Letters from Alison

An Open Letter to Jemar Tisby

Dear Mr. Tisby,

After the election, I was reading the news, lamenting on Twitter, and trying to listen to the voices that I felt were most marginalized by the comments our newly elected president had made on his campaign trail.

Listen and lament.

Listen and lament.

But after about a week, I was drowning in a sea of despair. I was starting to think I was going to have to shut the internet down, but I also felt like it would be an unacceptable exercising of privilege to close my ears and eyes to the emboldened racism and rampant hate-related instances unfolding all around the country.

So at some point, I was moved (probably by the Holy Sprit) to type into my Google search bar something to the effect of: Black Christian Perspective On Election Results.

Somehow my search led me to an article you wrote about feeling betrayed by white evangelicals in the wake of the election. You explained that for your white brothers and sisters to ignore the racist rhetoric was to dangerously underestimate the power of words and the impact they have on the groups which the rhetoric is intended to marginalize.

And then you ended with these words.

Because of Christ, I am willing to be part of a body that constantly underestimates the ongoing impact of racism. Because of Jesus, I am willing to associate with believers who outright deny systemic and institutional forms of inequality based on race. Because of our unity in the Spirit, I am willing to fellowship with believers who rebuke me for my honesty, and accuse me of sowing division because I speak of difficult subjects. I am still here. Bear with me if I sometimes long to worship with people who share not only my theology, but my pain as well.

As a member of a church that is trying to bridge racial divides, I do not take lightly the willingness of anyone from the minority culture to worship with me.

I have grown to understand how much people of color have given up in order to participate in racial reconciliation, in order to walk back into to churches from which their parents and grandparents were actively excluded.

So I was humbled by your willingness to remain part of a body that “constantly underestimates the ongoing impact of racism.” And it reminded me again that the black people in my church have to face the same struggle, worshipping alongside a group of believers who have (in some numbers) voted for and continue to support a president who is stripping away any small steps of progress towards equality.

As a result of landing on that one article and reading several others, I began to faithfully listen to the podcast Pass the Mic, where I began to hear you and Tyler Burns discuss issues and culture from a distinctly black Christian perspective.

Which is a perspective this white girl needs to hear.

The longer I listen, the more voices I hear. And the more I learn.

Through your podcast, I also grew to know and love the Truth’s Table podcast.

You also introduced me to the writings at the blog (Black Perspectives) of the African American Intellectual History Society, where I have read countless stories and been introduced to new books that have grown my world exponentially.

I could go on and on, but mainly I just wanted to write and say thank you.

Thank you for your willingness to keep engaging with a community that consistently   underestimates the ongoing impact of racism.

Thank you for creating spaces where I can learn. I know that those spaces are not for me, but I am grateful to be invited along to listen and open my heart.

I hope you will keep writing, speaking, reading, tweeting and holding truth for us all to see.

With gratitude and grace,


A note to my readers:

If you want to check out the podcast, Pass The Mic, here are a couple of my favorite episodes:

This interview with Andy Crouch is a particularly great listen for white folks. Note: the podcast’s target audience is black listeners, so if you’re white, you might be asking yourself why you would join a conversation that is not for you? One good answer is that when I am in a place where my own experience excludes me from understanding what the speakers’ have encountered, I am being let in on something special. I get to listen and learn.

Bryan Stevenson (interviewed here) is a national treasure. Seriously, I think in 100 years we’ll be talking about this guy like we do Ghandi.

And if you are involved in any kind of racial reconciliation in churches, the 4-part series that Truth’s Table did on this topic is required listening. This one with Laura Pritchard is my favorite.

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