The Color of Life
WHO: Cara Meredith, a writer and speaker based in the San Francisco Bay area.
SHE SAYS: “I fight for racial justice because systemic racism toward black and brown lives still exists. But my marching is for a justice and a wholeness and peace that are also mine. When I allow redemption to take hold of me, I can’t help but want this redemption for everyone.”
THE BIG IDEA: This book explores how we are to navigate conversations about race and teach our children a theology of reconciliation and love.
The author uses her personal story as the white wife of an African-American man as the backdrop to discussing how the ideas of a colorblind or post-racial society is a myth. This memoir also shares her thoughts on the church and racial healing.
“Chances are, you’re going to spot someone who doesn’t look a whole lot like you, but someone who is just as human and as divinely stamped as you.”
A CONVERSATION WITH CARA MEREDITH
What do you think is the No. 1 misconception the church has about racism in this country?
The biggest misconception the church has about racism in this country is that there’s not a problem in the first place—that issues of race were eradicated in the 1960s at the height of the Civil Rights movement. If we’re really going to dig into the problem of race, then the church has to open her eyes and see the blatant divisions still present at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning. (I should also note that my answer to this question is not necessarily directed toward the church at large. If we speak of divisions of black and white, then we acknowledge that the historically black church has not been negligent in talking about issues of justice, race and privilege). In that way, those of us who identify as white or who attend mostly “white” churches must recognize that we’ve not taken seriously our negligence when we’ve let our black and brown sisters and brothers carry the burden of problems of race.
So, we start at the beginning by listening and learning and listening some more to the voices of those we’ve silenced and marginalized. As my friend, Roy Guaranton Perez of The Rooted Collective says, we move beyond merely striving toward diversity and inclusion to full equity, equipping people of color to serve in positions of leadership in all of our churches.
How can pastors use stories from your book to help teach their congregations about injustice?
In a way, The Color of Life can be used as a “What Not To Do” primer, which I say with every ounce of kindness and levity toward myself. As a fellow sojourner, mine is and will always be a learned experience, and in that thread, there are a number of different ways pastors can engage with their communities on issues of justice, race and privilege. Also, because the book is largely story-driven, it begs for discussion—and whether conversations stem from a historical, theological, relational or spiritual antidote, we’re not so different from the earliest followers of Jesus in that “we know and we are changed by the stories we hear, by the accounts we read, by the tales we absorb.” I do have a feeling, though, that by entering into the stories of my father-in-law, my husband and my sons, stories of injustice will become personalized for some readers, maybe for the first time.
Why was it important for you to write this book at this time?
My answer is simple, I suppose: until we no longer have to have this conversation, we have to have this conversation. To be totally honest, I never thought this would be the book I would write (let alone publish), so in a way it feels so much bigger than me. Also, the more I engage in conversations of privilege, race and justice, the more I see how eager people both inside and outside the church are to engage in conversation, even if they don’t always know where to start. Perhaps my words will then serve as a springboard to point readers toward those who’ve been talking about this their whole lives, patiently waiting for the rest of us to pass them the microphone.