Teaching White Sin, Black Skin: Toward a Christian Antiracism Pedagogy in the Era of Mass Incarceration Open Access

Francois, Willie (Spring 2020)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/m326m288h?locale=en


In each epoch of strategic Black disinheritance in the United States, White Christians sacralized Black oppression, perpetuated injustices, or hid under the cover of heavy silence. Racism courses through the ecclesial veins of U.S. Christianities through congregational configurations of leadership, moral facades of political interests, sermonic rhetoric, and deafening silence. Nevertheless, the predominance of American Christians, explicitly White Christians, reject complicity with racism—the U.S.' first ideological sin—and further claim to be non-racists.

However, non-racist is not a real ethical orientation or identity. The overwhelming White Christian support of and complicity with slavery, lynch culture, Jim Crow Segregation, and now the normalization of Black hyper-incarceration and criminalization draft U.S. Christians into the antiracist fight for dismantling the Prison Industrial Complex. The limited Christian solidarity concerning anti-incarceration advocacy symptomizes a collective failure to address the histories of Whiteness and the structural realities produced by those histories.

This paper explores a Christian antiracism pedagogy poised to form and conscientize Christian disciples for anti-incarceration advocacy. Mass incarceration lives at the intersection of the U.S.’ nightmare of racial terror, class stratification, and the myth of public safety. The White imaginary criminalizes Black bodies out of inherited fear and a need to maintain White power. This paper conjoins Christian antiracism pedagogy with anti-incarceration work, contending that the effective education and mobilization of Christians—in multiracial, resistive networks—to combat Mass Incarceration—the intersectional practices systematically criminalizing and removing non-White communities—from a structural approach requires centering the problem of White power, unmasking the complicity of U.S. Christianities in said system, tracing the history of Black criminalization, and attending to our collective and personal inner wisdom in self-confronting small-groups of learning, gesturing towards Post-Whiteness advocacy and practices of resurrective justice.

Table of Contents

Introduction                                                                                                   1

Arc of the Paper                                                                                             3

The Problem                                                                                                   5

A Meaning of Whiteness                                                                              9

The Criminalization of Blackness as Demonic                                      10

The Witness of Evangelical Whiteness                                                    15

A Reparative Christian Paradigm                                                             20

By the Numbers: Black and Center-Left White Christians                  21

The Pedagogical Model                                                                               26

The Assessments                                                                                          30

Post-White Advocacy                                                                                   36


Conclusion                                                                                                      43

Bibliography                                                                                                   45

Appendices One to Nine                                                                              47

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