocating indifference to racial intolerance, a prophet like Sandhya Jha steps up. Truthfully, Pre-Post-Racial America is not a book to cozy up next the fire with. I struggled mightily with each page. That's the point. In afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted, Jha begs us to love our neighbors as our self. I pray we listen.” —The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, Baptist minister, queer theologian, and prophetic activist
"Sandhya Rani Jha is doing the work of intersectional justice and revolutionary love in both her personal and professional life. Through Pre-Post-Racial America, she helps us chart a course to beloved community through the complexities of 'scary' topics like white privilege, 'the angry Black man,' and immigration without minimizing the issues or diminishing truth. If you are just considering these issues, an experienced freedom fighter, or somewhere in between, you will find inspiration and practical application in these pages." —Micky ScottBey Jones, writer, speaker, and Transform Network Leadership Team