No Innocent Bystanders

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

An eye-opening read. Hard, too, and so important. 

One of the challenges facing (us) white folk is that we don’t know what we don’t know. These authors acknowledge that they are not the “ideal” source for the truth about opression in our time, but they saw this work as their contribution to bringing insight, perhaps even justice, to the current atmosphere in society (reflected - or perhaps extended - in the Church).

In keeping with their expressed desire to convey the truth, and connect readers with what they may not know yet, the authors connected with and included input from people personally affected by (and working toward alleviating) injustice. Listening to the people affected - believing them when they say, ‘this is how it is’ - is central to filling the gaps in our spotty educations. 

What you read here will (I hope) horrify you, grieve you, and ultimately (I hope) awaken you to a broader reality than many of us (white folk) have had to face. Readers are challenged to rethink the different effects of systemic oppression and individuals’ identity, creating a valuable distinction, a clarity through contrast, in the way dominant (white, heterosexual) culture responds to injustice to the oppressed. 

This isn’t a long book, and has the (mathematical) capacity to be read quickly, but the weight of discovery and the heaviness of processing (integrating) a “new” reality will mean this is a book to return to, and information to sit with. Even as it is hard. 

My thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a digital copy of this book to review.
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No Innocent Bystanders

Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice

by Shannon Craigo-Snell & Christopher Doucot

Westminster John Knox Press

Christian , Religion & Spirituality

Pub Date 11 Oct 2017

I am reviewing a copy of No Innocent Bystanders Through Westminster John Knox Press and Netgalley:

This book reminds us that even today we struggle for injustice. The author points out that racism is a form of structural oppression.  We tend to think that racism in the terms of anyone who harbors ill will towards anyone, or believes in stereotypes brought on because of the color of ones skin, but the authors point out that this is not racism but bigotry and prejudice.  The authors go on to point that racism is not individual it is systematic.  

The book goes on to tell us of some of the steps forwards we have made against prejudices while still pointing out we as a nation are not without its problems when it comes that way.

I give No Innocent Bystanders four out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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No Innocent Bystanders is a powerful book offering principles and advice for what it means to be an ally to groups who experience oppression and marginalization as they work toward social justice. More specifically, the book’s subject matter is racial justice in America. The general principles, however, apply and translate to other causes as is shown by the first chapter in which ally-ship is broadly illustrated through the cause of LGBTQ acceptance and equality. The illustration also serves to provide how racism is both different from and intersectional with LGBTQ marginalization and other social oppressions. 

The book is about structural systems of privilege and oppression on which America was founded, and how that must first be acknowledged before allies are even able to see and recognize racism that is intertwined and a part of every relationship, whether it be personal, business, religious, or political. 

The book discusses what an ally is and the expectations of them by groups with which they ally with. It discusses typical hurdles that allies experience such as guilt, taking a back seat, listening instead of talking, don’t ask to be taught, and more. There is much in the way of sociological discussion dealing with how oppression is maintained and perpetuated, usually unconsciously by those participating in it. 

The authors come from a clear Christian perspective and have white Christians (evangelical, mainline, Catholic, and others) in mind as their primary audience. They frame injustices and how to overcome them in terms of a re-visioning of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and reparations. They discuss how Christian virtues of faith, hope, love, humility, prudence, fortitude, temperance, and patience can inform, direct, and sustain allies’ efforts in their work to battle injustices. 

This might be a difficult book for many white Christians to accept, since what it does is a thorough deconstruction of the majority white American worldview and how that normative perspective is ubiquitous in parts of American society. It is this ubiquitousness of norm that is at the heart of what must be corrected if racism is ever to be eliminated. 

The book offers some concrete steps to take for that those wanting to participate as allies. These include connecting, amplifying, advocating, accompanying, impeding, and celebrating. These are given with examples to help the reader see what social justice action might look like in practice. 

Does the book offer anything to a non-white audience? I believe it does. The general principles can be adapted and applied to any social justice cause where a person is an ally. One of my causes is working with domestic violence and sexual assault agencies. It is a predominantly women-led field and most of the victims are women. Even though I am a trained advocate and a board member for an agency, I am still, in many ways, an ally and the contents of this book reminded me of things I have experienced, and also introduced some new concepts that I think I will find useful in my ongoing work.

My one hesitation may be the prominent featuring of LGBTQ as the prior and parallel example to everything else in the book. It might turn away readers that otherwise would find the rest of the discussion quite useful and valuable. But I believe it is necessary because of intersectionality. Too many social justice Christians who have no problem being vocal about feminism and racism have been too afraid to bring up LGBTQ, and it is about time it becomes part of the greater conversation on justice. 

(This review based on ARC supplied by publisher through NetGalley.)
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