Hi all! I’ve been asking myself, as many of you no doubt have, what I can do in these times of increased vehement discourse about racism and police brutality. A lot of organizations and individuals are doing really great work, sharing links and resources to excellent analyses and causes to donate money towards. My means are somewhat more limited–but that’s no excuse not to do what I can. As such, I thought I’d share some books to read, some media to watch, and some artists to listen to with some notes on why I included each one.
Learning To Walk In The Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
I include this book because it an excellent challenge to the Christian narrative that always equates light with goodness and dark with evil. While on the face of it this might have little to do with race, the sad truth is such narratives have been used to justify a theology of racial discrimination, so unpacking this narrative really does have an effect on the broader theological arguments.
Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne by Wilda C. Gafney
This is an excellent book by an Episcopalian pastor and Old Testament scholar on womanist theological interpretation. Dr. Gafney explains that womanism is similar to feminism but specifically focuses on the experiences of women of colour.
Intersectional Theology: An Introductory Guide by Grace Si-Jun Kim and Susan M. Shaw
This is an excellent book that gives an introduction to intersectional theory and its application in theology that is important for any discussion of oppression and discrimination in the 21st century.
Star Wars: Clone Wars: Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover
A somewhat unorthodox entry on the face of it, but important nonetheless. Fiction tells many truths, and representation in fiction is even more important. This wonderful book by Matthew Stover follows Jedi Master Mace Windu on a seemingly impossible mission. It’s a story of many things and answered the prayers of many fans who loved Mace Windu since he first appeared on screen.
Star Trek: The Original Series and movies, Star Trek: The Next Generation and movies, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Enterpise, & Star Trek: Discovery
Gene Roddenberry deserves a great deal of credit for challenging a lot of the biases and prejudices during prevalent during the creation of Star Trek–sadly, many of these biases and prejudices still exist today. Yet Roddenberry made sure to have a multi-ethnic cast on Star Trek, and that set the tone for all the series to follow. Nichelle Nichols played Lt. Uhura on TOS and, when she considered leaving the show, Martin Luther King Jr. himself asked her to remain. TNG starred the amazing LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge, and Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan (Michael Dorn also played Worf, but since he is portraying an alien in-universe the question of whether to include Worf is up for debate). DS9, the first series designed without Roddenberry’s input, continued the trend as Avery Brooks played the commanding officer Benjamin Sisko, and the roles for characters like his Jake Sisko and Kasidy Yates were important supporting aspects. Star Trek: Voyager wasn’t quite as good on this front as the main actor who is arguably included in this list is Tim Russ who played Tuvok—and falls into the same quandary as Michael Dorn on TNG and DS9 since Tuvok was a Vulcan. ENT includes Ensign Travis Mayweather at the helm, and DISC takes a large leap forward by making Sonequa Martin-Green played by Michael Burnam the main protagonist. All of these Trek series star characters who are impressive representations of heroic and determined and very human individuals.
Star Wars films, TV shows, books, comics, and video games.
Again, the question of where to draw the line presents itself–does James Earl Jones role as the voice of Darth Vader count? Fortunately, there’s a host of characters outside of that to draw upon. Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian makes an impressive addition to the Star Wars cast in his appearances in ESB & ROTJ, and plays a crucial role in TROS. Samuel Jackson as Jedi Master Mace Windu in the prequels is also an excellent character and a memorable on-screen presence. John Boyega as Finn in the sequel trilogy is one of main protagonists and anchor point for the audience. The TV shows, books, comics, and video games include almost too many to mention: Saw Garrera first makes his appearance in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and then goes to appear in Rebels and Rogue One. Jariah Syn serves as Cade Skywalker’s crew mate and brother-in-arms during the Legacy comics; Quinlan Vos is a crucial Jedi in both The Clone Wars TV series and the Republic comics–same with Adi Gallia. Again, all of these individuals heroism, determination, and humanity in abundance.
God Friended Me TV show
This is a relatively new TV show, so I don’t know how many will have heard of it, but I’ve greatly admired the Finer family–an Episocopalian pastor; his lesbian daughter; and his atheist son. The son, Miles Finer, is sent on missions by the “God account”–a Facebook friend cloaked in mystery, who turns out to give Miles a purpose that challenges him and improves him in best of ways. The show courageously tackles a variety of topics and does so with great compassion, grace, and gentle humour.
Button Poetry Youtube Channel
This Youtube channel contains some of the best poetry performances in the North Amercian 21st century context, and the African American poets are well-worth the watch for the raw vulnerability and challenge to the status quo they present.
Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Missy Elliot, etc.
These artists fall, more or less, into the category of rap/hip-hop. There’s problems in their work–falling into a stereotypical animalistic sexuality–but they also do much to challenge the typically male-dominated field and its resulting sexist and misogynistic messages.
Beyonce, Ciara, John Legend, Pharrell Williams, etc.
These artists fall more into the categories of pop and/or r&B/soul. Their styles tend to be more diverse, and deal with diverse topics–sexuality is certainly present, but so are general issues of relationships, gender, power dynamics, mental health and even political/societal issues
There are many other Black actors, producers, directors, characters, singers, songwriters, authors, etc. out there–this merely scratches the surface. The basic point is this though: we need to challenge centuries of bad theology and we also need to remain open to the lessons that can be learned through fiction and entertainment, and the representation of diversity therein.