Joshi, professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, digs into disadvantages experienced by American religious minorities in White Christian Privilege (New York Univ., July.).
What audience do you envision for this book?
It’s become apparent to me, over years of teaching and doing professional development workshops on equity and justice, that folks who are interested in diversity and inclusion don’t always have the necessary background information. They are looking for the history of how we got to today, the laws and practices that go back centuries. That’s the information that gives context to where we are today, and will help them bolster their arguments. So I wrote the book for people who have a general interest in the topic. That audience includes both Christians and religious minorities. I want to help both have the language they need to describe their experiences.
What action do you hope these readers would take?
I’m looking to help people have a better understanding of United States history, a better understanding of how omnipresent white Christian privilege is. You really can’t talk about whiteness without also talking about Christianity, but that isn’t how history is taught or how we think about current events. One of the barriers to seeing this reality is that people believe that since we have the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion, that everything is okay. But it’s not. In the current climate, we need to have facts. We need to have the intellectual heft not just the empathetic heart. My approach to working for social justice involves the head, heart, and hand: the head is understanding the history, the heart is understanding that this is an emotional process, and then you have the action.
You mention at one point being reported to a colleague for “hating white people.” Could you talk a little more about that?
That story is an example of how this work can involve an intense emotional component for some people. Anybody who picks up the book and makes it to page three or four will realize this is not about hating white Christians. There are plenty of good people who don’t see privilege, because it is often invisible. That’s what makes getting your head around it so difficult. This process isn’t about saying, “You’re a bad person.” However, feelings of guilt often arise when white Christians first encounter this material. Guilt can be immobilizing, and you don’t want to get stuck there.
What are your goals for the book?
I want people to walk away thinking about changing their focus, changing the paradigm of how we think and what we do about race and religion in America. And I want to hear back from readers; I want to know how they are rethinking things in their own lives and setting out to change their communities.