When former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick still hadn’t been signed on the eve of the NFL’s regular season — no doubt because of the fallout from his 2016 symbolic protests during the traditional pre-game playing of the national anthem — I decided to boycott the NFL. I’m a lifelong sports fan, so it wasn’t an easy decision for me. There are few things I enjoy as much as watching a Denver Broncos game on a Sunday afternoon, but I wanted to take a stand in support of Kaepernick and others who have spoken out against the racism and injustice embedded in our society.
In the matter of a few short weeks, however, the anthem-related protest movement among NFL players swelled from a trickle to a flood, involving star athletes from the NBA, and engulfing entire teams. I find the dialogue it’s causing encouraging, but many others, including our sitting president, perceive it as disrespectful and unpatriotic. Some fans burned their team jerseys in disgust and have forsworn the NFL for life.
In light of this cultural divide, I’ve tried to better understand the reality of our society’s racism and white privilege that’s so hard for some of my fellow Americans to acknowledge. All that to say, most of the books listed below touch on these hot-button topics:
Flight by Sherman Alexie — This writer is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The two books of his that I’ve read so far are coming-of-age stories narrated by a Native American teenager. They’re pretty profound — raw but authentic.
American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty by George E. Tinker — I’m not quite done with this book yet, mostly because I’m taking so many notes! Love the approach Tinker takes here in starting his theological project with creation.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead — Just finished the audio version of this National Book Award-winning novel, which follows Cora, a female slave who attempts to escape from bondage in Georgia. Definitely worth a read, but buckle up because it pulls no punches.
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander — This is an eye-opening and well written trio of books. Warning: Abandon your preconceived notions about racism, all ye who enter here.
The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind–A New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault — I’m always open to seeing Christ presented in new ways, and this might be Bourgeault’s most well known work.
ThinkingPacifism.net — My friend Connie recommended this blog to me last month, and after checking it out, I’m recommending it to you! Ted Grimsrud is a senior professor at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. IMO, we could all stand to listen more often to this perspective.