As I announced recently, we will be doing a series on the brilliant, provocative, and challenging new book by J. Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account. The book is about racism — in particular, it is about how racialized theology and the church have become. Carter examines how theology itself — the so-called sacred discipline — has implicated itself in racism.
There are two elements to the process of racializing theology and the church and the gospel: first, Christians racialized Jews by making them a race group; following this, second, Christians developed a white-race religion. First, then, arises a racial imagination; second, then, arises white supremacy. The goal of this book is to imagine a different kind of theology that resolves racializing theology.
In effect, then, here is his goal: to “loosen the white grip on theology as a discourse” (8).
Let me try to give an example, an example I discussed recently with an African American professor. Why do we — society, political culture, church, individuals — call Barack Obama an “African American”? His mother was white and his father was an African. On the basis of his parents, there is an equal reason to call him “white” but I know no one who does this. We can come up with a variety of reasons: he refers to himself as an African American; African Americans call him African American. Or, to admit here our dilemma, what else does one call him? Are we permitted to call someone “white” only if they have two white parents but call someone “African American” if they have only one African American parent?
This set of questions is the sort of question that Carter’s study provokes. Have we developed a rhetoric in which “African American” means “marginalized”? Is calling Obama an “African American” a way of saying “he’s not one of us?”
Big question: How should Christians, the Church, gospel-shaped people deal with issues like this?