CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE & 55% of Black churchgoers say they “are aware of what race they are about every day.” White churchgoers, only 17%. #AmericanReligiousDataArchives #ARDA

by David Briggs, ARDA, 7/29/20.

There is a cavernous gap in attitudes on race in America.

Within the church, for example, more than four in five black Protestants said their race was very important to their sense of who they are; 55 percent said they are aware of what race they are about every day.

In contrast, less than a quarter of overwhelmingly white mainline Protestants attached the same importance to their racial identity; just 17 percent think about their race daily.

This lack of sensitivity to race – and the racial structures that impact the lives of people of color – present special challenges for racially diverse congregations.

A good deal of ethnographic research has indicated people of color pay “the lion’s share” of the personal costs associated with attending multiracial churches, Edwards and Kim noted.

These costs include feeling isolated, not having their religious and cultural preferences met and having only symbolic influence in their congregations.

The recent research involved 121 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with head clergy of multiracial churches as part of the religious diversity project, a nationwide study led by Edwards of leadership in multiracial religious organizations in the United States.

… The findings were not surprising to M. Garlinda Burton, a black woman who is resource development manager at and a former interim head of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.

“Racial justice has gone to the bottom of the list of priorities” for many predominantly white denominations, Burton said.

That is reflected within the church, she said, in ways from discounting the voices of people of color on either side of major issues confronting the denomination to many people considering the appointment of a pastor of color as a punishment to a congregation.

In many ways, even if left unsaid, “There is a sense among white people that white is better.”

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