White Awake by Daniel Hill, Free for CAPC Members
White Awake brings us back again and again, gently but inexorably, to the truths that we’re so unwilling to face, steadily prying our hands from our eyes.
“What am I supposed to do?”
That’s the question that Daniel Hill found himself asking as his eyes began to open to deep-seated racial injustices in the society around him. It’s a question that will resonate with many readers of his invaluable new book. For a white 21st-century American, the mere discovery that these injustices exist—that they aren’t just the product of media hysteria or pandering politicians—can trigger profound disorientation . . . and a desire to rush in and make everything all better.
That, says Hill, is exactly what we should not do.
It’s all too easy to relate as Hill describes an epiphany—an observation by a friend of Indian descent that shook something deep inside him—and a subsequent journey that was confusing, painful, and full of missteps. What he had to learn was that he was asking the wrong question:
Each step of my journey to that point had been driven by the question “What am I supposed to do?” But now that question made far too many assumptions about the foundation I was launching from. The far better starting point would have simply been “Can I see?” with the obvious answer being no. That would then lead to the true question of transformation, the question that needed to define my journey from that point forward: “Jesus, will you help me to see?”
What Hill learned to see was a culture where whiteness is normalized—and where many white people cannot even hear that fact mentioned without feeling defensive and even angry.White Awake brings us back again and again, gently but inexorably, to the truths that we’re so unwilling to face, steadily prying our hands from our eyes.
Hill is not here either to usurp minorities’ right to speak—many of them speak their own minds in his pages—or to bash his fellow white people. Instead, as one who had his own difficult path to walk toward racial understanding, he wants to help smooth the way for others. He does this by providing historical and cultural context for the realities we see every day but so often fail to recognize, by examining the deep damage that racism inflicts on oppressed and oppressors alike, by explaining the need to pause and lament, and much more. While acknowledging the frustration and despair that surround racial issues, he dares to follow those who hold on to hope.
Now the pastor of River City Community Church, a multiethnic church in Chicago, Hill has gathered a wealth of insight on his own journey, and shares it with both firmness and compassion. I cannot think of a better place to start for those who are willing to ask, “Jesus, will you help me to see?”
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