An indispensable work that challenges white Christians to confront and atone for past sins.



A writer offers an indictment of six centuries of white Christianity and a guide to racial reconciliation in today’s church.

As a white minister who spent most of his career affiliated with majority black or multiracial churches, Garber is attuned to the “ecclesiastical apartheid” of America’s houses of worship. He devotes the first half of his narrative to a systematic history of the intertwining of Christianity and racism. Beginning with Pope Nicholas V’s 1455 papal bull that encouraged Roman Catholic nations to subjugate non-Christians through Protestant defenses of slavery in the 19th century based on Pauline epistles and an amorphous “Curse of Ham,” Christians justified white supremacy for centuries. Even after the abolition of slavery, white Christians passed Jim Crow laws, participated in lynchings, and responded at best with skepticism, if not outright hostility, to the civil rights movement. The author extends this historical pattern to contemporary Christians who embrace a convenient ideology of “colorblindness” that self-servingly benefits whites and ignores racial injustices like the mass incarceration of black men. The second half of the book centers on healing, which Garber suggests must begin with the confession of racist sins, both historical and contemporary “colorblind” iterations that treat structural and historical racism with ignorant ambivalence. After confession comes redress, which centers not on ignoring race and treating everyone “equally” but on providing justice to those harmed, which often comes at the expense of the culprits, as shown in biblical stories about repentance. Though Garber does not pull any punches in this illuminating and vital work, his analysis is particularly nuanced in differentiating between Catholic, Evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Pentecostal histories and approaches to race. And while his focus is on the white church, he deftly highlights an alternate black religious universe that spans from the liberation theology of James Cone to the Beloved Community of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But this extreme thoroughness comes at the cost of an often overwhelmingly dense book whose central points are sometimes overshadowed by a deluge of supporting evidence.

An indispensable work that challenges white Christians to confront and atone for past sins. (index)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-977208-13-2

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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