In this Episode
This month we are joined by Robert P Jones, President and Founder of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the New York Times Best Selling author of several books, including: The End of White Christian America and White Too Long. Most recently, you might have heard the hubbub about his latest book,The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future.
We invited Robby to speak with us today, because Robert’s work with PRRI, coupled with his outstanding work as an historian and the homework he has done as a southern white man has the power to help understand our current moment and point the way forward toward the Beloved Community.
We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thread or Insta Lisa @lisasharper or to Freedom Road @freedomroad.us. We’re also on Substack! So be sure to subscribe to freedomroad.substack.com. And, keep sharing the podcast with your friends and networks and letting us know what you think!
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:00:00] Coming to you from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection. I’m Lisa Sharon Harper, president of Freedom Road, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap. Welcome to the Freedom Road podcast. Each month we speak with national faith leaders, advocates, authors, and activists to have the kinds of conversations we normally have on the front lines.
It’s just that this time we’ve got microphones in our faces and you are listening in and this week we are joined by. Robert P. Jones, who you’ll hear me call Robby, I’ve been knowing him for a while now, and I’m going to take that liberty. He is the president and founder of Public Religion Research Institute, PRRI, and the New York Times bestselling author of several books, including The End of [00:01:00] White Christian America and White Too Long, the winner of the 2021 American Book Award.
Hello, somebody. Yep. It was that good. And most recently you might’ve heard the hubbub about his newest book, The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future. So I invited Robby to speak with us today because Robert’s work with PRRI coupled with his outstanding work as an historian and the homework he has done himself as a Southern white man has the power when brought all together to help us understand our current moment in the United States of America, the political moment, the social moment that we are in and the religious moment and point the way forward toward the beloved community.
So we’d love to hear your thoughts. I want you to tweet to me at LisaSHarper, or actually let’s just say thread. [00:02:00] I’m weaning myself off of that tweet platform or to freedom road at freedom road.us. You can also hit us up over at Instagram or Facebook. And we want you to keep sharing the podcast with your friends and networks and letting us know what you think our audience is growing.
And it’s so exciting to see that we have, we have like, you know, scores of downloads now, which is like, yes. Scores of thousands, rather. Sorry. Scores of thousands of downloads. People all over the world who are listening religiously now to the Freedom Road podcast. And we welcome you. We thank you. And we are excited that we are all on the journey together.
So Robby, you want to dive in?
Robby Jones: Yeah. Let’s do it. o
Lisa Sharon Harper: All right. Let’s do it.
Robby Jones: Thanks for having me.
Lisa Sharon Harper:Okay. Robby. So we normally start with our faith journey on this pilgrimage because I just really want people to understand kind of who it is we’re talking to and, and how they are connected on a faith level to the content we’re talking to.
So can you [00:03:00] tell us a little bit about your own faith journey and you know, what’s the genesis of your faith story?
Robby Jones: Well, you know, I grew up in the church. I grew up as a Southern Baptist in Jackson, Mississippi. Um, and I was. That kid was at church all the time, like all the time. I was, you know, even as a teenager, it was not unusual for me to be at church five days a week.
So, you know, that’s, that’s the world I grew up in. I was in the youth group, you know every time the door was open, I was there. And I went to public schools, but, um. But when it came time to go to college, I went to a Southern Baptist College, I went to Mississippi College, just 20 minutes from my hometown, um, and then I went to seminary.
I felt a call to ministry at the end of my time in college, went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Um,
Lisa Sharon Harper: You got the bona fides, okay? You are like… [00:04:00] An official white male evangelical. There is nothing that is not white male evangelical about you.
Robby Jones: I drank pretty deeply at that well. And you know, it was interesting. There was that seminary where I first began kind of getting some critical distance on that world. Cause I was so in it, right? You can’t see it when you’re just in it that much. And so I first started getting some, um, some critical distance there.
You know, little moments like, like for example, I never, it was never taught to me or even discussed what the word Southern in Southern Baptist meant. Oh my God. Um, and I finally had a Baptist history professor who said, you know, here’s the history. Like our Genesis in 1845 of our denomination was, because a group of churches in the South broke with their Northern brethren over the issue of slavery. And so the word Southern is about a Southern way of life as in [00:05:00] Confederacy, Southern way of life.
Lisa Sharon Harper: As in slavery.
Robby Jones: That’s right. And, and the whole point of the denomination was to form a band of churches, uh, where enslaving other people on the basis of the color of their skin was compatible was seen to be compatible with the gospel. That’s the Genesis story of, of, uh, my home denomination, which by the way, um, grows to become the largest expression of Protestant Christianity in the country. It still remains the largest Protestant denomination. That has that history. Wow. And so that, that little crack edifice, I think, uh, there, um, and it was kind of shocking for me to, to, to get that Southern wasn’t just like a regional.
Descriptor, right? But was tied up with slavery, the confederacy, white supremacy. Um, and so I think…
Lisa Sharon Harper: wait, wait, wait, before you go forward. What year was this? Give us a sense of the time.
Robby Jones: This would have been 1992. Um, I think when it was… dating myself now
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my gosh, that’s a year [00:06:00] ago, that’s the year of the LA uprising.
Robby Jones: Yeah. Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Was it in that same period? Same time period?
Robby Jones: But like, you know, I’m oblivious to any…
Lisa Sharon Harper: You didn’t have a clue about what was going on in LA at that time. Really?
Robby Jones: I mean, you know, yeah. I mean, you know, maybe it was like on the background, the newsreels, but like nothing that like really entered my consciousness, you know, is anything significant.
I mean, that’s just how insular. You know, this world was to me. So like that wasn’t even in conversation with this other thing going on.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Another, another question just real quick is did you marry your highschool sweetheart or your college sweetheart?
Robby Jones: No, I did not.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It’s in that.
Robby Jones: Yeah, it is. Yeah. No, no. In fact, um, no, uh, it, it’s, it, it’s, uh, I, so I met someone at seminary, um, that, that, that I married, but that’s the story of my parents though.
My parents met in eighth grade. Um, stayed together, uh, pretty much, uh, since [00:07:00] then.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow. Okay. Okay. Keep going.
Robby Jones: So, I mean, I think it’s been a very slow, there was not a kind of, you know Pauline epiphany moment where everything shifted. It was, it’s really been this very slow journey. So that was, you know, like I said, 1992, right.
And I don’t really dig in and write the first book where I’m really wrestling with this until, you know, 2014. Right? So we’ve got a long period of time there where this stuff is kind of percolating in me. It’s uncomfortable, it’s, but I don’t know what to do with it, you know? And, and so I think through my doctoral work, I went to Emory University, which actually did give me some good tools to begin to think about this.
That’s where I first read Howard Thurman, James Cone, and really read African-American Christians. And I think that was also the aha moment. You know, if I had one, it was really. that broke the world open.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Robby Jones: You know, it was this idea of, you know, [00:08:00] Jesus and the disinherited and being on the side of people with their backs against the wall, not with, not on the side of the people at the top of the social and political, you know, pyramid.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So you saw, you saw through black faith and in particular, our black prophets, another way of seeing. God.
Robby Jones: Yeah. And Jesus. I mean, you know, and, and seeing not white Jesus, you know cause I think that was quite something different
Lisa Sharon Harper: What was that link for you. I mean, like, you know what I mean? Like how, how did your life with your wife, like, did it, did it, how did it, you know what I mean?
Like what did it, how did it impact your, your daily life when you started to see things differently?
Robby Jones: Yeah. You know, I, I mean, I think it means that like, I’ve traveled quite a significant way from my family of origin, right? So that’s one, I think you could still see, you know, the distance between like my brother and I, for example, or, you know, my parents and, and extended family that are still deeply in the [00:09:00] South.
Some of them have come along, some of them haven’t, you know, but it meant that I’m on this journey. In a very different way and encountering you know, different sources, different readings, yeah, that are really reorienting. It also, you know, helped. I think that I was also in the denomination and at seminary when the seminary was sort of imploding.
Um, so our president was fired my last semester, you know, there, uh, for being a so-called liberal, uh, it was kind of, you know, trumped-up stuff. But I mean, you know, there was like potentially a coup that happened my last year of seminary. Um, uh, that, that I also think made me kind of like, okay, I was going to step back and reassess this whole this whole thing.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah. I’m sorry. What year was that?
Robby Jones: That was 94.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So this is all really happening pretty quick, like in pretty good succession. Wow. Okay. Oh my gosh. Okay. So I really do want to dive in because there’s a lot to cover here. This book is really, truly amazing. I’m going to [00:10:00] hold it up so everybody can see it.
And buy it, buy the book, buy the book, buy the book, buy the book. This is seriously an amazing book. The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy. So I’m just, I mean, honestly, I have not finished it yet. So everybody, you know, in full disclosure, I’m still working my way through this book, but I am absolutely… I’m just honestly blown away by the structure of it, like what you’ve done with the structure.
I know you’ve been hearing that I’ve been listening to a few of your interviews and everybody’s pretty like, wow, about the structure. And the reason for it is because what you’ve done is you’ve actually given us vignettes, but are not just one vignette. It’s like three vignettes around, around a particular window into the problem of America, the history, the origin story of America and what you’ve done, which most people have not.
I tried to do it. But I did it in another way through Fortune, which is to weave together the Black and the Native American history. That history comes together in my own family story. So, but, but I [00:11:00] love the way that you did it by kind of teasing out the two origin stories of 1619 and the Doctrine of Discovery.
And so we see you working with these two, not competing, but two origin stories that actually do tell different stories, but help us to understand how we got to our shared present. Which is pretty amazing, uh, that you did that and, and, and through the structure that you chose. So I want to start actually with the prologue, you tell a story I’ve never heard before.
So you tell the story of Robert Hickman, and his escape from Boone County, Missouri with 76 emancipated African-Americans and Captain Wood, right? Who picks him up and, and like tows them to the port in Minnesota, right? Wasn’t it Minnesota? And then, and, but he’s turned away from the, by the Irish dock workers.[00:12:00]
My God, do you not have all the threads in this one story. And then they get to the port that their actual military port that they were going to. And just before that, and then the people who are going to board his boat are the Dakota people who are being removed from their land. So what you say in this, in your prologue is this story actually captures the first moment of emancipation for people of African descent and the last moment of sovereignty for the Native people in Minnesota. So I want you to, you know, share a little bit about what was it like for you to uncover that story? Where did you first hear it? And then what did you learn? What did you learn about America from that story and then also, as you go into the question of identity?
Robby Jones: Yeah, no, I love this way, this way in here. Thank you for that. So you know how it is when you’re working on a book and you’re reading widely [00:13:00] and you’re, you know, doing research and you don’t quite know where all the pieces fit yet. Um, so originally that story was cause I have three chapters on Minnesota.
And so originally that story was in that section on Minnesota because it was part of the Minnesota story. But as I got to the end of the book, I realized, Oh no, no, no. Actually, as you said, like in, in microcosm, that one little vignette has all the threads in there of how the indigenous story, the African American story, the European colonizer story, it’s all kind of wrapped up in this little vignette and, you know, it’s got one of our, our heroes, Abraham Lincoln, right? In Missouri in a very ambiguous way, right? Because on the one hand he’s issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which inspires Robert Hickman and his band to escape, right? And by the way, they were escaping because Missouri was not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation, it was not one of the rebelling states, right? So [00:14:00] enslaved people in Missouri were not liberated by the, he took it upon himself because he was literate. And so he actually had read accounts of it. He was like, okay, we’re going to take this opportunity and go. So there’s that weird, you know, that kind of complex piece.
But the other thing that I realized is that. The Emancipation Proclamation sat on Lincoln’s desk for quite a while because he was looking for a union victory. He wanted to release it and announce it at a time of strength and not defeat. So he kept waiting on a decisive union victory to… so while he’s, while he’s basically got it composed and it’s sitting on his desk and he’s waiting for the right opportunity, And while that is happening, he gets this other petition for the mass execution of 38 Dakota people.
Actually what he gets on his desk is the request to execute 300 Dakota men, after some conflicts between the Dakota people who were being starved and deprived of their provisions by the federal government. And that’s…
Lisa Sharon Harper: Can you just tell that [00:15:00] story a little bit more?
Robby Jones: Yeah, yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Like, they were being intentionally starved.
Robby Jones: Right. So, you know, this is kind of You could tell the story in almost any state, a very similar kind of story. So, you know, what happens is there is, um, encroachment by people of European descent. There is kind of, they’re forced into treaties and usually, uh, the, the formula is get Native American people to cede land in response, they will get paid money and, and supplies, right?
And they’re guaranteed and they get other land over here. And then what happens is though, systematically those promises inevitably are broken, right? And the federal government, despite being obligated to, um, provide food and money and supplies every year, began withholding it. To the point where the Dakota people were literally starving.
Um, and, and when they were, they even approached the federal [00:16:00] government that was overseeing the supplies, um, and there was this awful callous response by one of the, the, the, the main officers in charge, and he just said, let them eat grass. Was his response to it, you know, and so, you know, many children died, many elderly people died, you know, as a result of this.
And so there was a violent uprising to basically seize the things that were theirs that were being held in these garrisons. And there was… it’s one of the broadest. Conflicts between Native Americans and white colonists, um, in American history. And as a result, the, the, it’s eventually put down and then they capture 300 Dakota men, uh, and accuse them, you know, of murder and are holding them, and they send a request to Abraham Lincoln to execute all of them.
Like all 300 of them, and Lincoln, you know, to his credit, um, actually slows it all down and says, because they’d been tried by these [00:17:00] sham military tribunals, like many times, six at a time, trials less lasting like a few minutes before capital punishment, you know verdict was read, uh, and Lincoln slows it all down, has his attorneys look it over.
And he actually commutes the sentences of all but 38 of these men. But for 30, but he signs the death warrants for 38 Dakota men, who are, who are in fact executed, um, en masse in Mankato, um, uh, Minnesota there, but he’s, he gets that and he’s, he’s considering these two things at the same time, the emancipation proclamation and this request to execute indigenous people.
And you know, it’s very complex, but again, these layers, right that are right on top of each other. I think that’s the insight for me was,
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah.
Robby Jones: You know, I knew much more about African American history than I did about indigenous history, but when I thought of them, they were in these two [00:18:00] separate siloed columns, right?
I didn’t think of them together. And I think that’s one of the biggest things I learned working on this book is that, wow, these things are so interwoven, uh, and the through line, you know, that connects them both is. What’s driving European Christian colonists, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: What’s driving them? What did you find?
What’s driving them?
Robby Jones: Well, what’s driving them is a particular interpretation of Christianity. You know, that, this thing called the doctrine of discovery, you know, we can talk about that.
Lisa Sharon Harper: We will next segment!
Robby Jones: but it’s a very, it’s the version of Christianity that lands on the shores is very much.
Uh, one that is committed to white supremacy. Uh, and, and violence and occupation. I mean, that’s, that’s the version of Christianity that, that lands on the shores and the, uh, you know, in the sort of, uh, 1500s and 1600s. [00:19:00]
Lisa Sharon Harper: So what did this all teach you about the story of American identity?
Robby Jones: Yeah, well, it’s, it’s clear to me that like, that’s really where we are in the country today, you know, our biggest divides are not really about policy or how we’re going to solve some particular, you know, problem we’re all facing. It’s not about economics. It really is the question of, like, who belongs. Who’s the country for, who belongs here, like this, those big identity questions that are really driving our deepest, um, you know, differences.
And I think what it became clear about is that these go all the way back, you know, one of the fundamental dividing lines are, you know, that we’re seeing in kind of this uprising of white Christian nationalism and other movements are really, uh, come down to, to diametrically opposed divisions of the country.
Like, are we, you know, a divinely ordained promised land for European Christians, [00:20:00] like, is that who the country is and for, or are we a pluralistic democracy, you know, where everybody, regardless of race and religion, stands on equal footing? And we’ve never fully answered that question. I think these two competing, opposed trends have been with us since before the Republic, and they’re still tearing the country apart today.
Lisa Sharon Harper: These are our stories. You’re listening to the Freedom Road podcast, where we bring you stories from the front lines of the struggle for justice.
All right. So Robby, we know we’re coming back. Robby. I have so much to say after what you just said in that last segment, particularly this question of identity and the stories that we are still struggling through. You know, in one respect, I can see that it can feel like a [00:21:00] shameful thing. We’ve never resolved these.
Like how could we, it has been 500 years, right? 500 years of European contact on this land with native people. And then bringing Africans to the land in order to build up coffers of wealth, but we have never yet struggled through, and resolved the question of who this nation is for, even though we are what we are.
I’m so bad with math. We are 200, 100, 160 something years from the end of the Civil War, and we still have not, um, resolved that question. And yet, you can also flip the perspective and see it not as this shameful thing, but rather to say, we’ve had 500 years under… a hegemony of one story. And it’s literally, literally only in the last maybe 30 years that that story, maybe 60 years, if you count it from the civil rights [00:22:00] movements, that pushback in the civil rights movement of that hegemony of a story being challenged, but in a major way, really, you could literally say even just like, Since the Obama years that it’s been, the hegemony of that story has actually been like really shoved forward, right?
Like moved and so now having the hegemony of that story been kind of unmoored, we actually have a window of opportunity. This is now a window of opportunity, a new window of opportunity to begin to contest and reshape our American narrative. Um, that’s another way to see it. What do you think of that?
Robby Jones: I think that’s right. You know, I want to say that, you know, the work that the 1619 project did was a Herculean effort to dislodge. That one narrow [00:23:00] vision of 1776 and, you know, if you think about this, it kind of like imagery, you know, with 1776, what you think about is. Um, I, there’s like two images that come to mind, both of which are on postage stamps or on paintings.
You know, one of them is the white guys in Philadelphia kind of standing around, posed very awkwardly around the table with their quill pens, right, in their colonial finery.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Which never happened, by the way, like that actually never happened.
Robby Jones: Right. But we got it kind of all laid out in a painting that comes down to a postage stamp.
And then the other one is this other painting called the Spirit of 1776 that has these three white guys. One with a fife, one with some drums, bandage around his head, right? Marching to freedom. And in fact, my, as entry, I have a middle school, middle schooler, son at home and he’s just now taking American history.
And the textbook he brought home has that spirit of 1776. He’s in public school here, but speaking of, I [00:24:00] think, progress. So they are pairing that textbook with Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’s Indigenous History of the United States.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Really?
Robby Jones: So it’s pretty nice to kind of see this, this pairing, um, because actually the book does a decent job, even though it’s got that cover, it’s an AP American History book, and it actually has a decent job of covering African kind of contact and, and, and slavery, uh, but it was very thin on Native American history. And so they’re supplementing it with, uh, with this book. So I think something like that, we hear all about the bans and the you know and those are real and troubling, but I do think there is this other movement of real efforts to, uh, tell a broader story.
And so, you know, I think one last thing I’ll say is, um, this imagery is really important, right? Because whatever’s in that frame. As an origin story is what you have to account for and whatever… what other story you’re going to tell [00:25:00] has to account for that. Um, and it can leave out stuff that isn’t accounted in that original image.
So the, you know, if you remember that original image of the 1619 project, when it was in the New York times, it was, it was not the white dudes in Philadelphia. It was an ocean. It was the ship, right? It was water and it was a ship. And so what’s on that ship, right? It’s kidnapped African Americans arriving in the British colonies, you know, destined for enslavement.
That’s what’s happening there. And so that’s the image. You have. And that’s not the Mayflower, right? It’s the other ship, that we’re having to, you know, you have to account for that. And whatever other story you tell about America, you’ve gotta account for that stuff. And so I think one of the things I’m trying to do in the book is say like, yes, like, and let’s back it up even further.
Um, uh, and kind of bring it back to 1490, at least to 1493, right? Where we can kind of tell this kind of first contact of indigenous people, um, and that story. ’cause by the… you know, by the time we get to [00:26:00] 1619. We have a century of, uh, European indigenous contact, right? That’s already, you know, underway.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s actually really true. Most people really have no idea of that story because for most, especially on the East coast where I am, most folks start their history when the English got here, but the Spanish were here like a hundred years before the English, which is kind of amazing when you think about it.
Okay. So I kind of want to take a step back and I want to shift to your work with PRRI, right? And also your, your first book, well not actually not first, but White Too Long. And then we’ll move forward from there. But you talk about the shift in the American demographic, right away from being a majority white Christian nation.
So, um, again, in the, in your prologue, you talk about from in 2008, it was 54%, um, white Christian nation. Um, and then in 2016, just eight years later, We are now 47%. And then just a year ago, we’re now at 42%. So, [00:27:00] you know, it’s funny because most people cite the demographic shift as going to happen within 20 years.
Right? But you have said, nah, this thing already happened pretty much. I mean, the most important part about it, the cultural shift has happened. So, I want to ask you, you know, you say that they are increasingly, conservative white Christians are increasingly quote, fleeing displaced from the center of a new American story.
And I love how you put that because I do think that. That’s the, that has been honestly, like the goal is for me. And for the people that I know who are actually pushing back against this hegemony of this story, hegemonic story is de-centering it, not erasing, not erasing the, white imagination or erasing the white understanding of it.
But. De-centering it so that there’s space for another [00:28:00] story to be told. So I want to know what in their narrative though, tells them that they should be at the center.
Robby Jones: Yeah. Well, it’s funny. It’s, I think you can think of this two ways. You can think of it as de centering it, but if, but the thing that you’re de-centering is actually this impossibly innocent and dishonest myth.
So it’s not actually real history that we’re decentering. That’s true. Um, it is, but it, but it is, it’s a version of history. Um, but it’s a dishonest history. It’s a mythologized history of impossible innocence, right? James Baldwin has this great line. I’m going to butcher it, but it was a great little paragraph where he talks about, you know, in the histories we love to tell about ourselves in America, we were always noble, we always treated migrants and the indigenous people with respect.
We, you know, we were always virtuous. Like it’s just all of this kind of nobility in this [00:29:00] story. And it just screens out all the violence and all of the genocide and all of the enslavement, all of that stuff just goes by the wayside into this kind of… and that, that often is what passes for patriotism, right?
Is that kind of thinking, um, dishonest thinking about the country. So I think we are just de-centering that. There’s another way in which I think actually, I’m kind of wanting to hold, you know, white European Christians. I kind of want to still hold them at the center of the story. But the whole story, right.
And, that whole story has to be about first contact, and it has to be about, cause, you know, one way of thinking about this story is. Yeah, you can’t just sort of tell this rose colored glasses story, but you can’t understand, uh, if you look at indigenous people today and where they are in the country, what their lives are like, that story doesn’t make any sense without understanding.
European Christians who, and Christian’s not [00:30:00] incidental. Like the Christian part of it was the driver, for the treatment of indigenous people. Right. They were seen to be barbarians, savages, like the declaration of independence calls indigenous people merciless savages, like that, those words are in the Declaration of Independence, right?
And so when we think about that, I mean, that’s so, there. And so I think it’s, it’s sort of white people wanting to be the center of this virtuous story and avoid being the center of this much more troubling story at the same
Lisa Sharon Harper: Head is exactly the right. Oh, I, yes, that is the MO I’m very familiar with that, it’s like, we want to claim responsibility for all the good stuff and then say we had nothing to do with any of the bad stuff. So, but, but I still now I’m actually intrigued by your desire to keep them at the center, hold white people at the center of the story. I wonder, see, for me, I understand that, when I place the white at the center of the [00:31:00] formation of the current world we live in, right?
So the current world we live in was legislated. adjudicated and structured in order and by the assumptions within the Western, white imagination. And that’s why we find, um, We find these, all of these stories kind of coming together all, all at the same time. We find the story of the indigenous genocide absolutely coming together at the same time and in partnership actually with the story of the enslavement first indenture and then enslavement of Africans.
And later, which I love that you brought in again and that, and that first story, but it’s also true elsewhere in our history later, the question of who is American, who and who can be a citizen. [00:32:00] And, you know, Benjamin Franklin fighting for the reality that only white people should be able to be citizens, right?
And those white people had to be English because they’re the ones who found the country, according to Benjamin Franklin. So the Germans weren’t going to be allowed to be citizens or white. And the Irish had to fight their way to be white, you know, and actually they were citizens, but they were not really, not really.
They were on the level.
Robby Jones: No Irish need apply. Right. That was a sign we saw all the time.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah, exactly. Jewish people as well. Right. So I guess what I’m, I understand your desire to keep them at the center. When I think of it that way, do you mean it in that way or do you mean it in another way?
Robby Jones: No, I appreciate you coming back.
I think what I really mean is I’m wanting to hold white supremacy and Christianity at the center of the American story. Cause I think that we are not going to be able to reckon with our present until we hold those things as central. To who we have been, and many ways [00:33:00] who people who look like me have tried to make the country be, uh, and so kind of holding onto that as a central truth.
So I don’t mean holding, I should be very careful. I don’t mean like holding white people at the center of the story, but I do think we’ve got to hold, if we’re honest, we’ve got to hold this entanglement of white supremacy empowered by Christianity at the center of the American story. And if we’re wanting to live into that other thread we talked about, the thread of a pluralistic democracy and equality and these other things, um, we’re going to have to reckon with that. Uh, very long, very intentional, as you said, it was like legislated, advocated for, preached, like all of those things, right? This was not like some side project.
This was like a central project that we’re having to reckon with and, and trying to really to just, you know, be clear eyed about dismantling.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow. So, okay. So I love how, again, how you structured the book into these four sections that each [00:34:00] trace the pre American story on a particular land, reveal the atrocity that was, that happened on that fruit.
I mean, the fruit of the, of that story. Um, on that land. And then also how was repair sought on those lands? So you go through Emmett till Duluth and the Tulsa race massacres. So I wonder if you could actually just share with us a few of the like aha moments you had with all three of them.
Robby Jones: Yeah. Well, you know, I think most of the aha moments I had was really in the encounters with people on the ground, you know, cause I spent time in each of these places, uh, meeting people who had worked on these efforts at commemoration and truth telling right amid a, you know, massive effort to forget, you know, and so these are the people who are the truth tellers. And we’re coming together. So it’s really amazing to talk to folks like, you know, in, in, you know, so my home state of Mississippi, [00:35:00] um, you know, the, the whole world knows Emmett Till’s name, you know, because of, uh, the role that, that has his death played in kind of sparking the civil rights movement.
But if you’d gone to Tallahatchie, Mississippi, where it all went down as recently as like 2000. There was nothing there on the ground marking those events. No markers, no, you know, nothing to tell the story there. And finally a group, you know, came together and said like, we, we’ve got to do better than this.
Like, you know, we have to tell the truth about what happened here in this community. Especially since it was such a, not only like this horrific death, but justice was never brought. Right. To the killer.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s right. Never.
Robby Jones: Right. And so I think kind of talking about this as a massive injustice and, and issuing an apology for that injustice, and then commemorating the event and the idea that if we tell the story, Um, it can provide a platform for us building something better for the next generation.
And, you know, these [00:36:00] were Tallahatchie County is a very rural, very poor counties. These are not like people with postgraduate degrees and lots of money. But nonetheless, they kind of got together and this, you know, it was. Descendants of enslaved people and sharecroppers on the one hand and descendants of enslavers on the other.
And, you know, in rural communities, these people know each other’s families. Right. So it’s like, I know what your great grandfather did to my great grandfather, like that’s in the mix. And yet they still came together, you know, with a real commitment to tell Emmett Till’s story. Uh, and, uh, and they worked together over a couple of decades and, um, and just this past month, like it came to fruition.
And the. You know, creation of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till Mobley National Monument that President Biden, you know, signed into law. And it was these moving words from Kamala, Vice President Kamala Harris at the event. You know, she said, let us not be seduced into thinking, that we will be better if we forget.
You know, we will be [00:37:00] better if we remember. We will be stronger if we remember. There was these amazing words there that I think echoed the commitments of these, you know, intrepid. Folks that really worked, you know, tirelessly, um, to tell and with some resistance, as you might imagine, right, to telling that story and still stayed at it.
Lisa Sharon Harper: What did you find about the origin story, like the, the pre Mississippi story that you saw that linked, that kind of laid the groundwork for the fruit of Emmett Till’s evisceration to happen?
Robby Jones: Well, one way of kind of, you know, I’m backing into it is, you know, to ask like, so what creates a society? Where the thing is, you know, kidnapping, torture, murder of this 14 year old boy happens and his killers are acquitted, right?
You know, how do we create what goes into creating a society that that’s even possible? Right?
And so I think that’s kind of one [00:38:00] guiding question. So if you trace that back. Right. Yeah. You trace it back through Jim Crow, uh, you pace it back through enslavement. And then if you keep going, you trace it to the Trail of Tears and the forced removal of Choctaw Creek and Chickasaw Indians in Mississippi.
And, you go all the way back. I have a sentence in the book where it said, you know, Emmett Till was born in 1941, but his story. Begins 400 years earlier in 1541, and that’s the year that Hernando de Soto, uh, first arrived at the Mississippi River, claiming, uh, that entire basin, uh, for Spain.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow. Yeah. Wow.
Robby Jones: And there’s a, there’s a… I’ll tell you just quick. There’s a, I described in the book, um, how central this is like this sounds like, okay, well, it’s obscure history, maybe, but, um, there’s a painting of Hernando de Soto and that event of him arriving at the Mississippi. It is 1 of only 4 paintings in the rotunda of the U.S. [00:39:00] Capitol here in Washington, D. C. And it’s there because, uh, it was put there in the mid 1800s because it was a significant event. As the people saw it in the creation of the country, as we know it, right? It was Spanish claiming the land. And in that painting, it’s got it all. It’s got the entire kind of violent conquest there.
It’s got Hernando de Soto as the center of the painting, and he’s on this big white horse and looks very regal and, and his, you know, finery. And it’s got on the left side, it’s got his soldiers gathered behind him with all the cannon and weapons and swords and battle axes. And, you know, and they, and the weaponry actually spills out onto the ground and the bottom of the painting.
And then if you follow it around to the right, the thing in the bottom right hand corner of the painting is this giant crucifix that’s being raised in the village, in the like center of an indigenous village. Right. And, and so it’s all there, right? The violence, the Christianity justifying it. And the, [00:40:00] and, and that, that was not like a… I think when I saw those kind of images, we’ve all seen them of, yeah, the flag being planted and the crucifix being raised.
That I think I thought. Maybe it was like, okay, they’re having like a worship service to thank God for a safe voyage or something like that. Something kind of benign, but you know, when you understand like the, uh, what was happening there, these were actually part of the ritual of land theft. They were the ritual to claim those lands, uh, and, and the raising of that crucifix was the moral authority.
Not just the political authority, but the moral authority for claiming those lands, uh, and the name of what they thought of as other Christian nations in Europe. So it’s really central to our nation’s story, right? I mean, there are people in the 19th century put that painting up to say, yep, this is like one of four images of how we get to be who we are in the country.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Walking Freedom Road from coast to coast and around the globe. This is the Freedom Road Podcast.
Okay. So, Robby, tell us about Duluth.
Robby Jones: Duluth. Well, you know, so I’m from Mississippi, like I said deep South. And the other, you know, state I, talk about is Oklahoma. So both of those states are pretty conservative, right? So Mississippi is in the deep, deep South with, you know, really awful civil rights record.
Oklahoma is I think the only state, uh, in which every county, uh, voted for Donald Trump. Um, uh, and so it’s a very, very red, uh, state, not in the South, but it is a very, very red and conservative state. And so I didn’t want to just pick on.
So, uh, I wanted to tell a story, um, uh, [00:42:00] in, uh, in, uh, Minnesota, um, you know, and, and Minnesota, of course has been on our radar. I mean, it’s Minneapolis, right? Where George Floyd was killed was not in the. It was Minneapolis up in Minnesota, nice Minnesota, um, you know, where that happened. And so I want to tell the story.
I had actually stumbled on the story in the last book, um, White Too Long, and I wrote just a little bit about it. Uh, but I realized it was a much bigger story to tell there. So I went back and talked to folks and kind of expanded the story, but essentially. What happens in, in Minnesota, um, is that there are, um, there’s a traveling circus going through town in 1921.
There’s a group of African Americans working on the circus. They’re in town, they’re in Duluth for a single day. And there is a young white woman who accuses several of them of sexually assaulting her, falsely. Um, and they are, um, arrested, taken to the Duluth jail. They’re actually pulled off a train.
The train is [00:43:00] actually leaving town to go to the next stop. They’re pulled off the train, arrested, taken to the Duluth jail. And rumors start flying around Duluth, um, uh, that these three circus workers had raped a white girl in town and a crowd of 10, 000 people gather outside the jail and, and they just utterly destroy the jail.
Like they’re working on the jail with like jackhammers and ha and saws and like that’s, and the police make some effort to protect them, but they’re just completely overwhelmed.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my god.
Robby Jones: And they haul them out and three of them are hung on the town square, just a few blocks away from the jail. Um, uh, you know, all of them innocent.
And that’s a 10th of the population of the town at the time that turned out, uh, people that came from the theater to come watch the lynching, you know, in Duluth, you know, and, and it’s just remarkable. This is not Mississippi. It’s not Alabama. Um, this is Minnesota, right? That this happens, [00:44:00] in 1921.
And again, like no one really brought to justice, um, you know, and then this. Massive effort at forgetting that it ever happened, covering it up, uh, it’s kind of remarkable that, um, you know, pretty late, uh, you could, even in the eighties, um, there were some efforts to tell the truth about it and huge denial, uh, from all quarters that it even happened, uh, and, and ever so covered up for, in the, in the archives of, um, one of the major newspapers there, uh, the, you know, they’ve got an original version of the paper.
Yeah. Yeah. And somebody rips the, rip the story out of the original version of the paper to kind of even hide it from the archives.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my God.
Robby Jones: That’s how the media forgetting, uh, you know, went there. And so this, again, this group of people, and I think what’s inspiring to me, again, it’s just like, it was one African American man, one white woman, and one Latina woman who just.
Learned about the story and thought, Oh my gosh, like we have to tell the truth about what happened [00:45:00] here.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Robby Jones: And they built this beautiful plaza. Um, that is right where the lynching happened right across the street from where the lynching happened. It’s a big like 75 by 50 foot plaza. It’s got images of the men and some of their biographies.
And then these quotes about pluralism and justice and healing and repair and all that stuff. And it’s actually become. You know, what I would not flippantly call like a, a kind of sacred space in Duluth, uh, where, where people gather for civil rights marches. And, and when, when George Floyd was killed and there were, you know, protests erupting everywhere in Duluth this was the place everyone went, like everybody just knew it was the kind of place for this kind of expression, this outpouring of grief and anger, uh, and one, and, and speeches were given, but it was all happened, like, They had a place for that because they had done the work, because they, they did this in 2003.
So it was kind of ahead of this last round of racial reckoning that we’ve had. But [00:46:00] because of that, when these protests happened, there was a space for everybody.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It’s, it’s kind of amazing because I mean, I was there, I went to Duluth around 2013, I think, and, um, it was, and they showed me, they took me to the square.
They told me the story. They didn’t tell me about themcircus worker part of it. So when I read your book, I was like, Oh my gosh. I just got more details that I didn’t know. Um, but the thing that really started to like go around in my head around that time that I didn’t know, again, I was not taught in history class is that throughout the 19 teens and went and 1920s, that was the time of these major white-led race riots, race mafias around the country, and in all three cases that you cite in your book, you have Emmett Till, which of course happened 30 years later, but then also here and then in Tulsa, in all three cases, they are set [00:47:00] off by a white woman accusing a black man of assaulting her. That’s really amazing that this fervor was happening really in large part because of the initiative of white women.
But then what you just brought in is that it was a white woman who began to create redemption for this space along with a Latina woman and a black man. So that’s, it’s just very poetic actually to me. I see poetry in this.
Robby Jones: Yeah. And in Mississippi, um, one of the key leaders was a woman named Betty Bobo Pearson.
Um, uh, one of the white. From the white community. And she came from a long plantation owning family, in the Mississippi Delta. Um, and she was one of the key people bringing people along in the white community and the Delta.
Lisa Sharon Harper: So the strength, the courage of a few white women actually has, we’ve seen now we have [00:48:00] evidence has the ability to create an opening.
A space for reckoning in our nation. And how about, so can you tell us a little bit more about the Tulsa massacre? Because I know most people who are listening have heard a lot about it, but what was your aha in your research there?
Robby Jones: Well, you know, there, I think, uh, the connections for me were about how tightly intertwined, you know, yeah, we heard a lot in 2021.
It was the centennial of, of the, um, uh, the Tulsa race, uh, massacre. Um, which by the way, used to be called the Tulsa, Tulsa race riot, right. When kind of white people were spinning it to blame it on the African American population. And only recently has, uh, you know, in the work of this last effort, um, called the Tulsa race massacre, but how tightly that, uh, those events were, to a very similar thing that was called the [00:49:00] reign of terror among the Osage, um, uh, and just down the road, like from Tulsa, like this is, so we have this movie that we may have read the book, killers of the flower moon, big movie coming out next month, uh, telling the story of the Osage.
And, and essentially the short story is that, um, you know, Oklahoma. Um, the entire state, uh, really was intended to be, um, to put it bluntly, a kind of dumping ground for indigenous refugees who had been forcibly removed from all over the country and shipped to Oklahoma. It was originally called Indian country or Indian territory.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s right.
Robby Jones: On maps, uh, there. And the reason Oklahoma, by the way, looks so strange is because, um. It used to be much bigger and as states were being formed in that area, they kept taking bites out of Indian country, uh, or, uh, the other kind of, you know, the other formation of the other states there. And what was left was this awkward looking weird state right on top of Texas, that little bit was left.
[00:50:00] And of course, as soon as they were there, they were promised these lands forever, if they moved west of the Mississippi. And then very quickly, even there was, you know, uh, the whole, um, and we saw it in like athletic team names, the Sooners. Right? These are people who came in encroached on Native American lands, um, uh, there, but the story is that they then get pushed even more into less desirable places, even inside of Oklahoma, right?
Which is supposed to be promised for their use. And so they get pushed on these kinds of rocky, arid places that were terrible for farming. And they were essentially impoverished until lo and behold. They found massive oil reserves right under those lands.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wait, let me tell you, there’s a story in my own family’s, my own family history of my mom.
My mom tells a story that her, her brother told her that one day, someone showed up. On their doorstep from Oklahoma saying, Hey brother, or not brother, but you know, cousin, [00:51:00] um, you gotta come because there’s in our family story, there’s the story of connection to the tribes, to the Choctaw, sorry, not Choctaw, forgive me, the Chickasaw and Cherokee people.
And then later on, my aunt said Creek too, but no, I was Chickasaw and Cherokee because they lived in Northwest Kentucky where they were and they. This what I’ve since discovered, it’s very likely that they never walked the trail of tears. Instead, they went up into the hills and hid and then under lived for the rest of their lives under assumed identities of white or mixed race, that kind of thing in order to in order to escape removal.
But. Yes. In my own family story, there is this vignette of somebody showing up and saying, you got to come to Oklahoma because we discovered oil there. And you know, you got to claim it. You got to claim your land. And my great, my great grandfather, Hiram the story goes, says I like Philadelphia too much.[00:52:00]
He actually said, he didn’t, he had a lot of land in Philadelphia. That years later was stolen from him by eminent domain.
Robby Jones: Well, it’s, it’s a remarkable story because, you know, again, they get there by being refugees, right? To Oklahoma. And then even when they’re there, they get pushed off this less desirable land and then oil is discovered under that land and you can see where this story goes, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah.
Robby Jones: What ends up happening is there’s this thing that ends up being called the reign of terror, where white people, uh, thinking they push them onto this. worthless land suddenly know the value of it and it’s only indigenous people that control the, the mineral rights, uh, to it. Um, and they just engage in actually, uh, a campaign of wholesale murder, uh, to steal and then even involves like marrying into.
An indigenous family, and then killing off people so that you can inherit like killing your wife, killing your kids. So you can inherit the oil, [00:53:00] rights there. And again, we’ll get the story, but that story happens within a decade of the Tulsa race massacre. And so again, when you see these people together, right, this is not, you know, these are, these are not coincidental, they are systematic and like intentional efforts that are consistent with a whole colonial history, you know, in the us.
So they, it is just, they, they look like one thing if you see them as these kind of episodic explosions of violence. But if you just see them in the sweep. No, they’re just like one more step right on the way to enforcing white supremacy, holding back people of color, whether indigenous or African American and reserving the best for people of European descent.
And then justifying again, this is really important, like justifying the whole thing. Right. With, uh, with a kind of veneer of, of Christianity and [00:54:00] that supports is white, white supremacy, you know, in Tulsa one more quick detail. I dug up the sermon. Uh, that was preached in one of the most prominent Methodist churches in Tulsa, right after the Tulsa race massacre, which happened on like a Tuesday and Wednesday.
So this is the following Sunday and they brought up the Bishop from Dallas to give the sermon in Tulsa, not his normal pulpit because they wanted an authority, right? To kind of spin this. Um, and it, it is, it’s, it’s one of those heartbreaking sermons I’ve ever read. I mean, it is, It blames, uh, all the violence on the African American population in Tulsa.
Says you know, well, where there were white people, they were just kind of rogue, you know, people. And then the only blame it lays at the feet of white people. And again, this is a very wealthy white church. It literally says that if there’s… if we were… we overlooked vice among the servants who worked in our houses.
[00:55:00] And we allowed vice, essentially, we allowed vice, we white people allowed vice to exist among the help.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my God.
Robby Jones: That is the source kind of, if we’re culpable, that’s kind of where we’re culpable is that we didn’t crack down some paternalistic way. And that’s the sermon that gets preached right from the.
Kind of big pulpit, um, at Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa.
Lisa Sharon Harper: You can understand then why they never talked about it, because they literally probably thought they didn’t have to. It’s not their fault.
Robby Jones: It was a complete, you know, escapation of any white responsibility. And the mayor follows suit. The, you know, everybody just follows in line after.
The sermon gets widely printed. Uh, not only in Oklahoma, but in Methodist circles all over the country.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It’s a Methodist.
Robby Jones: Yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow. Okay. All right. All right. All right. Like totally, like literally my whole body. It feels like I’m doing like spins right now. Like I’m spinning. All right. So this feels spiritual to me, Robby, have you gotten a sense through your research that this is more.[00:56:00]
Then what we see, or even our minds, this is more than about just thinking or logic or the material flesh that this feels spiritual.
Robby Jones: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s no one who’s can look at predominantly, I wouldn’t be like clear about my own location here, but I don’t think anyone can look at predominantly white churches today and think that they’re healthy.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Robby Jones: Like, it’s just really obvious, um, right, that, that we’re sick.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah.
Robby Jones: And this, this quote from James Baldwin has really stayed with me and I think really has been a beacon for me to keep going, um, through some of this history. Um, it’s very difficult history to write, to read, to, uh, kind of dig up, but he was asked one time, essentially he was asked why there’s not like more, like constant violence toward [00:57:00] white people from African American people, like given the history, right?
Given this awful history. And Baldwin says, you know, well, look, we, we do know white people. Uh, we know them well, like we’ve lived intimately with them for centuries. Um, so it’s not that we don’t know them, but then he says this: He says, we have, uh, we have often thought of them as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.
Right. The slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing and what insightful diagnosis of the problem. Yeah. Right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yes.
Robby Jones: And I think you could see he’s dead on, you know, because like, what are we fighting over now? We’re, we’re fighting. Uh, to prevent that diagnosis, right. From, from being clear you know, that we’re, we really have that, that, that mythology of the history we were talking about earlier, that impossibly innocent [00:58:00] myths that we’ve been telling each other, um, have led us.
I mean, I would say us, we white Christians, I think are really susceptible, I think, to living in a world of that’s disconnected from reality.
Lisa Sharon Harper: What is so hard? Like, I mean, it really comes from like the pit of my soul. What is so dangerous about having one’s understanding of the world shift? Why, why fight so much?
Robby Jones: I think there’s like a material answer to that question. It’s a psychological answer to that question.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Okay.
Robby Jones: You know, I think the, um, I end the book with this section. Uh, you may not have gotten there yet. Um, uh, but it’s, it’s essentially, I, I kind of put on my theology hat at the end of it. Right.
Uh, and I call it confession and call, um, a word to my fellow white Christians. Okay. Um, and that’s kind of one of the last sections in the book. But there, I try to [00:59:00] articulate. What we’re really saying when we are trying to suppress this history to not face it. Um, and I, I think it really does boil down to two things, like, um, we’d like to feel like we’re justified in keeping everything we’ve worked so hard to take is one way of putting it.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah.
Robby Jones: And the other thing is, I think we just want to think of ourselves as good. And it’s really hard.
Lisa Sharon Harper: But it’s so weird. But Robby, at the center. Of Southern Baptist.
Robby Jones: Oh, I know. Yeah. Let me know where you’re going.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Calvinist theology is utter depravity.
Robby Jones: Yeah. Utter depravity. And you know, I grew up, you know, I grew up going to like, you know, um, on occasion tent revivals and farm fields, right?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah.
Robby Jones: And, and those were big. Yeah. Those, we even had like at one of them, I remember this old tradition of a mourner’s bench [01:00:00] down front. Right. And the whole point of that was if the Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin, you often like resist, you wrestle right with it, but you go sit on that bench while you’re wrestling and you would see people like weeping.
Right. And sometimes like crying out loud. And in some cases even rolling on the ground, right. As they’re. Like wrestling with this kind of conviction of the spirit. So yes, this idea of confession and that we are not good, right? In fact, we’re prone to sin is so central, right? But, but I think it’s again, a sign of like, we’re just not well, right?
That we can’t face that.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my gosh. All right. So I have, I have one last thing. It walks you to last questions for you. The first, I was watching the commentary on the second Republican debate. This is going to date this, you know, our taping of the, of the time, obviously, but I have to ask you this, um, Rachel Maddow [01:01:00] posited in the midst of the commentary that Republicans no longer want democracy, right.
And we all know. from the stats and also from your research that the heartbeat of the Republican party is white Christians, right? So, and in particular white evangelicals, that’s the heartbeat. That’s the strongest heartbeat comes from that block. And what she said is that she said, she believes that Republicans, you know, we can also, you can insert white Christians, no longer want democracy. And what she said is they are not interested in it at all.
They’re not interested in policy debates. Um, and that’s why they’re not interested really in the policy debates that are flying even in the GOP debates, because, and that’s why when you look at the GOP debates, you’re not really seeing anything about really good policy debates.
You’re seeing arguments about curtains, right? You know, and just, it’s, it’s really nonsensical. And what she said is instead, [01:02:00] what GOP voters are actually making clear through their overwhelming support of this four times criminally indicted ex-president Trump, is that what they actually want right now is a strong man.
And so I guess my question and you actually, I guess you did begin to, to speak about this just now, but can you go a little further into what is your message for white Christians who are desperate for a strong man?
Robby Jones: Well, on democracy, I think that this one thing about history you know, it, it, that whole idea of even phrasing it.
That white Christians are no longer supportive of democracy assumes that they once were staunchly in support of democracy, but that’s not really what the historical record tells us. You know, if we think about, so, you know, we think that just Emmett Till, we talked about him, you know, it was [01:03:00] notable and awful that, you know the jury, all white men, right. Uh, that tried his killers and acquitted him in just over 67 minutes is how long they deliberated. That’s right. And, but you know, that’s pretty awful. But when you think about that, um, the way that the voter rolls were in Tallahatchie County in 1955, there, there was no other possibility that it was going to be an all white jury because there was not a single African American registered to vote.
And a county is about half black in all of Tallahatchie County, because voter suppression, terrorism, all of that had been so rampant, right? Just completely suppress voting there. So, I think we kind of think about that and those efforts, right, were supported by white Christian power structures, right?
And so they were against democracy, uh, and representative voting all across the South. Um, [01:04:00] uh, there, uh, even further back, um, you know, the kind of dismantling of Reconstruction, um, those were all anti democratic. Yep. So they were white rule.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s right. That’s right.
Robby Jones: You know, uh, uh, kind of, that’s, that’s what white Christians were for.
So white Christians don’t really, overall, don’t really have a great. grounding in commitments to democracy. It’s looked like that when they have been, when we have been, I say we, when we have been committed to democracy, it’s often been kind of instrumental. Um, you know, when it comes to an outcome that we like, uh, we’re committed to democracy when, when it’s mostly white people voting, uh, because we’ve arranged it that way, um, you know, or when the outcome, you know, when we gerrymandered districts so that the outcome is going to be we think about the struggles in Alabama.
Right now over redistricting, uh, in Alabama. So I think that’s one of the biggest problems right now is that it’s not like we have a deep well of democratic sentiment to draw [01:05:00] on, uh, in, in white Christian communities. It’s actually something that needs to be learned anew, and a new commitment there.
And… cause it’s not something we can just fall… We’re not gonna fall back on something we’ve never had.
Lisa Sharon Harper: The conversations leaders have on the road to justice. This is the freedom road podcast. Thank you for joining us today. The Freedom Road podcast is recorded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and wherever our guests lay their head that night. And this episode was engineered, edited, and produced by Corey Nathan of Scan Media and Freedom Road Podcast is executive produced by Freedom Road, LLC.
We consult, coach, train, and design experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment, and lead to common action. You can find out more about our work at our website, freedomroad.us. Stay in the know [01:06:00] by signing up for our updates, which are on Substack. And I, my voice always goes up when I say that because I’m so excited that we now have this new platform on Substack where you’re going to get regular updates about what’s happening on Freedom Road, but also hear from other writers, not just myself, but writers in our global writers group, and also some of our consultants who contribute from time to time.
But it’s an opportunity for us to really think deeply. Also, if you are a paid subscribed member on Substack and also, or a member of our Patreon community, then you get a special treat. You’re going to get a behind the scenes conversation right now with Robby Jones. We invite you to listen again, join the conversation on Freedom Road.