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For Black History Month, historian, author, and speaker Jemar Tisby joins Latasha Morrison and Jefferson Jones on the Be the Bridge Podcast. This full conversation brings wisdom, context, and encouragement as they talk about current headlines, the importance of context in history, white Chritian nationalism, navigating church, and more.

Jemar wraps up the conversation by saying, “God makes His biggest moves with the smallest resources. So hang in there.” And ultimately that is what we hope this episode reminds you – the story of Black history is important, God is at work, and together we can persevere.

Join in the conversation on our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn to let us know your thoughts on this episode! 

Host & Executive Producer – Latasha Morrison
Senior Producer – Lauren C. Brown
Producer, Editor, & Music – Travon Potts with Integrated Entertainment Studios
Assistant Producer & Transcriber – Sarah Connatser

Quotes:

“God cannot heal what we conceal. So we have to have an adequate record of history, a true record of history.” -Latasha Morrison

“Make sure you find your people, find your community as you go through these difficult and hard waters that we’re all experiencing right now.” -Latasha Morrison

“This month is so important, not just to Black people, but to all people.” -Jefferson Jones

Links:
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Resources Mentioned:
The Color of Compromise book by Jemar Tisby
How to Fight Racism book by Jemar Tisby
How to Fight Racism: Young Readers Edition book by Jemar Tisby
Pass the Mic Podcast
Brown Faces, White Spaces book by Latasha Morrison
“We Could be Getting So Much More out of Black History Month” CNN Opinion article by Jemar Tisby
God and Country movie
“White Nation Under God” Footnotes Podcast series
“Those Meddling Kids” Footnotes Podcast series
“Leave Loud” Pass the Mic Podcast series
The Spirit of Justice: Stories of Faith, Race and Resistance book by Jemar Tisby

Connect with Jemar Tisby:
His Website
His Substack
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter

Connect with Be the Bridge:
Our Website
Facebook
Instagram
Threads
Twitter
Be the Bridge Podcast YouTube

Connect with Latasha Morrison:
Facebook
Instagram
Threads
Twitter

Not all views expressed in this interview reflect the values and beliefs of Latasha Morrison or the Be the Bridge organization.

Narrator
You are listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast with Latasha Morrison.

Latasha Morrison
[intro] How are you guys doing today? It’s exciting!

Narrator
Each week, Be the Bridge Podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.

Latasha Morrison
[intro] …but I’m gonna do it in the spirit of love.

Narrator
We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.

Latasha Morrison
Be the Bridge community. This is Latasha Morrison here, the Founder and CEO of Be the Bridge. And I got my buddy Jefferson Jones here. I’m excited. But we have a special guest, a person that you know what I’ve gotten to know over the last year and can really call him friend. I love his heart. I love how he brings everybody else along. Mr. PhD himself, Mr. Jemar Tisby. (clapping audio) Welcome to the Be the Bridge Podcast. And just so that you guys know a little bit about him. He is the author of the New York Times best selling book, The Color of Compromise: the Truth about the Church’s Complicity in Racism. He also wrote How to Fight Racism and How to Fight Racism: Young Readers Edition. He is also a Professor of History at Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville. Jemar is the co-host of Pass the Mic Podcast. He speaks nation wide on topics of racial justice, US History, Christianity. Jemar earned his PhD in history and studies of race, religion, and social movements in the 20th century. If you don’t know anything about him, make sure you follow his newsletter. And he also has a Substack called Footnotes. And he’s on social media @jemartisby. So welcome to the Be the Bridge Podcast. That was a mouthful. You are busy brother.

Jemar Tisby
Listen. I’m trying to be like you. As soon as you said, “Founder. CEO.” I’m like boss lady. She’s the boss. She’s in charge. (laughter)

Latasha Morrison
I call you my New York Times bestseller list twin, because we did it the same year.

Jemar Tisby
Same time. Absolutely.

Latasha Morrison
Yeah. Yeah. So yeah. But listen, Jemar, there’s a lot of us in this space, as African Americans and leadership can be a lonely space in this space of racial healing. And Jemar and several others have just come alongside and just help support. We mentor each other in that sense. We’re able to dialogue and talk about personal things that’s going on. It’s just some good stuff. So I’ve gotten to know him really well over the last year. So I’m just grateful for that and how leaders carve out space for other leaders during this time. Now listen, it’s Black History Month. Jemar!

Jemar Tisby
(singing) It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (laughter) Everbody wants to say it’s Christmas. But for a historian, Black History Month that’s it.

Latasha Morrison
It’s Super Bowl! (laughter)

Jemar Tisby
And by the way, Super Bowl is in Black History Month. Yeah.

Jefferson Jones
That’s a good one, Latasha, that’s a good one.

Latasha Morrison
(laughter) But listen, people always seem to cut up during this month. We can never get a break from it. Right? And so we, you know, we just got to start off with setting the record straight. Now, those of you, if you’re new to our community, this may be new information. If you’ve been with us for a while, if you listen to the podcast, you know. Because you are been formed to understand the process of racial healing and what that looks like through biblical justice. And so, one of the things that we talk about is lamenting our history and having a common history. One of the things we talk about is truth telling and making sure that, you know, God cannot heal what we conceal. So we talked about how we have to have an adequate record of history, a truth record of history. And so, in the news recently, there was a statement that was made. And that was kind of all over the internet and the socials. And I’m thinking like, “Are we still here? Like, wait a minute. Did we just miss the last six, seven years that we’ve had these conversations?” So it’s almost frustrating, as you know, a BIPOC person in this country, when we have leaders to say that America has never been a racist country, when we have racial categories, most of us that are on this call, our parents, we’re just one generation removed from segregation, from the Voting Rights Act, from the Housing Rights Act. There’s legacies all over us, all around this. We are still suffering from that in our community. And when someone says that, you’re looking like, they’re not living in reality. What are we thinking?

Jemar Tisby
Are we are we naming names? Can we talk about who said it?

Latasha Morrison
Yeah, go ahead and say it. Yes. Who said it? Yeah, let’s, but I want, I have the historian here. And so I just want you to address that. You know, we know that those who continue to listen to Be the Bridge, they know this. But this is a podcast they can share. And if people are confused about this, but I think people are willfully confused. So I just wanted Mr. Jemar Tisby, Professor of History, to explain to people why that is a really a blasphemous statement.

Jefferson Jones
So are we going to use the the official name or the made name to be accepted in the society?

Latasha Morrison
The what?

Jefferson Jones
Cause this person has two names.

Jemar Tisby
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a good point Jefferson. Because the new cycle moves so swiftly folks have probably forgotten this happened, even though it was a big deal when it did. So, Nikki Haley, who is the only remaining contender for the Republican nomination for president was at some sort of town hall, some interview and somebody point blank asked her, you know, what was the cause of the Civil War? And she wouldn’t say it was slavery. As a matter of fact, she went even further and said the US is not a racist nation, not a racist country. Right? Which was patently ridiculous. And the internet, understandably, blew up around this. And to your point, Jefferson, if the US is not a racist country, if it’s got equality of opportunity for everyone, Nikki Haley, why did you change your name from Nimarata? Because she’s a first, her parents are Indian immigrants. And she’s the first generation born in the US and they named her Nimarata. Right? But she goes by Nikki, Nikki Haley. And if you didn’t know what she looked like, or any of her background, you would think this is a white woman. Right? Well why is that? She knows what’s going on. And as a matter of fact, this speaks to the immigrant experience more broadly. So we just diving right in here.

Latasha Morrison
Yes, we going in!

Jemar Tisby
I am counting on the fact, that we have, you know, walked your folks, your listeners in so that when they hear me they can receive me and understand my heart behind this thing. And I’m not trashing anybody or downing anybody. But let’s talk about reality. So when immigrants come to this nation, as would we if we were going to another country, we would look at the landscape and say, “Who’s got it best? Who’s kind of making the most of this situation and has the most privileges, most opportunities? And how can we get in with them? Because we want the same things for ourselves, for our families.” Well when you come to the US who has it best? And I’m speaking as a group. Right? Here’s the thing with white people, they immediately say, “Well, white people don’t have it best. My family did this. My family did that. I’m going through this.” Yes. On an individual level. But socially. Corporately. Systemically. I think we need a book on this Miss Morrison. Wait a minute! (laughter)

Latasha Morrison
(laughter) It’s coming! It’s coming!

Jemar Tisby
I just put your book right in there. (laughter) Listen, we dive right in. Let me back up a little bit. Okay. So her statement is patently false. But understand what’s going on. She’s a smart woman. She’s studied. She knows the history. She even, here’s the evidence. She went on Saturday Night Live, which I’m still mad at SNL for having her come on and make light of this. She went on Saturday Night Live and in the cold open. She is there, the real Nikki Haley talking to an actor playing Donald Trump. And as part of that sketch, she says, “Yeah, I probably should have just said the Civil War was about slavery.” Because they asked that, right. And my frustration is they made light of a very serious situation, which we can do, but not in this particular instance, I don’t think it was helpful. Because it sort of let her off the hook, in a funny way. It’s like, “Oops, my bad should have had a V8.” No, no, no. You are running for nomination to be President of the United States. If you cannot forthrightly declare that the main issue of the Civil War was over the future of race based chattel slavery, then you don’t get a pass for that. Right?

Latasha Morrison
Yeah, yeah.

Jemar Tisby
But here’s what was going on. Nikki Haley knows her constituents. Regardless of what she personally believes about US history and slavery, she knows what she can and cannot say to get Republican votes in this current climate. So she knows that if she came right out and said, what we know, what we all know and understand and can prove that the Civil War’s main issue was about the future of slavery. If she came out and said that she knew she would lose votes. She would lose support, that people on the right and further to her right would have something to say. So when she answered that question, she was not answering factually, she was answering politically. I will say that again so you catch it. She was not answering factually, she was answering politically. And guess what? That’s not just Nikki Haley at the presidential level. You can go on down to the state level, you can look at governors, you can look at state representatives, you can even look at school boards, it’s not that they don’t have the knowledge or the information, it’s that they’re pandering to a political audience to score political points. So many of these folks, particularly at the grass tops and the leadership level, as opposed to the grassroots and the folk level, they know what they’re doing. And they’re being manipulative toward the grassroots. So that’s how I would parse that situation and say, if we don’t understand what’s going on, we can sit here and be bewildered. “Well, how could she say the Civil War is not about slavery? Does she not know?” Yes, she knows. But she’s playing a game. And we’re getting beat at that game, politically speaking.

Latasha Morrison
You see, I wish I had an organ to play behind you. That needed an organ. (laughter) And thank you, and this is the thing, if you didn’t know and you’re listening to this podcast, now you do know. Because it’s simple. Everything Jemar just said, you can pick up, you can google South Carolina. That’s the state that she’s from. She was the Governor. She’s the one that actually removed the Confederate flag from the top of the State House. She knows the history. Okay? And you can just Google South Carolina Declaration of Secession 1860. And it has it all in there.

Jemar Tisby
South Carolina was the first state to secede. December 1860.

Latasha Morrison
Yes! 1860.

Jemar Tisby
Mississippi was second. They followed South Carolina. And by the way, you know, I’m sure we’re going to talk about what do we do about stuff like this.

Latasha Morrison
Yes.

Jemar Tisby
Well one of the things we can do is learn from activists and artists and community organizers like Bree Newsome, Bass, who folks will remember climbed the flagpole in front of the South Carolina State House to physically take down the Confederate flag. I believe this was back in 2015. And mind you, South Carolina is also where Emanuel AME Church is, where of course the Emanuel nine massacre tragically took place. But even before that, it’s always been a site of of Black organizing and resistance, Denmark Vesey, 1822 I believe, 21. He was in that church and he almost, almost, pulled off probably what would have been the biggest slave rebellion in the nation’s history had he not been snitched on by fellow Black folks. But anyway, she knows the history because she’s in it.

Latasha Morrison
Yes. And the church was burned down and the rebuilding of that church was Mother Emanuel during that rebellion. 

Jefferson Jones
I was actually in that church a few weeks prior to for a wedding. And I actually got to meet some of the people that were murdered.

Latasha Morrison
Yeah, yeah. This is recent history. So it is a stab in our heart to hear our leaders who are running for president of the entire United States. So that means African Americans, that means South Asians, East Asians, Indigenous, you know, you know, our Latine people, and I mean, just the whole, like, everybody. We are a huge salad. You know? I don’t want to say melting pot, because we ain’t melting. But we are a huge salad with distinctions that make up this wonderful salad. And you have to be able to speak to all of that. And so, yeah, thank you, brother. I just wanted to just, you know, it’s just, we started Black History off every month I you know, it’s like you think it’s the most wonderful time of the year. So you’re thinking like, people are gonna just show up well and engage and talk about this with their children. But we always have to clear up and clean up mess. So yeah.

Jefferson Jones
Like haircuts. You know? The Travis Kelce cut.

Jemar Tisby
Oh my. Can we talk about that real quick? This is a current event. For folks who don’t know, there was an article in New York Times, the paper of metric for many people, that said that basically was like, “What is this new haircut sweeping the nation? We call it the Travis Kelce.” And they show a picture of Travis Kelce. That boy ain’t rockin nothing but a fade.

Latasha Morrison
Fade. (laughter)

Jefferson Jones
A bald fade.

Jemar Tisby
A bald fade that we’ve been doing since forever ever. And now that Taylor Swift’s boyfriend have it, it’s a thing. And it’s just one other example of why we need a Black History Month because our history often goes unacknowledged, unappreciated, co opted, colonized. Right?

Latasha Morrison
Yeah.

Jemar Tisby
You’ll think something because the first time you heard about it was from or with a white person. Never knowing that Black people or other People of Color or Indigenous people been doing this for a long, long time. Yeah. So that was ridiculous. You brought that up, I’m still hot about it.

Latasha Morrison
That includes the Bantu knots that they tried to rename the Michael Kors knots on the runway. Yeah, yeah. Like we’ve been doing that. It’s called Bantu, which is an Indigenous tribe in Africa. So yeah.

Jefferson Jones
It’s bad until they can profit off of it.

Jemar Tisby
Exactly, yeah.

Latasha Morrison
Yeah. But thank you, brother for really clearing the air with that. You know, you guys, you were just invited into a conversation. We were having a conversation with our friend Jemar Tisby. We’re talking about all the things. It’s Black History Month. So we are extra blackity, black, black. (laughter) And we can talk about what we want to talk about. It’s just like we say, the Super Bowl month for Black people. And I know we get on everybody’s nerves, but it’s okay. You know, we’re gonna lead you the right way in this. But Jefferson, we were just talking about a couple of things related to Jemar that I know that you wanted to bring up.

Jefferson Jones
Yeah, I noticed he just did a piece with CNN. And just really giving your perspective and view on how we could be so much further along. And how we can get, you know, so much more out of Black History Month. And just you kind of, you gave some ways and some bits and pieces to help people out. If you could just speak into that and what people can do during this time and why it’s so rich. Why this month is so important, not just to Black people, but I think to all people, especially here in America.

Jemar Tisby
Yep, yep. Yep. I appreciate that. I did publish an article in CNN Opinion called, “We Could Be Getting so Much More out of Black History Month.” And I believe that. Because while I love this time of year, I’m a little let down by the way we commemorate it. So here’s what generally happens is Black History Month, February 1, everybody posts about it. It’s a big deal. Some social media outlets and accounts will do a daily thing throughout the month. But here’s what happens is, we give you Black History Month as a set of factoids. And extended month long “Did You Know?” And we talk about a Black inventor or a Black first or whatever. And these are worthy stories, but that’s not actually how history is studied. History is about change and continuity over time. The only way to understand that is if you get the context. So what we’re doing effectively with Black History Month is we are viewing it as a set of disconnected data points on a timeline without understanding the through line of Black history. It’s as if somebody handed you a book but they said, “You can only read two pages from three sections of the entire book.” It’s as if somebody took you to a movie and said, “We’re not going to show you the movie, we’re just going to show you 30 second clips from a few points in the movie.” You wouldn’t have an accurate understanding of plot, of character development, of tension, of drama, of climax, of denouement, of any of that. So we are losing the scope of Black history by disintegrating it into these sets of factoids and did you knows and 10 things you didn’t know about so and so. Again, it’s not that that in and of itself is bad or negative, we can still learn a lot. But we’re missing the last part of history, which is story. And I want people to know the Black story.

Latasha Morrison
Yes, yes.

Jemar Tisby
Not just plot points, data points, isolated points on a timeline. And by the way, this is why people think history is boring. Because of it’s just about a name, a date, an event here, a name, date, an event there, then you don’t get any of the drama or the beauty or the tension of a narrative. So why would you care? So if we want people to care about history and be fascinated by history, if we want to be fascinated by history, then we have to understand the story in the history.

Latasha Morrison
Yeah, it makes us one dimensional. It makes us one dimensional. You know?

Jefferson Jones
So with that, Jemar, you made me think about a lot of things. But you said something that’s rich to my heart, as I study the Word and minister, context. And I always say context is key. You made me think about exegesis and eisegesis. I said Jesus, yes. So it made me think this that we are taking eisogetical approaches to Black history instead of exegetical approach to Black history. And I just went to UGA yesterday, and I was able to tie a portion of history to Methodists and connect the dates with the founding date of University of Georgia. 1785, the birth of Richard Allen, who planted Methodist Church, and his birth was 1760. And when he started that first Methodist Church, and why that was so important for them to understand in their context and the importance, that connectedness, that that connectivity of different events, and why it’s so important. Could you just speak to that for just a second?

Jemar Tisby
Well, thinking of the Bible. Right? We always say, in churches, in discipleship, you got to understand the context in order to know what’s going on.

Latasha Morrison
Right.

Jemar Tisby
And that is a guard against proof texting, where you cherry pick verses to craft the story or the principal or the theology that you want, instead of seeing the broader scope of the Bible. We do the same thing with history, we proof text history. We cherry pick this event and that event and this event. And we don’t get a sense of the whole story. So that’s a great way to think about it as well. But I do say, you know, not to leave people hanging, there are ways to do it better. And so in that article, I give a few suggestions that I think would be helpful. And they’re very basic. By the way, I keep telling people, you know, Latasha, you know, this, one of the most frequent questions we get in this work is, what do we do? And sometimes I feel like I disappoint people, because my suggestions are not innovative. They’re not brand new. Because the problem isn’t brand new. And we’ve known for a long time what we need to do about it. So in the same vein, as I say, you know, suggestions for approaching Black History better, it’s not that these are brand new, it’s just that we don’t actually do them. So one of the things I suggest is going to a museum alone. Now I say alone, because so frequently, if we go to a museum at all. Well, number one, we got to get over the obstacle that we think museums are boring. They’re not. There’s a whole subfield in academic study of history called public history, and that is dedicated to conveying historical truths to the broader public who are not trained historians. And so these folks are good at what they do. They are good at communicating historical knowledge. There are amazing museums all across the country, and more all the time. Wherever you go, go alone, because we’re so often going with a group, with other people. And we tend to be under the pressure of someone else’s timetable. So we rush through sections, we skip sections. And some of us want to dwell. And it would be really helpful if you paused and read all of the placards, all of the captions. It would be really helpful if after reading that, or going through a section and you sat down and let the weight of it, let the significance of it hit. It doesn’t even have to be negative, just ponder it and don’t just like have it pass by your eyesight and you’re on to the next thing. So one is that. Read a whole book on some aspect of Black history. I say read a whole book, that counteracts this tidbit approach to history. Because if you read a whole book on it, the author has structured a narrative, has structured a story. And there are all kinds of details, and there literally footnotes – hello – that give you even more information. So that helps you get a sense of continuity. And one more, I’ve got a couple other ones in there. But one more I’ll mention here, how to get the most out of Black History Month? Ask a family member or friend about what they remember about a particular historical time period or event. And the example I use in the article is my mom was a young teacher while the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement was happening. And so I asked her one day, like “What was it like to be a teacher in that time?” Now mind you, she’s in the north, she’s in Michigan, so it’s different. But especially in the Black Power era, there would sometimes be threats or warnings about uprisings, rebellions, some people will call them riots. And so they would have to, if they got a call, she would have to take her class, file them out in the hallway, have the students sit down in the hallway, cover their heads with their hands in case of brick or something else came through the window. And that’s not a detail you could get, you know, almost anywhere else. Right? And so that’s a really accessible way. All of us know someone, family, friend, church member, who was alive in a different era. And simply asking them their recollections, their thoughts, their perceptions of these previous eras can also help us get some context about history.

Latasha Morrison
Yeah, I think that’s important, especially like, your parents, and just your relatives. You know, for me, I was just talking with my mom. Because I do what I do, a lot of times our parents, they have suppressed a lot. There’s a trauma there for what they experienced in the 60s and 50s that have shaped them. And so it wasn’t until me entering into this work that my parents started opening up about their experiences, their history, schooling, all of the different things. My mom just told me a story. Because something happened and it was very triggering to her. And she told me that when she was a little girl she hated Halloween, because they couldn’t go trick or treating, because that was a time where people would actually spit and throw rocks at the Black kids if they were out. And plus being out at night in a sundown town, you can’t do that. And so she was, this is a time when she was in Robeson County, North Carolina. And she just talked about this time where they went out anyway because one of her brother was in the hospital because he had had severe burns. He tried to barbecue in the backyard with gasoline. So he was in the hospital, my uncle with very, they didn’t know if he was going to make it. And so they wanted to go and get him some candy. So they decided to go trick or treating. And they got bricks thrown at them. And she was telling me this story. She said, “Tasha, you don’t know what we’ve been through.” You know, so when you hear something like a Nikki Haley make the comments. Or you hear certain comments that are said from political leaders, from governmental leaders, it stabs, it rewounds the Black community. Like that, what was stated is not something just to joke about. Because what that did was discount someone’s pain. It discounted someone’s experience. It discounted some of our relatives that fought in the Civil War for our freedoms. You know?

Jemar Tisby
That’s right.

Latasha Morrison
And so it’s not history to be joked with. So, you know, as we think about, you know, all of this, we’re just moving into a point in our history, where even in talking with some of our relatives it just feels like it’s going backwards. My mom said, she said, “I feel like we’re going backwards.” And when we think about this, you know, there are a lot of things happening – the rollback of DEI programs. You know as I know, as a business owner, as a nonprofit leader, there is very little money specially leading a nonprofit that deals with racial healing. Okay? There is very little money, people don’t see it as important. You know, there’s little money out there. So we’re, especially as a Black woman, we’re getting less than 2% of the funds that are out there. So what do we do? We’ve always been an innovative community. And, you know, we’re gonna pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. We are survivors. We are resilient. We make a way out of no way. You know what I’m saying? This is what we do. And so we start programs that are going to help, venture funds that are going to help fund us. You know? We start diversity, equity, initiative programs of education, that’s going to help educate people that are missing, to help them fill in the gaps and give them context, help people recognize their biases, so that they can do better and be better. But now we see that this has been weaponized. Talk a little bit about where we are right now. And then we’ll talk a little bit about the way forward.

Jemar Tisby
I
n my second book, How to Fight Racism, I structure it around this framework I call the “ARC of Racial Justice.” That’s an acronym that stands for awareness, relationships, commitment. I’ll focus on the A right now. Because I think that’s getting at what you’re talking about, awareness. So in the ARC of Racial Justice, one of the things that we have to do is equip ourselves with knowledge, information, data about race, racism, and white supremacy. When you do that, you notice one of these things that I keep saying, racism never goes away. It adapts.

Latasha Morrison
Yep.

Jemar Tisby
Right? Like we’re always looking for the magic bullet, the one law, the one policy, the one elected official, the one march or protest that’s going to make racism go away. It’s not going to happen. And in a Christian framework, if we believe racism is sin, which it is, then we should easily understand this because what other sins have just gone away because a law was passed or time has passed? None of them, but we expect that of racism. So if it doesn’t go away and it adapts, well then what does it look like today in the contemporary landscape? Well, one of the things that they’re doing is weaponizing colorblind rhetoric. So they’re using the idea of colorblindness that we shouldn’t see race, that skin color should never come into the equation as a roundabout way of actually reinforcing racial inequality. How that work? “I thought colorblindness was a good thing. I thought Martin Luther King said judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Jemar, what are you saying?” I’m saying we shouldn’t be colorblind, we should be color conscious.

Latasha Morrison
Right.

Jemar Tisby
And to be color conscious means that for centuries in this nation, Black people were systematically denied opportunities. And the solution to that systematic denial of opportunity is not to pretend like we’re all equal, because we’re not starting out all in the same place. Black people are in a deficit – politically, economically, socially, in so many ways by the intention of many people for generations before this. So what do you do? Martin Luther King also said if this country has done something special against the Negro, it must do something special for the Negro to make up for those disadvantages that were forced on us. So to your question, what they’re doing with DEI.

Latasha Morrison
They don’t remember that though. They don’t remember the other part that he said.

Jemar Tisby
Oh, no, no, no.

Latasha Morrison
That’s the cherry picking. (laughter)

Jemar Tisby
They cherry picking. Exactly. But the way that works out is affirmative action, DEI, there’s even a Black women’s group in Atlanta, I believe, right, that is focused on Black women entrepreneurs. And what the far right is doing now is saying, “Well, that’s discrimination. You cannot have a special funding program for Black women, because that’s taking color into account and we’re supposed to be colorblind. That’s racist,” is what they’re saying. When the reality is, as you say, Black women only get 2% of the money that’s out there. And Black women I believe are the largest share of entrepreneurs. They’re starting businesses more than anyone.

Latasha Morrison
Yes, and the most educated group.

Jemar Tisby
And the most educated group. So it’s not because y’all ain’t working hard and it’s not because y’all ain’t educated. It’s because of historic and systematic racism. And so what the right is saying is, you cannot pay attention to that, you got to treat everybody the same. But fair isn’t equal.

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Latasha Morrison
And that’s where equity comes in. And that’s the dangerous word now, where we talking about equitable, what is just. Equity is giving people what they are due. So, you know, we know that as repair. And I mean, scripturally we all wrote about it in our books, so you guys can read about it. You know, but we know that there is a biblical way. And if anybody should understand this, everything that we’re talking about, are Christians. And so why is that Jemar? Why don’t Christians, why aren’t we shining the light and leading this and being the voice for this, rather than being complacent, being a large part of the issues, and also starting the issues? As it related to CRT, CRT that whole groundswell came out of the SBC. Yes, I said it. I said it.

Jemar Tisby
Say it again. In a word, white Christian nationalism. White Christian nationalism, as I’ve said, often is the greatest threat to democracy and the witness of the church in the United States today. But let me back up a little bit. So, you know, why is it that Christians aren’t more frequently part of the solution and are often part of the problem? Well, number one, it’s quite selective in the sense that white Christians understand systemic injustice, or understand the systemic implications of an issue. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have been working for decades to get certain judges appointed. They wouldn’t have had an annual what they call March for Life in order to overturn a law. Right? They understand working on systems and policies and institutions to bring about a desired result. It’s selective in the sense that they’ll do it for certain issues, but they won’t do it about race. And a lot of this is discipleship in the churches where, you know, folks are being taught the right issues that we need to organize and mobilize around as Christians. And so often partly due to segregation, the issues that do not come up as ones that we need to mobilize and organize around are issues that have to do with race and the legacy of race based chattel slavery. So that’s one level. The other level is, and it has to again do with discipleship, this conflation between the fate of the nation and the fate of the church. That people believe unless the United States looks a certain way it’s going to be destroyed, and along with it, the church will be destroyed, the church is losing ground, the church is being persecuted, if this particular official doesn’t get elected, if this particular law isn’t passed or repealed. And they’re saying that the United States has this special place in God’s heart above other nations, and that their mission, which is really about a political power grab, is God’s mission. And how dare you get in the way of it? So there’s a lot more to it.

Latasha Morrison
That’s some dangerous stuff. That is so dangerous. Just even putting it, like we’ve been studying this nationalism, but it’s like, and people are really falling for it. Because I heard someone say in an interview, “Well, what nationalism would you want besides Christian nationalism?” And I was, and they said it with a straight face.

Jemar Tisby
Of course, I mean, the term is clunky. Right? You really have to know what white Christian nationalism is to understand the language. Because most people interpret that word nationalism as patriotism.

Latasha Morrison
Yeah.

Jemar Tisby
“We just love our country.” No, no, no. Nationalism has this exclusionary, narrow sense to it. Idolatry, even. That is more than just affection for the place where you were born and where you live.

Jefferson Jones
Yeah, it makes you think about it where we get to that place where there’s conflation where to be American is to be Christian. And so if America is being attacked, you’re attacking God, and we can’t have that.

Latasha Morrison
Mm hmm. Yeah.

Jefferson Jones
That makes me think about something that you have coming up, a movie we’re you’ve been featured, it’s called God and Country.

Jemar Tisby
That’s right.

Latasha Morrison
It’s a Marvel movie! (laughter)

Jemar Tisby
I’m not the new Kang the Conqueror.

Latasha Morrison
It’s the new Black Panther? What’s going on? What you been holding back on? (laughter)

Jefferson Jones
Wakanda forever! This is a phrase that I’ve seen you share, Jemar, over and over again, white Christian nationalism is the greatest threat to democracy and the witness of the church in the United States today. So many still don’t see that, they don’t believe it. And they always push back on that. I’ve even experienced that myself, and Latasha has as well. So where do you see things shifting one way or the other? And, you know, how can our community fight against this?

Jemar Tisby
Yeah. I mean, we can really do a whole episode, a whole series on this issue of white Christian nationalism. So I’ll say to folks right now, this is the beginning of a conversation. If you want to learn more, go to my substack: jemartisby.substack.com. You can find the link to that in all of my socials @jemartisby. I also have a 10 part podcast series from last year called “White Nation Under God” that goes through this. So that one is maybe five or six part, the one that is 10 parts is “Those Meddling Kids” about white Christian nationalism’s effect on the church. So, either one of those you can go to. So let me say this. White Christian nationalism, here’s my definition, white Christian nationalism is an ethno cultural ideology that uses Christian symbolism as a permission structure for the acquisition of political power and social control. Let me unpack a little bit. Ethno cultural because it has this concept of European slash white, Western civilization as superior. Sometimes they say it, sometimes it’s implied. But that’s the idea, right, whose theology is the best theology that we learned? Right?

Latasha Morrison
Yeah, yeah.

Jemar Tisby
It came from dead white men. Right?

Latasha Morrison
Western theology. Western culture. Yup.

Jemar Tisby
You know, European white folks, almost always male. And there’s this implicit idea of who a true American is. I don’t know why we don’t talk about this more. But who is the quintessential embodiment of a down home American? In comic books? We were talking about Marvel’s before. Its Captain America. What Captain America look like? Blond haired, blue eyed, white guy.

Jefferson Jones
Go a step further, what did he believe? His belief system? He’s a what?

Jemar Tisby
He’s a Christian.

Jefferson Jones
He’s a Christian.

Jemar Tisby
And go a step further. When you did look at Winter Soldier and the Falcon.

Latasha Morrison
Oh we’re going deep now.

Jemar Tisby
Now, we see a Black man who had the same serum that made him have all the abilities of the white Captain America. But they shuffled him to the side, they kept him secret, they experimented on him. Right? And it’s all this controversy now that the new Captain America is a Black man. Right? So you can’t just, they’re not interchangeable. It’s not someone who’s simply patriotic. There’s an ethno cultural part there.

Latasha Morrison
Right. Right.

Jemar Tisby
It’s an ideology, I’ll go quickly. It’s an ideology in the sense that it’s less dependent on data and facts than feelings and prejudices. That’s why it’s like talking to a brick wall with folks. Even if you have all the logic, all the books, all the articles, all the resources, because it’s not primarily an intellectual logical thing. It’s a feelings in group out group identity thing.

Jefferson Jones
Sounds like how race was created to me.

Jemar Tisby
Sounds real familiar don’t it?

Latasha Morrison
It’s a construct.

Jemar Tisby
But here’s the thing. People always ask is white Christian nationalism Christian? Well, no, in the most basic sense, because it doesn’t look like Jesus. So that’s easy. But we can’t let ourselves yeah, it’s that much. Right. But they, they it is Christian in the sense that they use Christian symbols, whether that’s going to church, praying, reading the Bible, you know, fasting, even prayer. All of that is part of white Christian nationalism. So I wrote an article on my substack that says, essentially, the most important question to ask is not whether white Christian nationalism is Christian, the important question to ask is, what responsibility do we have as Christians to address white Christian nationalism? Because they’re calling themselves Christian. So if you care about the witness of the church, that’s why I say it’s a threat not only to democracy, but to the church. This is the ideology that is causing people to run away from Christianity. So especially evangelicals who call themselves Evangelical, because we’re supposed to be focused on the gospel, sharing the good news and bringing people in, you ought to be concerned about the messages and the people that are forcing people out. So it’s an ideology, it uses Christian symbolism as a permission structure. So it gives it a divine sanction to do what they’re doing. The true goal is the acquisition of political power and social control. So I’ll pause there, but yeah, if you don’t know what it is, there’s a quick and dirty definition for you. And the way this looks, this is American flags in the pulpit. It’s a huge Fourth of July celebration. It’s a celebration of, a valorization of the Second Amendment. So you got folks at church open carrying guns. You got the January 6th, is folks were praying, folks had crosses, folks had Bibles. Why? Because they thought that what they were doing in overturning a legitimate election, the first and the nearest threat to a violent overthrow of a lawful election we’ve had in American history, they thought that was God’s work. And I’ll just give you this as a bonus, I’m gonna shut up after this. White Christian nationalism violates all kinds of God’s laws. But I focus in particular on how it violates the third commandment of not taking the Lord’s name in vain. And it’s not about cursing or using swear words. It’s doing things in God’s name that God would never condone. White Christian nationalism is taking God’s name in vain because they are violent, they are uncharitable, unloving, and they’re doing it in God’s name.

Latasha Morrison
And also I would say, you know, diminishing the Imago Dei in people, and how we treat people and not leading out of compassion, which is the characteristic of who Jesus is.

Jemar Tisby
It don’t look like Jesus.

Latasha Morrison
Exactly. (laughter) It don’t look like Jesus. And this is why when we talk about the threat to the church, when we talk about why people are leaving the church, we don’t want to get to the real reason on why people are disillusioned with church, why we have more segregation, racial segregation in church now than we’ve ever had. Why, you know, that big move that was happening 15 years ago. Pastors look at your churches this Sunday. Look around. You know?

Jefferson Jones
And I was thinking even as, as there was a time period where there was a exodus of Black people from Black churches into these into white spaces because they thought things would be different. But because then they experienced that complicity that reoccurred in those experiences, they say, “You know what? This ain’t working either. We out.”

Jemar Tisby
We did a series on Pass the Mic called “Leave Loud.” We talked about some of the stories of Black people leaving. There’s a new, I think, generational wrinkle to this story of church segregation is you have a generation of people like me, who weren’t raised in the Black church, came to faith in a white evangelical context, over time saw the racism and the complicity there, and so have left those spaces. But the Black church is not familiar. It’s not a home or a native religious language, so to speak. Which doesn’t mean we can’t go or we can’t access it. But it’s not as if we’re sort of returning somewhere because that was never where we found our home initially. So we do have this generation of people, and especially as we have with our young people for the first time, majority minority, majority people of color. Now it’s a plurality that’s going to catch up on the national scene in a couple of decades. But with young people, it’s already happening. There’s a lot more mixed race folks than there used to be. And so this binary of Black church, white church is increasingly less fitting or less comfortable for a generation of people. Which doesn’t mean, I’m not saying that Black churches or even some white churches aren’t welcoming or comforting. Right? What I’m just trying to say is the solution for everybody Black isn’t immediately to go to back to Black churches, because there’s no going back to a place where you never really challenge yourself, if you will.

Latasha Morrison
That’s so good. So good. I know, being a part of a multi-ethnic church here, our church closed a little over a year ago, and it’s been hard trying to find a multi-ethnic church that also empowers women. For me, that’s something important. You know, it’s been difficult. So I know that. And so if you’re out there, you know, one of the things that a lot of people have found helpful and having community. And so we, you know, we have Be the Bridge groups. So having that community sometimes helps in that transition. And so don’t do this alone. Like, you know, get in community with one another. And I’ve, you know, just even some of our white brothers and sisters, they’re finding it difficult because they’re leaving these spaces also, and finding themselves not knowing where to go. You know? And so one friend of mines was just saying, like, she was so grateful for her Be the Bridge group, because these were some people they have grown together, like minded people. And they were visiting churches together. They’re having lunch together. They’re having fellowship together. They’re challenging. They’re having Bible study, like all of these things. So make sure you find your people, find your community as you go through these difficult and hard waters that we’re all experiencing right now. So bro, I can’t believe it’s been an hour. It’s been so good. You have a new book that is is coming out. You know, every time I said we always need to do…(laughter) if you’re watching this, if you’re watching this he just panned to a big poster on his wall that is beautiful. It says “The Spirit of Justice: Stories of Faith, Race and Resistance.” I love it. I love it.

Jefferson Jones
Sign me up.

Latasha Morrison
And so listen, listen, you guys. So Jemar’s book comes out in September. Okay? Brown Faces, White Spaces comes out in May. 

Jefferson Jones
I’ll be next year, maybe. (laughter)

Latasha Morrison
Listen, listen, we gonna bring you on the road, Jefferson, so you can host. (laughter)

Jemar Tisby
We got to do a joint book event.

Latasha Morrison
We got to do a joint book event. We have got to do a joint, you know, and so we got, Jefferson can host. And we just do a joint book event. But in all seriousness now, I was telling someone, you know, like, this is your third book, fourth book, fourth book, if you count the rewrite for the youth version. Right? This is number four. We have so many resources. I mean, incredible resources that are being produced. You know, this is Black History. So I’m just talking about like, just by Black people right now. I mean, content, movies, TV shows, documentaries, books, all of these things that there’s like no excuse to be uneducated as it relates to these issues. It’s no excuse to be doubting or questioning whether America was built on a racist foundation. There’s no excuse.

Jefferson Jones
None. I was just going to add this tiny little thought. When I was at the University, it had a room full of 50 young adults, who had to be between 21 and 30. I asked them to write down as many Black theologians and books that they’ve read by Black authors. The highest number that anyone could come up with was seven. And that was only like three or four out of 50 people.

Jemar Tisby
And I bet the average was probably one to three.

Jefferson Jones
Exactly. Why is it so important, Latasha and Jemar, that we continue to push Black theologians, Black authors and Black books, especially now? I know we wrapping up, but just a quick thought on that.

Latasha Morrison
That’s good. That’s good. Take it Jemar.

Jemar Tisby
Well, one of the things that I say is, for most people, you’re not going to be consistent in learning about this, much less doing something about racial justice, if you just leave it to your willpower, if you just leave it to your mood. It’s like anything, right? If you want to change what you eat, if you want to work out more consistently, if you just depend on whatever happens to come your way, you’re going to always find other priorities. So one of the things that I encourage people to do is write a racial justice action plan. I’ve helped a few organizations, churches, nonprofits do this, but you can even do it on an individual level. I encourage folks to use the ARC of Racial Justice – awareness, relationships, commitment, and say over the next year, over the next quarter, three months, here are the intentional ways I’m going to build my awareness. For example, so then, I’m going to go buy Latasha’s book. I’m going to put that on my list. And I’m going to have that ready. So in quarter two, I know that I’m going to, you know, spend May reading that book. And what I’m encouraging is an intentionality. We err when we think racial justice will simply cross our paths and be part of our day to day life, all by itself. No, we have to make it part of our life. And we have to make it part of our entire disposition toward how we spend our time. And the only way we can do that is with intentionality, through a plan, through a community, like you said. So all I’m saying is, don’t think it’s just going to happen by itself or that you’ll be in the mood to do it consistently. Like any other habit or skill that you want to develop, put a plan around it, have some accountability and work the plan.

Jefferson Jones
That’s good.

Latasha Morrison
Yeah. And a part of that is called formation developing that muscle in you. But you know, it’s important to hear the perspectives and the stories of other ethnicities, other groups, other, even, you know, not even just talking about Western culture, but like, even in Eastern culture, you know, broadening ourselves. And so, you know, because, we read the Bible through a western cultural lens. And so when we read from other authors, we’re broadening that. The word of God becomes wider and deeper and our experiences and our intimacy with God becomes wider and deeper. And I think that’s why it’s important that, you know, we look at the systemic issues where half the church was silent, and speaking into a lot of things, you know, but the voices were there, they were just kept silent. And so we have this very multi-ethnic, diverse, early start of the church. You know? When we look at, you know, Greek speaking Jews, Hebrew speaking Jews, you know, all the diaspora, zealots, the, you know, Pharisees, Sadducees, I think the Essenes I think they’re called. But I’m just saying all these different sects of Judaism that come together, that kind of, and the gentiles on that and all the different cultures they’re bringing into that. So the Bible shows us the way, you know, and so I think it’s important that we are very inclusive with what we’re reading, who we’re reading, because then you start to think that if it’s not white, it’s not right.

Jemar Tisby
Exactly.

Latasha Morrison
You know, so Jemar. Okay, so as we talked about all the hard things, this is the thing. We write hard books, we do hard things, you know, but there is, you know, if some of you guys listening to this, you know, you see we’re still laughing. There’s that tension of joy and sorrow, that we can weep and lament over these things, but also hold that tension and of joy. We still are filled with joy of the expectancy of who God is and what God is doing. That brings a sense of hope to us. What is bringing you hope right now, Jemar? What is bringing you hope?

Jemar Tisby
I have the privilege of traveling around the country and talking about this stuff, which is, you know, mostly the truth telling part and talking about what went wrong, how we can get it right. What stands out to me, though, is there are people all over this country who want to see progress in racial justice. Their voices can be drowned out by the other voices. But we are mistaken if we think that we’re the only ones or one of a few. We may not be the majority. But never underestimate what God can do with very little.

Latasha Morrison
Yeah.

Jefferson Jones
Come on.

Jemar Tisby
I think it was somewhere, I think I read somewhere something about a kingdom and a mustard seed. I think I read something somewhere about five loaves and fishes and 5000 people being fed and satisfied with food leftover. I think I read somewhere where God is all powerful. And I think I read somewhere where God was speaking to somebody named Gideon and saying, “You got too many people, you got too many people, because if it’s a big number, they’re going to attribute it to the power in your forces. If it’s a tiny number, that couldn’t possibly succeed from an earthly standpoint, they’re going to know it was God.”

Latasha Morrison
Say remnant!

Jemar Tisby
So I wonder. I wonder if God might not be up to something similar with the church and race, where we think it’s all about numbers. It’s all about shilling the building. It’s all about filling the bank account. And don’t get me wrong, those things aren’t wrong or bad. If you want to fill my bank account, please just let me know. What I’m saying is, it’s not required for God to make a move. And many times God makes His biggest moves with the smallest resources. So hang in there.

Jefferson Jones
So God go ahead and bust a move.

Latasha Morrison
Yes, exactly.

Jemar Tisby
Let’s pray for that.

Latasha Morrison
Yes, I tell people, Jemar, you know, when we go and do these trainings around the country, I say God has always used a remnant. It’s never been the majority. And it’s never been those that had the power. You know, the gospel has always spread with the marginalized, with the oppressed, with the silenced, with those that are deemed, what you would say unlovable. But we are here today, because of those few.

Jemar Tisby
Amen.

Latasha Morrison
And so that’s the thing that brings us hope. And I you know, so I would say we are few in numbers, but mighty in power. Because I do believe that there are more people who want to be a part of Kingdom work, they want to see the flourishing of all God’s people, they want to lift up the image bearers. There’s more people that want to do that than not, but sometimes those who are on the opposing side are the loudest. And it makes it seem like they are the majority. But I am hopeful. Thank you, brother for locking arms with us. This is Jemar Tisby. You know, he has the releasing the movie, God and Country that’s releasing February the 16th. And in September, he is releasing his new book. And it is called The Spirit of Justice: Stories of Faith, Race, and Resistance. Jemar is a historian that specializes in, let me think right here, race and religion and social movements. He is traveling the world doing all of those things. Thank you, my brother, for saying yes, for answering the call, for writing, for teaching, for developing, for lifting for preaching, for leading, not just those, you know, that are interested in this work, but your family, your children, and all of that. So, I’m so grateful for you. Thank you for joining us on the Be the Bridge Podcast. Thank you, also, this is when you can call your friends. I’m just gonna expose it.

Jemar Tisby
Spill all the tea.

Latasha Morrison
I’m gonna spill all the tea. Jemar found out yesterday about this. So we had, you know, things happen with scheduling and all the things and in the new year, but we are so grateful for you saying yes. And we hope this is a blessing.

Jemar Tisby
Well listen, I am a fan. I love the work that you’re doing. It’s a blessing to 1000s upon 1000s of people here. And I’m sure it’s international by now. So when I got the call, I said say less – as the young people say. I didn’t know what that meant. But anyway, anytime anytime. And hopefully when The Spirit of Justice comes out I could be back on. And we can even do a live event together.

Latasha Morrison
Yes, we will have to do that. And so we’ll definitely get that scheduled. So I know how that is. I’m excited. Thank you so much. And thank you for giving us your time.

Narrator
Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to BeTheBridge.com. Again, that’s BeTheBridge.com If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded, and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the Senior Producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been a Be the Bridge Production.