The critical analysis of antiblackness has received almost no serious attention in the major sourcebooks, companion volumes, and introductory texts that are used to teach Christian ethics and religious ethics more broadly.1 To be sure, discussions of racism, white privilege, and their intersection with other oppressions can be found in some sources,2 but these discussions have had little effect on broader accounts of Christian ethics as such; moreover, the precise problem of antiblackness remains underexamined even in some sources that target the related phenomena of racism and white privilege.
The tendency among Christian ethicists to neglect antiblackness as a central ethical crisis of our age stands in sharp contrast to the increasing popular awareness of the moral gravity and complexity of this problem. The public outcry against deadly police assaults and other white supremacist acts of aggression against unarmed black persons is one sign that more work needs to be done. How should ethicists understand the many factors that have produced these and other related forms of structural and eruptive violence against black human beings? What sorts of individual and collective action do various traditions of Christian ethics demand in response to this very particular yet pervasive evil?
By specifying “antiblackness,” we invite contributors to think about the specificity of blackness as a target of racial hostility. Beyond the general question of racism, we encourage participants to analyze the constructs of blackness that have positioned it uniquely as a threatening, criminal, killable presence or nonpresence in the order of things. How are such antiblack falsehoods produced, circulated, and enforced? At the same time, we want to emphasize that this analysis cannot be done without attending to the plural, intersectional, and hybrid conditions of human identity. Thus blackness and antiblackness need to be interpreted through the lenses of gender and class, as well as in relation with other subalternated ethnic and racial identities and various modalities of whiteness. Our goal is not only to expose the harmful constructs of blackness that support antiblack violence but also to seek liberative possibilities for the meaning of blackness that contribute to a more inclusive and just planetary society for all.
By specifying “Christian ethics,” we invite contributors to think critically about Christian complicity in antiblackness as well as to seek positive ethical resources in Christian scripture, doctrine, theology, spirituality, and social and ecclesial praxis. Christianity is a tradition that needs to be both critiqued and retrieved in view of this particular crisis. We ask participants to consider Christian ethics not only as a theory but also as living reality—a force shaping local and global forms of resistance, activism, and community formation. Our conversation will be ecumenical, drawing on a diverse array of Christian traditions; insights from secular discourses and other religions are also welcome.
1. Antiblackness is not treated in any of the following widely used texts: William Schweiker, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005); Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells, eds., The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006); Robin Gill, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics (New York: Cambridge, 2012); Gilbert Meilaender and William Werpehowski, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics (New York: Oxford, 2005); Chuck Mathewes, Understanding Religious Ethics (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2010); Robin Lovin, An Introduction to Christian Ethics: Goals, Duties, and Virtues (Nashville: Abingdon, 2011); and Andrew Kim, An Introduction to Catholic Ethics since Vatican II (New York: Cambridge, 2015). An exception to this trend is Samuel Wells, Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2010), which has a three-page subsection on race. This minimal treatment still reflects a general tendency to sideline the topic.
2. See, for example, Katie Geneva Cannon, Emilie M. Townes, and Angela D. Sims, eds., Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011); James Cone, God of the Oppressed (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997); Laurie Cassidy and Alexander Mikulich, Interrupting White Privilege: Catholic Theologians Break the Silence (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2007); Eboni Marshall Turman, Toward a Womanist Ethic of Incarnation: Black Bodies, the Black Church, and the Council of Chalcedon (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013); Monica Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008); Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven: Yale, 2011); M. Shawn Copeland, Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009); Traci C. West, Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011); Bryan Massingale, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2010); and Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015).