Archive: Book Reviews: Dealing with Race

Archive: Book Reviews: Dealing with Race

Archive: Book Reviews: Dealing with Race

Good News Book Forum
January 1969
Reviewed by James D . McCallie

White Reflections on Black Power by Charles E. Fager (Eerdman 1967-$1.65  paper back) and My Friend, The Enemy by William E. Pannel (Word Books, 1968-$3.95) 

Written from two entirely different points of view, these books contain striking similarities in their analysis of white racism in America. Fager writes from a background which is admittedly “northern, urban, middle class, college educated, secular-oriented, New Left, and white.” Pannell writes as an African-American whose loyalties are thoroughly evangelical, having participated in the World Congress on Evangelism and similar enterprises. Both books are well-documented with quotations from a variety of resources. Both agree that vital inter-racial communication is stymied by the reactionary forces which center around black fear of white racism and the white’s fear of “black power.”

Fager’s conclusions are sympathetically slanted toward such black racists as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, while the temperate warnings of Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young against “black power” excesses are too easily dismissed. His reflections could be written off as unworthy of serious evangelical consideration if it were not for some very valid insights into the racist character of much of the white community which has, in tum, provoked the phenomenon of black racism.

Writing autobiographically, Pannell does not spare the predominantly white evangelical Christian community from his list of criticisms of white power structures which tend to perpetuate “second class citizenship” for the African-American. His book is prefaced with such pithy statements as the following: “I personally know churches in all kinds of denominations whose flight to suburbia testifies eloquently to their rejection of me as a brother and neighbor.”

He reveals some of the bitter disillusionment which he shares with other members of his race when he writes concerning his white “Christian” brother: “He taught me to sing ‘Take the World, But Give Me Jesus.’ I took Jesus. He took the world and then voted right wing to insure his property rights.”

Obviously, for Pannell, Christian brotherhood cannot be divorced from such social issues as open housing, equal educational opportunities, and fair employment practices. He places initial responsibility for better racial understanding squarely where it belongs – at the doorstep of the white evangelical Christian community. The theme of the book is that real involvement needs to replace the pretense of right race relations – and that truth needs to be spoken before we dare speak further of love.

As an evangelical pastor of two racially different congregations I support Pannell’s impassioned plea for understanding through involvement. I have become involved because I believe that evangelicals cannot afford to abandon this field of concern to the liberals. It is high time for us to become self-critical in this matter of right race relations. Christians must refuse to uphold white power structures which perpetuate racial injustice. Christians must make positive ventures toward real Christian brotherhood.

I would recommend these two books as valuable resources for the current church-wide study of the “Crisis in America.”

James D . McCallie, pastor of Pleasant Grove and Wesley United Methodist Churches, Jeffersonville, Indiana, an inter-racial circuit.