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Awkward Silence: Practical Activities for White Ministry Leaders to Confront Anti-Racism

Amy Pagliarella reviews Shani McIlwain's new book.

Shani E. McIlwain
Publish Your Gift, 70 pages | Published March 15, 2022

Last fall, I gathered on Zoom with a (mostly White) group of parents from my kids’ school; eager to “do the work,” we discussed a book that highlighted ways we were (unintentionally) complicit in White supremacy. The conversation was rich and emotions ran deep. As we concluded, one mom gushed, “I wish I could share this book with my parents, but it would only cause a fight.” Heads nodded and folks laughed ruefully. Engaging with White friends who don’t believe anti-racism conversations are relevant to them requires a book that is practical, straightforward and, most importantly, invitational.

Awkward Silence is a book like this. Author Shani McIlwain firmly challenges White allies to commit to the work of dismantling racism. However, by beginning with prayer, speaking from the heart, sharing painful stories and inviting vulnerability, McIlwain may be able to reach those not already on-board, particularly within the church, in a way that other books do not.

The handbook includes journaling and reflection for individual use as well as opportunities to process within small groups, making it ideal for a church gathering or leadership team. Its primer on the vocabulary of racism supports novices while McIlwain’s insistence that we do the “inner work” encourages more experienced allies to dig deeper. She concludes with a call to action that both affirms people where they are and inspires them to do more. Awkward Silence is a book the church needs — right now.

Note: This review refers to the handbook, not the Amazon.com e-book. Author Shani McIlwain is a member of the Outlook editorial team.

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