Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jesus Loves Racist, Too (Part 6)

How Predominantly White Churches Can Move from Teaching Racism to Teaching about It
            If you have made it this far, congratulations! Thank you for bearing with me! If you have not read the previous five posts in this series, please do so before continuing to this last one.  In this final post, I would like to introduce the concept of critical public pedagogy.  Critical public pedagogy is focused on resisting “the dominant political, economic, and or/social structure” (p. 298), and this resistance can be conscious or unconscious (Sandlin, 2010).  In the last post, I argued that the unconscious manner in which racism is addressed in PWCs is an indirect way of teaching racism.  This is an example of the opposite of critical public pedagogy- rather than resisting the dominant social structure, it is being reproduced.  The way in which I argued that such reproduction occurred is through the hidden curriculum of implicit messages arising from structure.  That hidden curriculum led to the teaching of racism.  My theory then, for transforming PWCs into a site of critical public pedagogy is to intentionally confront the topic of race. One possible way to do this is for PWCs to address the topics of race and racism directly.  This could take the form of pastors (and other church leaders) addressing issues of racism (such as those that happen regularly in the news) to their congregations.  This could take the form of being brought up in sermons, presented as topics for prayer, or incorporating issues of race as a part of Bible study groups. 
Another step that should be taken is to address issues of implicit bias.  The most useful way for a PWC to do this would be to strive to become multiracial, if it is located in a geographically diverse area.  Even if the area is not super racially diverse, this is still a goal for which churches should strive because multiracial congregations are usually more racially diverse than their neighborhoods (Emerson, 2006).  I suggest multiracial congregations as a partial solution because one way in which implicit bias can be reduced is through interactions with other races (Soderberg & Sherman, 2013).  In working to become more ethnically diverse, a church’s leadership will need to address their own implicit biases as well as encouraging their parishioners to do likewise.  They will also need to cast a vision for their church members as to why this is important.  Not only should they discuss the importance of combatting racism, but they also should help their congregants to understand the Biblical imperative they have to do so.  Taking these steps will help to disrupt colorblind racism that is present within our society.
Lastly, as PWCs work to diversify, they should look for ways to incorporate other cultures.  This could be through the incorporation of music and foods from other cultures, as well as having people pray for the needs of different cultural groups along with prayer for people from those groups to be incorporated into the congregation.  Inviting guest speakers from other cultures, hiring people for the church staff from different cultural backgrounds, and/or creating a diverse church leadership team can all be ways to counter White normativity. 
None of what I outlined above can be done overnight, and none of it will be easy.  It will take time and dedication.  What I outlined above will take commitment and hard work.  Everything that I described is in the theoretical stage, but I plan to do research to contribute to and create a more substantial body of research on how churches can act as sites of critical public pedagogy.
Thank you for reading this series. I hope you found it to be a worthwhile read.  Feel free to post any 

questions as comments, or things you feel I missed, and I’ll try to post on this blog more frequently 

in the future.

Emerson, M.O. (2006) People of the dream. Multiracial congregations in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Sandlin, J.A. (2010). Learning to survive the ‘Shopocalypse’: Reverend Billy’s anti-consumption ‘pedagogy of the unknown’. Critical Studies in Education, 51(3), 295-311.
Soderberg, C. K., & Sherman, J. W. (2013). No face is an island: How implicit bias operates in social scenes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology49(2), 307–313. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.11.001

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Jesus Loves Racists, Too (Part 5)

How White Churches Teach about Race
            I introduced the concept of public pedagogy in part 3.  If you have not read that post, and the others that came previously, please take the time to do so.  In my last post, I left you with the question of “how do White churches teach about race if the topic is likely not broached?”  To explain this, I will now introduce the concept of the hidden curriculum.
            In order to effectively discuss the concept of the hidden curriculum, it is helpful to first distinguish between it and what is termed, the formal curriculum. Formal curriculum can be defined as what is explicit, known, and officially recognized as being taught to students (Portelli, 1993).  This is known by both the teachers and students, and anyone else, such as a parent, who inquires.  In schools, an example of the formal curriculum could be the Common Core Standards; it is an officially recognized list of skills and topics children are expected to be taught by grade level. 
The hidden curriculum, however, can take many forms.  It can be hidden from the students, but known by the teacher, hidden from the teacher, but known by the students, or it can be hidden from both (Portelli, 1993).  The hidden curriculum can be manifested in four ways: 1) unofficial expectations or implicit but expected messages, 2) unintended learning outcomes or messages, 3) implicit messages arising from the structure of schooling, 4) created by the students (students and teachers have different ideas about what is necessary) (Portelli, 1993).  An example of the first unofficial but implicit expectation is the concept of respecting and obeying authorities.  Most curricula do not explicitly state “child will learn to obey authority,” yet when children fail to do so, they learn they should after facing the negative consequences for failing to do so.  There is an expectation that they will not only learn to respect authority in school, but that this knowledge will transfer to larger society and they will eventually become law abiding citizens. 
The next form of hidden curriculum is unintended learning outcomes or messages.  A great example of this can be found in Vorbeck’s (2008) work on other kinds of families.  By only teaching about the nuclear family and assigning work with the underlying assumption that all students come from one, the unintended learning outcome students may have is that other types of family are less legitimate.  Third, implicit messages arising from the structure of schooling can be described by the testing obsession that has taken control of most of the nation’s schools.  To refer back to my example of the formal curriculum, although the common standards are meant to be a guideline of what is being taught, the high stakes test associated with it sends the implicit message that the test is more important than the learning, or that the purpose of learning is to pass a test.  Therefore, if there is no test, there is no need to learn it; intellectual curiosity is unintentionally dimmed.
Lastly, the idea of hidden curriculum created by the student is when the students have different ideas about what is necessary than that of their teacher.  A teacher may assign a list of books for students to read in order to write an essay.  Although the stated purpose of this assignment is to practice and improve writing skills, the teacher may have a hidden curriculum from her students for them to also learn about another culture through the reading.  The students, however, may decide reading the list of books is not necessary to write the paper because they can use a tool such as Spark Notes.  Although they are able to complete the writing assignment, they miss the opportunity to learn about culture.
            How then, does this concept apply to how PWCs teach about race?  In my last post, I talked about how at the church in which I grew up, we had a Black History program where we would learn about the contributions of African Americans.  This is an example of a formal curriculum.  In the predominantly White church I attend now, however, race is rarely mentioned.  The omission of the subject of race in our highly racialized society has the potential to send many messages about race that may be unintentional.  Regarding the hidden curriculum of race in PWCs, based on my research and experience, what is taught about race in many churches falls into the categories of unintended learning outcomes or messages and implicit messages arising from structure.  The lack of attention given to other cultures and the non-recognition of the racism endemic to our society reinforces White normativity [the idea that White culture defines what is normal and right in society. Everything else is aberrant] (Edwards, 2008) and teaches colorblind racism [this is a difficult concept to explain in a sentence, so I recommend reading chapter 2 of this book, but in short, for this context, I will describe color-blind racism as ignoring systemic racism while being complicit in it and/or benefitting from it] (Bonilla-Silva, 2014).
            The idea of hidden curriculum of implicit messaging arising from structure is supported by some research studies that have been done.  A study on implicit association found that racially homogenous contexts led to a significant increase in pro-white/anti-black bias (Soderberg & Sherman, 2013).  If the result of this study is applied to churches, the hidden curriculum with regards to structure is revealed.  Pro-white bias is reinforced by racially homogenous contexts.  This means that pro-white/anti-black bias is being taught (though not purposely) through the racial composition of White monoracial churches.        
Other studies have used measures of social distance such as residential preference and attitudes toward interracial marriage to find the correlation between religious affiliation and racial attitudes.  Evangelical and mainline Protestants were found to have the strongest preference for same-race neighbors when compared to Catholics, Jews, and other faiths (Merino, 2011), and Whites who attended multiracial churches were found to be far more likely to be comfortable with the idea of interracial marriage than those who attended monoracial churches (Perry, 2013).  These findings, although not causal, show there is a contribution by monoracial churches to the social distance between races present in society today.
So this is the part that gets uncomfortable.  Taken together, I am making what will be a painful argument for many.  Through the hidden curriculum, many PWCs as a site of public pedagogy, may actually be unintentionally teaching racism! 
Thanks for reading. The End.

Just kidding. This was a super long post, though. In my final post, I will fulfill the second portion of the title of this series.  As a reminder, the title was: “How Predominantly White Churches Can Move from Teaching Racism to Teaching about It.”  I hope you will join me as I complete this series in my final post.     

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2014). Racism without racists: Colorblind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America (4th ed.). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Edwards, K.L. (2008). Bring Race to the center: The importance of race in racially diverse religious organizations. Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 47(1), 5-9.
Merino, S. M. (2011). Neighbors like me? Religious affiliation and neighborhood racial preferences among Non-Hispanic Whites. Religions, 2¸ 165-183.
Perry, S. L. (2013) Religion and Whites' attitudes toward interracial marriage with African Americans, Asians, anf Latinos. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 52(2), 425-442
Portelli, J.P. (1993). Exposing the hidden curriculum. Journal of     Curriculum Studies, 24(4), 343-358.
Soderberg, C. K., & Sherman, J. W. (2013). No face is an island: How implicit bias operates in social scenes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology49(2), 307–313. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.11.001
Vorbeck, T. (2008). From textbooks to the teachers’ lounge: The many curricula of family in schools. In Other kinds of families: Embracing diversity in schools (pp. 178-182). New York: Teachers College Press.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 6

Jesus Loves Racists, Too (Part 4)

How Black Churches Teach about Race

            Growing up attending a predominantly Black school was a very different experience when it came to what was taught in history class.  We learned Black history throughout the year, not just in February.  I remember watching Roots in the 3rd grade.  You might be reading this thinking, “I’m not sure I would show that to a group of 7 and 8 year olds.”  I probably wouldn’t either, but the bigger point I would like to make was that I likely would have never seen it in the predominantly White school I later attended.  Once we moved, I do not really recall learning any Black history.  Black people were so far off the radar at the school to which I moved that my dad had to petition for Martin Luther King Jr. day to be recognized as such, rather than just being labeled a “school in-service.”  (As a complete and irrelevant side-note, MLK and I share a special connection. We’re birthday buddies!)  Despite the lack of cultural awareness present in my new school, my education about Black history did not disappear.  Although some was lost in school, I continued to learn in church.  Every year, my church would have a cultural awareness day where the children (and some adults) participated in a Black history play.  We would learn about Black historical figures, participate in plays, or recite a speech from famous Black poets.  My church experience was not an anomaly.  According to W.E.B. DuBois, “historically, the Black church was a way in which African Americans preserved and maintained their African culture in slavery and emancipation” (Yang & Smith, 2009).  This remains the case in many Black churches.  In addition to preserving culture, Black churches also have historically and continue to play a role in the resistance of racism (Barber, 2011).  I recently went home for Thanksgiving, and while at my parents’ church (the church in which I grew up attending), my pastor, in his sermon, made the statement that “Racism will never go away because it is in America’s DNA.”  His sermon was not about racism, but that moment was teaching about it.  This statement was just an example, amongst many, that he gave as a part of the overall message that he was preaching about that day.  If this happened in a school, Ladson-Billings might call it an example of culturally relevant pedagogy (1995).  Banks (2007) would call it content integration.  I am calling it a sermon illustration that I would likely not hear at most PWCs because White people are not regularly negatively affected by racism, and it is something most are uncomfortable talking about (CNN, 2012).  You may now be asking yourself, “If White people do not like talking about race, then it must be a non-issue in predominantly White churches, right?”  For the answer to that question, I direct you to watch the YouTube link that is in the references section, but more importantly, to read the next entry in this blog: “How White Churches Teach about Race”.

Banks, J.A. (2007). Multicultural education: Characteristics and goals. In J.A. Banks & C.A. McGee Banks (Eds.), Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (6th ed.) (3-31). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 
Barber, K.H. (2011). “What happened to all the protests?” Black megachurches’ responses to racism in a colorblind era. Journal of African American Studies, 15(2), 218-235.
CNN (2012, April 2). A look at race relations through a child's eyes. Retrieved from 
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that's just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159-165. 
Yang P. & Smith S. (2009). Trends in black-white church integration. Ethnic Studies Review, 32(1), I-III

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5
Part 6

Jesus Loves Racists, Too (Part 3)

Churches as a site of learning
            If you have not read the previous two blog posts in this series, I encourage you to do so.  Going back to my Marvel movie analogy, however, this post will be like Dr. Strange, but a lot less entertaining.  So far, Dr. Strange has not been super connected to the overall story Marvel is telling, however based on my limited knowledge of comic books, I assume that he will become a lot more important.  Such will be the case for this post.  If this is where you are starting in the series, you will have missed a lot of background, but that background is not necessary for you to understand this entry.  This post will nevertheless, be crucial for you to have read to understand what comes next.  Additionally, this post will likely be the shortest, as I will use it to define a key concept that will provide a foundation for the remainder of the series.  That concept is public pedagogy.
When discussing education, many people think about schools.  I would like to make a clear distinction between the two.  Schools are a place where one can receive an education, but schools and education are not synonymous.  This statement then begs the question of “what is education?”  Education is learning.  Learning happens through experiences (Dewey, 1938).  Because learning is constantly occurring, it is not helpful to limit our discussion of education to only schools, or sites of formal education, especially when discussing social issues such as race.  I am not discounting the important role that schools play, but I am arguing that looking at other sites of learning is just as important.  Ellsworth (2005) expands places of learning beyond schooling to include more subjective experiences (such as affect [the psychology term] and sensations) encountered through “media, architecture, entertainment, art, social engineering, or politics” (p.6).  This type of learning falls into the realm of public pedagogy. 

More concretely defined, public pedagogy is “forms, processes, and sites of education and learning occurring beyond or outside of formal schooling (p. 2)” that involves a pedagogue who intends to instruct the citizenry through relational and ethical dimensions (Burdick, Sandlin, & O’Malley, 2013).  Churches are a site of public pedagogy.  Churches usually have some sort of leader or leadership team who serve as the pedagogue, and they are given a unique role in education because people voluntarily seek them out to attend.  Unlike schools which require compulsory attendance that ends at a certain age, churches are voluntary and people can choose to attend them for a lifetime.  As a result, they can experience a lifetime of learning in this one site.  People willfully turn to religious institutions in the US to seek meaning in life, find direction, receive social support, and look for relief when crises arise (Emerson, 2006, p. 7).  Religious congregations also serve an essential role in immigrant adaptation and support (just as schools do), the production of culture, social network formation, and the construction of norms and worldviews (p. 8).  Although social issues such as race and racism are addressed in the curriculum of some schools, and interracial contact occurs in some schools, some would argue that because schools are secondary institutions when it comes to relationships, they are less effective in diminishing racism.  Primary organizations where close, long-lasting relationships are formed are more effective in teaching about race if those relationships are cross-cultural (Yancey & Emerson, 2003).  Churches are a primary organization and are therefore worth looking at from an educational point of view, specifically when studying the issue of race. In my next post, I will introduce the concept of hidden curriculum, and discuss how churches teach about race.  It turns out this post was not much shorter than others. My apologies, but I hope you will continue reading! 

Burdick J., Sandlin J., & O’Malley, P. (2013) Problematizing Public Pedagogy. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience in education. New York, NY: Collier Books.
Ellsworth, E. (2005). Places of Learning. New York, NY: Routledge.
Emerson, M.O. (2006) People of the dream. Multiracial congreations in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Yancey, G., & Emerson, M. (2003). Integrated Sundays: An exploratory study into the formation of multiracial churches. Sociological Focus, 36(2), 111–126. Retrieved from

Jesus Loves Racists, Two

Writing a blog series can be tricky.  I think of it like a Marvel movie.  Marvel is building a universe through their movies and television shows, yet they still have to appeal to all audiences, so each of their movies has to stand alone (unless it’s a direct sequel).  The same is true for this blog series. While I hope that everyone will read every part, I recognize that may not happen for all, so I have to try to make each part stand alone.  I do encourage you, however, to read part 1 if you have not done so, as the following will make more sense.  Although Marvel’s Civil War was an enjoyable movie on its own, it was more appreciated by those fans who had seen the previous 12 movies. Such will be this series. I hope you read the first post as well as those to follow.  But enough about movies. In this post, I will share a bit more about my experiences that have led to my interest in studying race and churches.
            I grew up in a predominantly Black context. I went to a predominantly Black school. I lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood. I attended a predominantly Black church. Then my family moved. We moved from a predominantly Black neighborhood to a predominantly White one. I began attending a predominantly White school (from 6th to 8th grade). We continued, however, to attend the same church.  I grew up in the middle of two cultures.  I remember having to explain basic things about my existence (such as how Black people use shower caps because we don’t wash our hair daily) to White children who had never encountered a Black person before.  I recall learning about the cultural icons of a culture that did not belong to me (such as Avril Levine and the Backstreet Boys- it was the early 2000s).  My high school was regional, so it was more racially diverse than my elementary experience (I attended a K-8 school), but because I had spent so much time around White people, when I later began attending a predominantly White institution (PWI) for my undergraduate years, I did not experience much of a culture shock…until I went to church.
            Distance and doctrine were more important to me then the racial composition in choosing a church when I went to college.  As a result, I found myself in a predominantly White church (PWC).  It became a new learning experience.  Just as I had in 6th grade, I began learning about another new culture: the culture of White evangelicalism.  I had some exposure to this prior to attending college through television and the radio, but I had never been immersed. I once again was introduced to new cultural icons of a culture that did not belong to me (Hillsong and Chris Tomlin) while experiencing the phenomenon of 2 part harmonies or only unison when singing songs in church services.  This is also where I experienced more micro-aggressions.  In 6th grade, I did not have a term to describe the time I was called dirty because the assumption was made that I didn’t bathe regularly when people found out I didn’t wash my hair daily.  Now I did.  Being asked if I could wear a sari and pretend to be an Indian for a play was slightly disturbing.  Seeing a video played for Veteran’s day (or Independence day) where the only Black person in it was one in handcuffs was insulting.  I know none of these things were done with malintent, but they are examples of the results of living in a racist society.
            Meanwhile during college, I was also involved in a campus ministry group. Through this group, I encountered two women in particular who had a vision for these groups to be culturally and ethnically diverse.  They believed this is how God intended churches to be, and they both worked (and continue to work) to make this vision a reality.  As a member of this group, I was able to experience what it was like to be a part of an ethnically and racially diverse congregation where multiple cultures, including mine, were represented.  Although this campus ministry is a parachurch organization, I was inspired to want to expand these efforts to local congregations, which is how I became interested in researching race and churches.  I also agree with their assessment that God did not intend for churches to be racially segregated, which provides me with further motivation for my work. 

            So these are the experiences (in a very abbreviated version) that have led me to this point.  In the next post, I will discuss the concept of public pedagogy, and how churches function as such a site. I hope you will continue to read. 
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6               

Friday, December 16, 2016

A series: Jesus Loves Racists, too: How Predominantly White Churches Can Move from Teaching Racism to Teaching about It.

            To begin, I would like to acknowledge that my title was inspired by another title I recently read called “Jesus died for NASCAR fans” (Whitlock, 2010).  Beyond the title, the two essays will have no further purposeful commonalities.  This essay is about race.  This essay is about Jesus and churches.  This paper is essay is about hidden curriculum.  This essay is about public pedagogy. For that reason, it will be presented as a series of blog posts.  Because it has so many pieces, I think a blog series will also allow for a more manageable reading.  Over the course of this series, I will first begin by defining public pedagogy and how churches act as a site of public pedagogy.  Then I will describe how churches teach about race.  I will then conclude by discussing the potential that predominantly White churches (PWCs) have to become a site of critical public pedagogy.
            Throughout this series, I will use a combination of personal experiences, theory, and findings 

from research literature.  To begin, I would like to discuss my positionality (my identity and my 

experiences that have shaped how I view the world and my research, as well as why I am interested 

in this topic).  I am a Christian, African-American[1], woman.  I put these in order of the personal 

salience of my identities.  My faith and relationship with Jesus define me at the deepest levels, and 

so that is the first lens through which I interpret the meanings of events in life.  I am an African-

American.  I am a Black[2] person living in a racist society, but as an African-American I am also 

aware of the rich heritage I possess through my culture and the perseverance of my ancestors.  I am 

woman. Hear me roar! (kidding). I am a woman living in a sexist society, and although this identity 

is not extremely salient to my work (in my mind), my socialization as a woman has shaped my 

outlook on life.  I am currently enrolled in a doctoral program in education.  This program is 

teaching me to think deeply and critically, but it is through those above lenses that my thoughts are 

filtered. It is with the introduction of those lenses that I will end this post.  In my next entry, I will 

discuss some of the experiences I have had as a Christian, African-American, woman that have led to 

my research interests in racism and churches. 

Until next time.

[1] I will use the terms African-American and Black interchangeably throughout this piece.
[2] I capitalize the B in Black and the W in White to denote that I am discussing a race rather than a color.

Whitlock, R.U. (2010). Jesus died for NASCAR fans: Curriculum of place in a queerly fundamental South. In E. Maleweski (Ed.), Curriculum studies handbook: The next moment (265-280). New York, NY: Routledge.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6