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Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace

Osheta Moore
Herald Press, 248 pages
Published 2021

Osheta Moore’s Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace is beautiful and invitational; challenging and action-invoking. It is important to note that I, the author of this review, am a White woman. I hesitated at first by how generous, kind and grace-filled Moore’s words are to White people — she writes directly to us. She enters our hearts, our experiences and our emotional-roller coasters after learning how White supremacy is the air we breathe, socializing us into perpetuating harm against people of color and ourselves. White people often react out of shame, fragility, defensiveness and saviorism; White supremacy misshapes us from being the people God created us to be.

Does she give White people too much grace? She addresses this tension through her own personal stories as a Black woman pastor living in Minnesota and who grew up in the South. She writes, “What the world needs are more White Peacemakers, who know they are Beloved by a loving God and from that overflow seek the Belovedness of others.” She refuses to be white people’s “antiracism flagellation” and declares, “Let me stay human as I humanize you.”

Connecting with the anti-racism peacemaker identifier, she defines this as “a person who actively works toward a holistic restoration of the interpersonal and systemic effects of White supremacy through nonviolence and empathy.” The book is grounded in Moore’s Anabaptist context (and its emphasis on nonviolence) and Martin Luther King’s frame of nonviolence and beloved community, as well as rooted in Scripture and the call for nonviolent anti-racist action in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

In each chapter, Moore builds intimacy with the reader through personal stories, including the context of the pandemic and the racial awakening after George Floyd’s death. She describes historical examples of White supremacy, links them to contemporary realities and their impact on Black and Brown people, and addresses the common reactions she receives from White people. She calls her approach a “third way” on the spectrum of grace and grit (her words)/hand-holding and challenge (my words). Using a strategy of shame resistance and resilience-building, she wants this book to stick and empower — and it does.

She writes to White Christians: those early on the antiracism journey learning how to act, those who have forgotten they are loved by God amid mistakes and best intentions and to White people using activism to atone for sin. A small group or adult ed class would find much to discuss. The book is in a Black/White binary with limited references to Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and Middle Eastern contexts.  At the same time, she emphasizes that her words stem from her own Black context and personal perspective; she warns White people not to attribute her views to other people of color, who may have very different perspectives. Although her words are grace-filled, do not expect them to be easy. Moore breaks our hearts and motivates us; she connects and compels us to work for God’s glorious beloved community. Read it and be moved to act.

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Rev. Abbi Heimach-Snipes is a PC(USA) pastor currently caring for her toddler full-time in Chicago, Illinois. She serves on the Leadership Team of Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism and is working on her spiritual direction certification with the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute. Most days she’s baking, practicing presence in the playful and emotional landscape of toddlerhood and dreaming of ways we can bring God’s kin-dom here.