Drew Hart’s Trouble I’ve Seen is forcing me to do some hard thinking, and that’s always a good thing. I’m still trying to process and make sense of everything Hart has to say. The subtitle of the book is Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, and if Hart is right, then I definitely have a lot to change in my own perspectives.
I absolutely agree with the thrust of the book’s message. Racism is very real and very much alive, and we as the church need to address it. But Hart defines and explains racism in ways I’ve never heard of before.
In my previous way of thinking, I’ve tended to view “race” as an artificial construct—there is really only one human race; different skin colors are no further apart than different eye or hair colors. Since races don’t really exist, we simply need to stop acting like they do exist, and start treating everyone the same way we would want to be treated, regardless of skin color. Simple enough, right? Seems like it should be to me.
But according to Hart, it’s a lot more complicated than that. On the one hand, he acknowledges that races are an artificial construct, and he goes into great detail to show how “whites” have historically used this construct to their advantage, frequently changing the definition of who gets to be white or not. But despite recognizing that races don’t exist, most of the book treats races as if they do exist. Furthermore, Hart seems to go back and forth between defining races by skin color and defining races by cultural distinctives.
One of the major themes throughout the book was the idea that we who have historical privilege need to let go of our gut instincts regarding such things and choose instead to submit our thinking to those without privilege. Hart argues that those who have been oppressed often have a better perspective from which to view the truth.
I can definitely agree with this principle. This is a Jesus-like way to approach things. But agreeing with something doesn’t make it easy to do. I’m finding myself really struggling with much of the way Hart approaches things. I’m doing my best to suppress all the arguments that keep coming up in my mind, and to just listen instead. But it’s not easy.
Furthermore, Hart is not the only one speaking on such topics from such a position. The perspective I’ve previously had on race and racism came from a different black author with a different view. So which perspective do I submit my thinking to in this?
All that to say, the book gave me a lot to process, and I’m still working through it all. I’m trying not to come to any firm conclusions on my own. I want to keep listening to different perspectives. If nothing else, just getting to understand the various perspectives that are out there would be a good thing.
Trouble I’ve Seen has challenged my own way of thinking, and it has introduced me to a new perspective on racism. This is surely a perspective the church needs to hear and understand, and I’m glad for the chance to start my own process of understanding it. I’m certainly not there yet. Thank you, Drew Hart, for helping me. And thank you, Herald Press, for sending me a review copy of this book.