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Relisten: Forging peace through reconciliation

This episode is a re-presentation of one of our first Compass podcast episodes and it’s about our personal roles in the proliferation of racism and racial reconciliation. Despite the fact that the material presented in this episode by Rev. Brian Tillman is several years old, it’s still right on point and still really needed.


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Ryan Dunn (00:00):

This is the compass podcast where we try to disrupt your every day with divine moments. We'll get a little nettlesome in this episode in a good way. This episode is a re presentation of one of our first compass podcast episodes. And it's about our personal roles in the proliferation of racism and racial reconciliation. Despite the fact that the material presented in this episode by Reverend Brian Tillman is now several years old, it's still right on point and still really needed. So we're gonna take a re-listen to one of our first episodes so that we can keep making progress in being whole persons of peace and reconciliation. If you've already heard this one, there's a good bet that you're gonna learn something new by taking another listen, if you haven't already heard it, it's a good bet. You'll feel like we just recorded it. So let's head back to 2017 and see how we can forge peace through reconciliation as Pierce Drake and I, Ryan Dunn spoke with Reverend Brian Tillman.

New Speaker (01:01):

[Music Plays]

Ryan Dunn (01:07):

Thanks for joining us on the compass podcast. This is gonna sound a little weird. The, the message of this episode is gonna hit hardest for, for white people, as we're talking about racial reconciliation and in, so doing we're likely gonna see that white people, we have a lot of work to do. It's not just enough to change our attitudes, but we have to take some action steps too. We have a guide alongside of us of course in the holy spirit, a guide in person alongside of us today and Brian Tillman and Brian is a pastor in Atlanta. He serves as chairperson on the United Methodist Church's regional commission on religion and race. And he's been writing extensively for rethink and I invite you to check out those articles as they have. Well, a lot to elaborate on the conversation that we're having today. And Brian, thanks for joining us.Great to have you, is there anything else you want to add to that description about who you are and well, what you do?

Brian Tillman (02:07):

Well, I'm just delighted to be here. First of all, with the two of you and with those who are listening in just very delighted to be here. And I'm a, a pastor in north Georgia trying to do diligence to being the best person that I can be the best disciple that I can be, especially when it comes to the issue of race.

Ryan Dunn (02:23):

Yeah. And, it's in the interest of us being well, the best people that we can be that draws us into this conversation today. And Brian's given six steps for racial reconciliation. And I think what we'd like to do today is, is go through those steps in using ourselves really Pierce and I as well, examples or Guinea, pigs, or people to dissect that we might be able to work out some personal steps that we can use to become better reconcilers in the way that we live. So, Brian, would you kind of lay out the six steps of <laugh> of reconciliation for us?

Brian Tillman (02:57):

Sure. let me start with, with this, there's a quote by someone named Malik el-Shabazz, he's talking about race in America and he uses this analogy of a knife in an individual's back. And he says that a knife large in someone's back nine inches is it is very present. It's very real. It's there. If you remove that knife six inches, that is not progress. Mm wow. If you remove the knife completely it's still not progress because you haven't healed the wound that is there from the knife. He said, so the, the wound is not healed. So the progress is not made until the wound heals. And when it comes to race in America, there is a knife in the backs of persons of color. And he was sad because not only have they not begun to pull out the knife, but America has not recognized that knife is even there.

Brian Tillman (03:56):

Mm. And so that is really what he's looking for is not an apology. He's not looking for let's butter things up and just pretend things never happened. Yeah. He's looking for real racial healing. Now I use the name Elhaj Malik Shaba because it's a name that doesn't pick, pull up all these alarms for folks. Do you know the individual's real name or the name that we would know Malcolm I'm gonna take? Yeah. Malcolm X would be is Malcolm X <laugh>. And this is what he felt was the, the issue with race in America is that there's a knife in the backs of persons of color and is not being removed. And instead America wants to pretend the knife is not there. Hmm. And so racial reconciliation as I've presented, it works to not only not starting with removing the knife, you must start first with recognizing mm-hmm <affirmative> that, that there is a knife.

Brian Tillman (04:55):

And the first way to do that is people of color must resist their oppression, the racism that is lodged towards us. And so resistance is the first step in the reconciliation process without resistance. Those who are able to do something about the issues don't know there's a problem. And this is, you know, if, if I were to touch a, a, a hot fire, I would scream <laugh> from the pain. My, my body would send me signals that, Hey, you're touching something hot. You need to move your hand. And that is resistance. So you must resist the oppression. The second step is recognition, and this is what I was just referring to, that you can't reconcile what you do not recognize, right? That, that in order for individuals to reconcile race they have to recognize the depth of the problem.

Brian Tillman (05:52):

And this is a, a painful process because you're not rushing to do something. You are quick to listen. You must sit and listen and hear the painful things that have occurred. The painful things that are still occurring, and to better understand how these things are written into the American society. We're talking about systemic racism. This is also individual, but if you ask me, as far as I am concerned, it's the systemic racism that is more deadly, that is more harmful because people can smile and be nice, and the systems do the racism for them. So a person cannot be individually racist. They cannot intend to do anything racist, but the system itself is doing the racism on their behalf. And so we must recognize where those locations are before we can move forward. So the third step then is repentance, and these are all RS.

Brian Tillman (06:51):

They all start with re it's not necessarily intentional, but it is kind of cool. <Laugh> so re repentance is next. And we're, we're Christian people. We think we understand what that means to repent, and this is turning away from it is turning away from accepting racism as it is without a commitment to change it. And so we must repent and repentance includes a commitment to follow through with the necessary steps to, if you will using the words of Malcolm X to begin to heal the wound. The knife has to be removed and we must heal the wound. We just can't apologize for the knife being in someone's back and then move on and say, okay, I did my job. How do you get to work, removing the knife and helping the wound to heal? So part of that work is the fourth re the fourth step, which is repair.

Brian Tillman (07:44):

Now, I'm going to admit <laugh> I use the word repair because the word reparations is too, you know, it's too hot. But it means the same thing. So we must repair repay and replace things that have been taken, broken, and stolen, et cetera. There's a lot that's happened with race in America that we cannot quote repair mm-hmm <affirmative>. We can only make some other sort of amends that shows that we do not intend to repeat the same infraction when someone's lost their life, because of racism, when someone's lives have been destroyed because of racism, you can't necessarily fix that. You can repair the system, so it doesn't reproduce the same thing over again, for those who've already been caught up in it. Their lives have been changed forever already. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and so it's very difficult to repair those things.

Brian Tillman (08:37):

The fifth step is to reconstruct that once we repair things that can be fixed, we must change things in a way that shows that reconciliation is real. Our efforts are real. And so if, if I use this analogy and the last writeup of a woman walking into an office or an organization, and, you know, seeing a, a, a guy sitting at the head table and there's other folks in the room, and she walks in and the guy gets up, walks towards her and smacks her across the face 99 days in a row. And then on day 99, he says, I'm very sorry. He writes a document, you know, acknowledging his, his guilt and apologizing. That kinda reminds me of the bill of rights. <Laugh> and the constitution for persons of color, you've written this beautiful document, but if you never follow through with it, if things don't change structurally, you can't trust that reconciliation as real.

Brian Tillman (09:27):

So on day 100, when she walks into the office, it's the same guy sitting at the desk in the same location. Everything else is the same. What does she expect to happen to her? She expects the guy's gonna get up and do the same thing. He's done the previous 99 days. And when it's coming to race in America, we've seen this very thing over and over again, we've changed laws, we've fought wars, but in reality, the, the treatment and the systems are still set up in a way that does not favor us. And in fact, harms us extent. So reconstruction is a very necessary step. And the last of course is I would say repeat that this is a process that doesn't really end any good relationship would go through these steps all the time. My wife and I do the same thing. You and your best friends do the same thing that when someone is harmed they resist and the person who has done the harm must recognize what it is they've done REIT for. It starts repair, reconstruct, and then keep doing the process all over again. So those are the six steps, resist, recognize, repent, repair, reconstruct, and repeat.

Pierce Drake (10:35):

Yeah. I'd love to, I'd love to get your thoughts on this from, from a, from a white guy and a privileged white guy growing up in the south. That's my story in your step process would step one for me, be more recognition and then leads to resistance.

Brian Tillman (10:52):

So you can make that argument. So what I would say, and I, I did not write this in the, the write up I think people who fail to recognize are resistant, they, they are resistant. So resistance goes both ways. Resistance is for the, the, the folks who are enduring the injustice and those who benefit from it knowingly or not. Yeah. you know, there, there are, there are a lot of systems at play that are absolutely racist and people don't know. Yeah. They, they, they don't know. So, I mean, you can argue with my Samantha and say, well, can you, can you resist something? And you're not aware that it's happening. No, but I, you call it something <laugh> yeah. What do you call it? Yeah, I

Pierce Drake (11:30):

Think that's, I think that's good. I,

Ryan Dunn (11:32):

Yeah, I think it can be really easy to, to look at these steps and try to like, place our own spot within it, you know? Well, you know, I might be a person I'm on the phase of repentance. Right. But I, I would guess that probably so many of us are really hung up on, on the recognition phase because there probably folks who are resisting and yet there's still ways that they're participating in the, in the oppression.

Brian Tillman (11:58):

Right. So what, what I would say is that each, each of these steps, and I really struggle with calling them steps sometimes I call them phases. Yeah. As long as neither of those terms are meant to mean that we are done with this, and now we can move on to the next thing. That's good. Yeah. Yeah. So we are always recognizing we're always repenting. We're always repairing, we're always reconstructing. We're always repeating the process. So the, the, these steps don't end as, as a male, I am always recognizing how I have an advantage over few years. Mm. And, and figuring out ways to reconcile that. And because I feel that I'm a very aware person when it comes to that does not mean that I've accomplished the goal of recognition that I've I've fully cause I can't fully recognize without being a female. Yeah. and, and other, some females are not the same and their experiences aren't the same. So it is, it is my job, my role to always commit, to recognizing, working, to recognize, and then where I can repent, I do and where I can rep repair I do and where I can reconstruct. I do. Even while I'm still learning to recognize

Ryan Dunn (13:14):

What are some ways means ways that we get to recognition.

Brian Tillman (13:19):

So one, one way that I think is for lack of a better term, relatively popular is in intercultural competency is, is one way to help people to recognize generally speaking, you, you invite people to come to these sorts of things. And they, they come and sometimes they stay in resistance mode that they, they can, if they choose continue to resist the information that's being shared with them, the experiences and life, examples that are being shared with them, from the people of color, in the room, or from a facilitator, I've been a part of several different intercultural competency experiences. Some I would say are really, really, really good and fruitful. And some aren't, there are those that are good for one group of people and not so good for another really depends on who you are embodying to that training.

Brian Tillman (14:17):

Some are very, very soft and not abrasive, and some are very abrasive. And each can be effective depending on who the individuals are and how receptive they are to the information. So one of the, the, the trainings I was a part of is a, a group called basic diversity. Am I allowed to name groups? Is that okay? Sure, sure. This, this is my favorite one, this a group out of Atlanta called basic diversity. And the facilitator, I would call him sort of a bulldozer. Hmm. If I'm looking at a building that is, you know, is no longer meeting its function, or it may have never met its function. And I need to rebuild this building, you have to tear it down. And this guy is an absolute bulldozer. He comes with the big machinery. He's going tear down this wall. What he's not gonna do is he's not gonna rebuild it.

Brian Tillman (15:12):

<Laugh> so that, that work is left for the rest of us to work to do. And so he does a great job tearing down the wall. So individuals who come can no longer say they didn't know what they can say is they can, they can challenge. They can try to refute. They can try and find anomalies or examples where the things they learned were not true, but they're, they're gonna be dealing with what they encounter. And at that point they can decide to resist, or they can recognize, and we can move them up. The, the process and my experience has been more often than not those who've encountered this experience have been able to at very least recognize that there is one racism. And the other side of that coin is privilege.

Pierce Drake (16:02):

Yeah. I heard recently on a, on a interview that I was listening to prominent leaders in their fields talking, talking about race. One of the guys said who's an African American guy said, yeah, we use our privilege to fight the injustice on the other side of the coin. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, you know, so if you're, if you're if you're a male, you know, you stand up and use that privilege to fight the injustice of women. If you're a white male, if you're a white person, you, you stand up to fight the injustice of, of racism. One of the things that I'd love to hear you talk about and hear your answer on and to learn from is two things that this guy said that I've just been sitting in. And the, the first one was that, especially for millennials, gen Z, which is like this next generation, they're kind of a lot of their activism is right.

Pierce Drake (16:48):

They're gonna tweet about it, but they're not gonna do anything else about it. Right. They're not gonna actually go out and March, they're actually not gonna go protest. They're not, you know, they're not gonna do, they're just gonna, they feel like they're a part of it simply because they, they posted something about it. And so one of the things he said was in this, in this digital world that we're in and et cetera, that, especially when it comes to racism, we're not, we're listening to respond, not to learn. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. So in that, in that concept, so that's the, that's the, that's the atmosphere of this set, right. That people that are, that we're listening to respond, not to, not to learn from the other person that's, that's speaking. And then he said, but if we aren't speaking up against the injustice that we see we're co-signing with the injustice.

Brian Tillman (17:30):


Pierce Drake (17:31):

Right. So, so in that, in that ball field of going okay, when I speak up, what difference is making, if people are just responding to what they don't agree with, they're not actually listening to me. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, you know, like, I guess the, I think, I think the thing that I wonder about so much is I have a lot of conversations, I guess which I, I believe in I, I sit around at the table with a lot of people that are diverse from me, not just in, in race, but in belief, in theology and, and faith in general, you know, in different parts of the world, et cetera. And I love those conversations. I struggle with the weight that my words use when I stand up in other platforms. Does that make sense? Yeah. Like, like what does, what does me standing up on Facebook or, or any of those I'd rather, I, me personally, like, I'd rather just go March with them and stand with them than post about it. But yeah, just talk about that whole, like, if you're not, if you're not speaking to it, then you're co-signing with it.

Brian Tillman (18:31):

Right. So I, I think first to, to respond to your, your last question was, I, I, I think you should do both <laugh>. And, and, and here's why you, you have multiple audiences at one time. And one thing that, that has become clear to me is that persons of color don't generally trust people, racialized as white period. And we, we all sort of wear this mask around the majority population to get by, you know, we wanna keep our jobs, we wanna keep our stuff. We don't want any trouble. Let's just, you know, get along, get along and we can go on about our day. And so it is helpful for us to hear and see persons who are white, speak out against an injustice, you know, that, that does something for a lot of people of color. Now, I don't think it's enough.

Brian Tillman (19:23):

Yeah. But it, it is sort of the, the first step we go, huh? He recognizes something at very least, and is willing to risk saying something, a, a person who is white, who has influence and power getting up and saying something about racism that is intelligent and factual and true is bold. There's a great risk that they take in doing that. If you are a pastor of a church in a conservative area and you speak out against racism, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you do so at great risk. And so sometimes speaking is all that your congregation can take. That's good. You know, that that doing that is <laugh> is subversive because the congregation's gonna do everything they can to push you to be silent to those things. And so speaking sometimes is a huge step, and I don't wanna, you know, diminish that or discourage people from doing that. I think you should use every platform you can to speak out against racial injustice. If that's a puit, if that's a, a newspaper, if that is a Facebook feed, if that is a Bible study wherever you have a, a space and a platform of influence, I think we should use it to, to speak up, speak about racism and other injustices. I think that where people of color yearn for more is that some folks think that is enough.

Ryan Dunn (20:51):

Yeah. Yeah.

Brian Tillman (20:53):

So I, I, I think it is not enough because we, we don't trust until you do mm-hmm <affirmative> we are accustomed to people telling us that they're going to do, but then they don't follow through this is the political atmosphere in general, that a good politician is gonna make stops at the black churches. They're gonna talk about the hot button issues that we want to hear about, and then they're not gonna do anything. And so, you know, that's where if you understand and recognize the injustice, we want to see progress and movement towards helping us to, to fix that injustice. And so you, it is, it's just not enough to speak about it, but that, that is part of the strategy that someone should, should consider. If you wanna speak about injustice. Yeah. What is your plan? What is your strategy for the next step? Because it can't just be this.

Ryan Dunn (21:50):

Yeah. What can you put some, some light into that for those of us who have, I guess, a willingness to speak out, like, what is the, the next step? What are some of the ways that, that we show up being people of, of reconciliation? What are some ways that we express some repentance?

Brian Tillman (22:09):

So when it comes to next steps after recognition, mm-hmm, <affirmative> repentance is both something that we do. We acknowledge to God, our intent to turn from what we've been doing. And when it comes to race also to people of color, I, I think it would be fo to think that this is gonna be a huge thing for a person of color to hear a, a bunch of white folks coming to them, apologizing for racism. Yeah. Is, is really not for us. It's for

Ryan Dunn (22:39):

You. Ah

Brian Tillman (22:41):

It's it's for you to, to do we have managed just fine without the apologies <laugh> and, and the repentance. Now we, we want more. And so if you're going to repent, it needs to be connected to the next steps. I repent. I'm turning away from, from all of this. And I'm showing that by doing this, and you need to listen to persons of color to see how you can go about doing that. I, I I've worked on some projects, some of which I can't go great detail about because I haven't been released to talk about those things <laugh> but there there's one project in, in particular where there, there was a white person and a black person were working with, with both of them to reconcile an issue they've had for generations, I would say. And the, the, the white male needed to be able to sit and listen and hear the damage and understand the wound. And when he moved to repentance, it came with what was needed by the persons of color. And so the, the white male did not dictate how the repair was gonna take place.

Ryan Dunn (23:58):


Brian Tillman (24:00):

The, the damage was done to persons of color. And so they need to be in control of how the repair takes place. This is also sort of a reconstructing, the power dynamic. One thing that we encounter a lot when it comes to racial reconciliation is that persons who are white want to lead everything. They still want to sit in the seat of power and want to dictate and control what in fact is done to, to fix and heal. And quite honestly, not trying to be harsh. You can't be trusted to do that. Yeah. The, the white supremacist is system is still at play at work when that is done. If we're, if we're doing racial reconciliation, it needs to be led by persons of color. And those voices and their desires need to be trusted and honored. There was one point in the project I mentioned earlier that I, I wish I could name, but I can <laugh> where I wanted more, I wanted more, but the persons that I was working with to bring racial reconciliation to didn't <laugh>

Ryan Dunn (25:09):

All right, you were saying this,

Brian Tillman (25:10):

They were happy with this lower level in my, in my description of repair. And I had to accept that because the injustice was not done to me in that instance, I wasn't the one that was gonna have to live with it. I was gonna turn around, walk away and really at the end of the day, be be done with it. They were the ones who were gonna be dealing. Hmm. And so I had to be satisfied with what the person who endure the injustice wanted. And sometimes that's hard. Sometimes you end up with something that's not newsworthy. Sometimes you end up with something that you yourself could not live with, but if those individuals can, I think it's our responsibility to allow that.

Ryan Dunn (25:54):

I think about the ways that even in being well-meaning people well, white people try to try to be inclusive and yet still hold on to those, those places of power. And, and I think that this is a, maybe an expression of, of a new kind of, of racism. I, I suppose it's not new, but it's just a new way of thinking about it. Like, there's this traditional sense of racism where, where one race is specifically white people look at another race, specifically African Americans and, and think, well, there're beings who are less than right. That kind of old school racism. But I, I think that there is a new school of racism that recognizes that the other, in this case, African-American black people are fully capable, but fully capable of becoming just like us. And so we, we construct these systems where it's like, well, we're gonna empower people of color to be like us. And, and I think about this expressed in church where we a, a white church will be, well, we are gonna be an inclusive, multi cultural congregation. And so we express that by inviting people of color to come and join us what we're doing. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, which is maybe a well motivated thought. And yet somehow still holds onto this. It holds onto a sense of racism and that we are expecting these people to grow into what we are instead of growing into who they are.

Brian Tillman (27:24):

<Laugh> right. Right. And, and this, this <laugh>, this is extremely common. We see this for instance, when there's a big racial blow up someplace is, is always gonna happen. A white church wants to do a prayer service, and they want to invite the black and other minority churches around them to come to their church for a prayer service. If this were Atlanta they would do the prayer services at a big white church in affluent area of town, not go to the black churches on the less affluent areas of town. And, and so this is, they are inviting you into the comfortable confines of injustice field. Wow. Instead of going to where the injustice is actually visualized, where you can see it more clearly, you know, generally speaking, I'm not inclined to participate in those sort of prayer services. I have declined them in the past and will do so in the future is, is just not of interest to me. And I'm done playing those sort of games.

Ryan Dunn (28:41):

So part of this act of, of repentance then becomes us giving up power. And it's not enough just to say like, Hey, I'm I know that the relationship has not been fair and equal. And so now I'm inviting you to, well, to come alongside me and share this place of power, but I actually need to be willing to say, I gotta let go of it, you know?

Brian Tillman (29:02):

Right. So that's not pretty. Yeah. That's not pretty. So, I mean, and so,

Ryan Dunn (29:05):


Brian Tillman (29:06):

<Laugh>, so what what's happened really is, is the reverse laws got changed and segregation was, was outlawed, but the institutions that were founded and started because of segregation are now crippled, right? So the, the institutions who instigated the slavery, who wanted it and demanded it, we are able to go there now. And so our own institutions hurt what really should be happening if people are reconciling race and repenting of the sin of racism and how their institutions were built and structured, they would leave those institutions and come to the ones that were started and found without a racist history in past, you know, so if, if we wanted to do real race, racial reconciliation work, perhaps white pastors, particularly white male pastors should go and study at a black church. <Laugh>

Ryan Dunn (30:03):


Brian Tillman (30:03):

Most often we have black pastors who go to white churches. Yeah. And we call that reconciliation. No, I, I think the opposite would actually be a more honest and genuine effort toward racial reconciliation. If those who are racialized, as white goes to the place where they would be the minority, where they would black power and go to a place where they could learn really what it's like, they can see firsthand what they have benefited from for so long, and maybe perhaps leaving there and being able to do a greater good one. Great example is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When he studied here in the United States he was a member of a thriving black church in New York. He worked there and studied under the black leadership there. He learned firsthand the benefits and privilege. It was to be white in America, perhaps that is why he was able to go back to Germany and oppose Hitler. He saw this injustice and did not wanna sit still, even though he was part of the privileged group. I heard a pastor preach and use his analogy once. Great pastor. And he, he, he said that Dietrich Bon har was dipped in chocolate

Ryan Dunn (31:18):

For a moment.

Brian Tillman (31:19):

He was able to see these injustices and no longer could allow them to go with and, and him be silent. And so when he encountered Hitler in Germany, he had no choice, but to respond and act so that a justice would not occur on his watch with him doing nothing. We used Dietrich Bonoff for lots of things. Today, we quote him incessantly <laugh> but not enough do what he did what a gesture it would be for white persons to literally intentionally join historical black institutions. I think those are real genuine repentance efforts. And so that, and that would, I, I believe cause persons of colors to trust those individuals more.

Ryan Dunn (32:10):

And that goes beyond church, that there are other organizations and institutions that we can look for where we can become the participant. I think about that even in relationships that we have this tendency. And I, I think all of us do it to, to kind of look for people who are like us, right. And, and this is calling us to, if we are gonna repent of, well, the closed circles that we've lived in, that we need to look for situations in places where we can engage with people who are not necessarily like us.

Pierce Drake (32:42):

Yeah. Jay-Z was being interviewed on CNN the other night. I don't know if you saw this.

Brian Tillman (32:46):

I did not. Well, go ahead. <Laugh> yeah,

Pierce Drake (32:47):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. They were talking about that and, and, and talking about racism in America right now and et cetera. And so he referenced the NBA owner, you know, a few years ago that made his comments that were on recording and they fired him. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And so he said, he goes, I don't know if firing him was the right answer. And he said, the reason I say that is because those conversations like he was having, that he was recorded on are continually and have always been here. But what they did by firing him is they put all those conversations again behind closed doors. Right. And so you really haven't done any, you haven't done any healing work, you haven't even removed the knife in your analogy and Malcolm X's analogy. You're just hiding it again. Right. You're you're, you're, you're, you're taking those back in, in that concept and maybe he's wrong, maybe he's right. I Don I don't know, but like, what are our steps to take in that systematic racism that we do see, like in our day to day stuff, how do we, how do we fight against, how do we resist? How do we stand up? How do we educate ourselves really on, on those systematic things of racism, and then what are, you know, where do we go from there?

Brian Tillman (33:55):

Well, I, I think, I think a good reading list is a, a good place to start. That's good. But the, the concern I have about that is generally the reading is more, is a more broad picture of, of racism. And I think we can be most impactful when we are local, local, local, yeah. Local in our response. And so we need to be incrementally radical locally, where we are what's happening in your neighborhood, in your community. Some people would say that, well, there is no racism in my community. And my community is about 99% white. <Laugh> right.

Brian Tillman (34:37):

You have a racial, no problem. <Laugh> if your community is 99% white and the country is approaching 40% minority, you have racial problem. What is it that's happening in that community? That discourages persons of color from being present vocal is where we need to be. If we're going to impact, change, starting with, with reading, starting to Ize yourself with the way the systems are set up. So you can look in your area and be able to recognize it, you know what, what's happening with the schools in your local area. Yeah. Is there a school on this side of town that is affluent and has every resource imaginable mm-hmm <affirmative> and then the school on the other? That's not, why is that? And when you look at the racial demographics of those locations, what do you see? Yeah. Sometimes you look at the stacks and people seem to believe that it supports white supremacy in a way that persons of color are not just as, they're just not as smart.

Brian Tillman (35:37):

Hmm. You know, white people who are smart, they might say that people who are Asian are smarter, but then the darker you get, the dumber you get that is the perception that is out there. We can vocalize that, acknowledge it or not. But I think it is, it is true. And if persons of color actually are not careful, they'll start to believe it themselves. Hmm. Wow. This is internalized oppression where you start to believe the things that those who benefit from the injustice have been telling and preaching and telling you all the time. Hmm. And so we encountered this an awful lot, where there are some persons of color who have bought into their own oppression and they perpetuate these same stereotypes and falsehoods on their own people. It is, it is sad, but I, I think local is where it is be incrementally, radical and effect change where you are.

Ryan Dunn (36:26):

You mentioned reading list to, to kind of take it back out to the macro the non level. What are some books that we can throw on that reading list?

Brian Tillman (36:34):

This is not going to be very interesting. <Laugh>

Ryan Dunn (36:38):


Brian Tillman (36:40):

Martin Luther king Jr. <Laugh>

Ryan Dunn (36:43):

Oh man.

Brian Tillman (36:45):

<Laugh> there are, of course more modern writers. Yeah. But you've probably heard it say that Martin Luther king Jr. Was a prophet mm-hmm <affirmative>. And if you read his writings 50 years later, you would be compelled to believe that very thing. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> if I pick up and read where we go from here, what Dr. King's last books. If I read that today, which I do every year, I read where we go from here every year. He could have written that last week. Yeah. If I were gonna look at modern writers now Tim wise is one of them Tim wise is a white male. And so sometimes just being honest people, when it comes to race, sort of downgrade the writers of color and they prefer to hear it from a white voice. And so Tim wise, they would think he's a white guy.

Brian Tillman (37:35):

He's gonna tell it to me. Nice and sweet. Tim wise is probably one of the most abrasive <laugh> of writers. I'm surprised that he's still with us because of how direct he is with his, his writings and his speech. Another would be Jennifer Harvey is another good one. She wrote dear white dear white Christians, Tim Wise's books. By the way, one that I think people could start with is between Barack and a hard place. The person of color that I would look to today as being the leader for this movement would be William Barber. William Barber is phenomenal. He gets it. I'm not sure if you know the history behind him, but he was for a while, the leader of the NAACP in North Carolina. And if you went to some of his meetings in North Carolina for the NAACP, you would find a majority of white people. Hmm. Poor white people. Hmm. Attending NA CP <laugh>, <laugh> got any black man who can accomplish that needs to be heard. <Laugh>. And because the message that he's delivering is resonating with that population.

Pierce Drake (38:54):

The one that broke, opened the door for me but a few years ago, reading between the world and me yes, by Tanisha coats is, I'm not Tanisha. I'm not sure exactly how to pronounce his name, but

Brian Tillman (39:06):

It's on. Yeah,

Pierce Drake (39:07):

Yeah. That I've read it three times now. And it is from a white male's perspective. That's about to hit 30. It J it just broke me. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> this, you know, narrative, this story of, of this dad writing to his son in real time. Right. In, in what's happening right now. And so if that's one you haven't read that's one I highly suggest.

Brian Tillman (39:31):

Yeah. And, and that, that is a great book. And I, I think it particularly is good for white people. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and, and so I, I think for persons of color, he's not saying anything revolutionary for us. <Laugh> yeah. You know, these are our things that we are well aware of and live but for white people, that book from lots of folks that I've heard from has, has helped them to really understand and grasp what it is to be a person of color in this, in this country. Yeah. you know, the, the fact that he's writing this to his son, mm-hmm, <affirmative> trying to help him understand what it means to be a black man is akin to the rules that black parents have been giving to their kids for generations. We, we know that these things are real, so there are rules for me growing up rules.

Brian Tillman (40:23):

That would seem ridiculous. I think, to a lot of white people, for sure. One, one being you don't run outside unless you are on the field of play. Yeah. because me outside just running looks like I'm running from something or that I just did something that's problematic. And how many times have we've heard and seen a person of color shot by police because they were running, you know, so that, that's one rule, of course, that I passed on to my kids. You know, like you just, you just can't run around for no reason unless you're on the field of play. Another thing that came up recently a couple years ago was Pokemon go. And my family were living in ForSight county, in Georgia. And when I was moving to ForSight county, my, I was telling my mom where my church was.

Brian Tillman (41:12):

And when I said at ForSight county, she said, wait a second. Is that the county from the Oprah show? And I said, yes, ma'am, <laugh> this, this county is very well known. Cause Oprah did a show once about the whitest county in America. It's like 20 years ago. Yes. It's not right. This county didn't have a single person of color who lived in the county for 75 years. They systematically evicted all the persons of color out of the county. So we're living in this county which is still less than 2% black. And my sons want to go outside and play Pokemon, go with their friends in our neighborhood. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And so my response to them is, was, no, you, you cannot do that. And they did not understand why. And I told 'em, I said, because I'm terrified for you, if you do that. Yeah. If you were to do that, doing what your friends do you doing, it looks different. They're playing Pokemon go you're casing houses. Wow. and I'm just not comfortable taking that risk with you. And so it was, it was a very, you know, emotional conversation to be had with my child, but that's what black parents have to do.

Ryan Dunn (42:24):

Brian, as we close up, can you give us like a shining example? Like where is a place or an instance, or an example where it's right

Brian Tillman (42:33):

There, there are places I wanna talk about the church specifically. Mm. I am encouraged every time I see or hear of a white clergy member speaking to their congregation about race and not doing so, so carefully that they don't understand what they're saying. Ah I'm encouraged every time I see that and that's happening more and more, I'm encouraged by, you know, grassroots groups like surge, for instance, which is stands for standing up for racial justice. They are a, a group largely of, of white people, but they have the right standards and mindset in, in mind that they, they are a group that supports black leadership or leadership with people of color I'm encouraged because they show up and they show up to protests. They are largely relatively young white, young Americans young adults. And they're, they're doing so at great risks still.

Brian Tillman (43:35):

So I'm, I'm encouraged by all of that in a time where there's a lot to be discouraged about. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> you know, people sometimes argue about what the definition of racism is. And definition that I think is easiest for people to understand is a pairing of racial prejudice, plus power, especially systemic power. And so quite honestly, I don't think there can be a more racist person than a racist United States president that person Wells more power than anybody else in the world. So if we were to have a president who was racist, that would be the most racist person that I could think of in the world many would argue that we're seeing that today. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> I would not argue with them. There's a lot that we see now that is very discouraging. Yeah. quite honestly, that is frightening. And so we need some, some good news, and unfortunately we don't command CNN or Twitter these days. And so we have to start locally where we are. I think the greatest news story that I can hear is that someone decided to do something in their church. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> to do something in their neighborhood association to do something at their local school to do something, you know, where they are. Cool.

Ryan Dunn (45:00):

Well, Brian, thank you so much for joining us today. It's been a pleasure. Yeah.

Brian Tillman (45:02):

My pleasure. You guys.

Ryan Dunn (45:04):

Thanks for taking this journey back in time with us, you can learn more about compass and check out our other episodes at If you were into this episode, you should definitely follow it up with a listen to our episode with father Gregory Boyle about leaving no one at the margins. So glad to have this time with you. My name is Ryan Dunn, thanks to United Methodist communications for resourcing this podcast. And we'll talk to you soon. Peace.



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