Activist Latasha Morrison Says Christians Should Lead Efforts in Racial Reconciliation

Latasha Morrison, a Christian advocate of racial reconciliation, says attendees at the recent Sparrow Women conference weren’t ready to hear the hard truths about what’s needed for reconciliation. Courtesy Latasha Morrison

Latasha Morrison is one of the most prominent Christian advocates of racial reconciliation. The organization she founded, Be the Bridge, provides training materials for Christians to launch small, diverse discussion groups focused on racial unity. Many of these “Bridge Builder” groups exist in the Dallas area. In October, Morrison will release a new book, Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation. In it, she argues that Christians should lead the conversation on racial reconciliation. But she warns that it’s costly. “The work of reconciliation causes you to give up your comfort,” Morrison told the Dallas Observer. “If you’re not giving up something, if you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re not doing it right.”

Morrison spoke to the Observer after Sparrow Women, an evangelical Christian racial reconciliation conference aimed at millennials, ended March 30. Earlier this week, the Observer wrote about how the conference created a bitter controversy when black theologian Ekemini Uwan spoke at it about the wickedness of “whiteness.” That offended many white participants, some of whom walked out, and led the conference’s organizers to scrub Uwan’s comments and images from its conference information online.

When we spoke, Morrison was preparing to head to Rwanda to learn about reconciliation efforts there 25 years after the 1994 genocide.

After the Sparrow conference, what were you asked to do?
Sparrow didn’t ask me to do anything. But I do know (Sparrow founder) Rachel (Joy) … Rachel is a very sweet lady, and I think her intentions were great, but sometimes … when you have a passion for this work, it’s really good to listen and educate yourself for a while before you jump and do. (That) is a habit of dominant culture. You want to fix it.

When I spoke to Rachel, I just tried to guide her, maybe some of the right things to do. She was broken. … But at this point when you see that you’re continuing to cause harm, you have to try to address this the right way.

Who advised her to be silent?
I did not advise her — and someone said Tasha said “Let it pass.” I did not tell her that. (Laughs.) Because of no reaction from her, and because people were experiencing secondary trauma, we stepped out as an organization. I’m invested in this work, and I believe this work is a lifestyle. And so what we’re going to do is what we know to do. We’re going to offer some trauma counseling for people of color who attended the conference. So we did that online.

Even in Be the Bridge groups, people (of color) are triggered. Because you have people coming who have not done any work, and these people want to read these books … but you’re not actively walking it out in your life. Your kids are still in an all-white environment; you don’t want discomfort. You want all the knowledge, but you’re not willing to give up something. And the work of reconciliation causes you to give up your comfort. If you’re not giving up something, if you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re not doing it right.

And the thing is with Ekemini  — everybody knows who Ekemini is. I know that the people who attend Sparrow are similar to the people who come to Be the Bridge as first-steppers. First-steppers are not used to hearing that language. They don’t understand the difference between race and ethnicity, or racist and racism. They don’t understand that white supremacy is a system. These are first-steppers, and Ekemini is a third- or fourth-step speaker. You would have to have a foundation to understand the concepts and the vocabulary that she’s using. So I think that they put her in a bad situation. But I think they brought her in because they wanted to attract women of color.

They told Ekemini, give us your 101 version. For Ekemini, that was her 101 version. This is the language she uses, so you knew exactly what you were getting.

The first person I called was Ekemini, to check on her. “Sis, are you all right? What’s going on? Are you OK?”

She was just like, oh my goodness. Because those of us who are in this work, we have to support each other, even though our voices are different.

What did Ekemini say?
She was kind of confused, because she felt like they knew exactly who she was. She was confused at the reaction of her images being taken down. It was kind of violent in the sense that she was erased, and nobody was talking to her. Rachel never reached out to her — she was a speaker at your conference. The other lady who interviewed her (Elizabeth Woodson) reached out to her. Elizabeth is probably in an awkward position, because I think she’s on staff at The Village Church, and Rachel’s husband is on staff. … I just know how things work in those circles. Especially when you’re in a predominantly white church, the reaction would be silence instead of exposure or talking about it, because you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I’m just surprised that the right counsel was not sought out to address (Sparrow) the right way. I figured after a week, now you need to come up with a statement. “Hey, we want to own this. Maybe we didn’t research this the way that we should have. We want to apologize for anyone who has been hurt, we apologize to Ekemini, but these are some things we want to do to make this right.” The whole organization is supposed to be about reconciliation … but you failed at it yourself. That’s when you know this was a lot of talk, but the actual action of this work wasn’t in your heart.

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Source: Dallas Observer