Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, WhiteWho's More Precious In God's Sight?: A call for diversity in Christian missions and ministry Hardcover – September 9, 2014
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
Leroy Barber is the Executive Director of Word Made Flesh Ministries, and former president of Mission Year and of Focus Community Strategies (FCS) Urban Ministries. He is the author of two previous books, New Neighbor and Everyday Missions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I was very disappointed, however, with the material presented in this book. It was so poorly written, argued, supported and sourced that even though I made myself finish it, I could not recommend it to anyone working through this topic. I am giving it two stars because I believe the author to be good-willed, because I believe there was value in being able to read his perspective and because it introduced me to Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which I thought was exquisite (though I thought the way the author applied that letter to this subject matter was questionable).
My first criticisms regard form and structure and while I understand that this is not the point of the book, I do feel that it takes away from the overall message in a big way. I had a hard time following the content due to an extreme lack of flow and cohesion among and within chapters. There were about three main points that were rehashed over and over in no particular progression and I frequently got lost in what was supposedly supporting material that didn’t seem to add anything or that contradicted other points he had made previously. Much of what was written were long, personal anecdotes connected by personal interpretation of what those anecdotes mean regarding race and missions. There were hanging quotes, entire sections that are quoted out but have no indication of who said them, missing subjects, and many other grammatical mistakes.
One of my biggest frustrations with this book was that some rather bold claims about the history and current state of missions and charity work are made with a severe lack of sources. The vast majority of albeit more innocuous statements of fact were made without sources of any kind. Statistics were mentioned with no references time after time. There are no footnotes whatsoever and the sectioned-off pieces of text that were sometimes cited were recorded in a format not appropriate for this type of writing. Of the insufficient sources listed throughout the book, all but two were websites (including Wikipedia and PBS). This lack of credible sources would have been unacceptable even in papers that I had to submit in high school or college. Statistics, statements of fact, references to historical events and even broad generalizations need to be cited or their legitimacy (and the legitimacy of the book in general) is strongly called into question. I am shocked that a publishing editor signed off on this. The consequence of the dearth of sources is that what was intended to be educational and persuasive is, unfortunately, relegated to the genre of memoir with most everything in it being purely speculation and opinion of the author and the people he interviewed.
Setting aside these technical issues, I struggled with the overall tone of the book. As mentioned earlier, the inclusion of many personal anecdotes, while relevant and helpful in understanding his perspective, lead to what felt like frequent speculation about the motives of others who played a part in his and others’ experiences. The author uses a broad brush to speak of historical accounts and generalizes heavily. He seems to dismiss the “weakness” of minority leaders but categories “whites” by their flaws, using the same standard both for and against depending on the context. As an example, he recounts a story of several black students (including himself) getting off a bus on a campus filled with white students. He reveals that he is staring at them, noting how different (and slovenly) they look but seems to resent the fact that they also are staring back, no doubt experiencing many of the same questions and and insecurities. The author admits to being weak in certain leadership areas, but assumes that because he feels “called” to lead, that he should be given leadership roles in urban areas because he is a person of color and that white people will not succeed in such situations. On page 32, he laments that people of colored are identified as “black leaders” instead of just “leaders” but he consistently refers to himself and others the same way (on page 34 he said he was gratified that a new job “valued [his] being a leader of color”). These types of double standards are common across the board and I am incredibly prone to them myself, however, a book about this very topic should exhibit extra care and I feel it fails to do so. We could argue back and forth about our own experiences and how it seems like “they” do this, while “we” do that, but this only distracts us from learning how to work together and from understanding the truth about human, sinful nature and the Gospel solution to it.
I couldn’t help but feel that any example of a person of color having a negative experience was automatically interpreted to be because of racism. It seemed that when white people responded positively to what he (or another person of color) was doing they were enlightened and were the good kind of white people, but when they were resistant to what he was doing, they were the kind of white people that hoard power and hurt people. It never seemed to cross his mind that white people could disagree with people of color for any other reason than racism. While I can plainly see that humans of all races continue to struggle with racism, I felt that this book is founded on the idea that white people are uniquely, historically and inherently racist.
Barber presents an impossible situation for white people (not ever taking into consideration that white people are not the majority in every country around the world). He highlights a story of a woman who was insulted when she, being a person of color, was assigned to work with the black students on campus. Yet in several places, the author insists on people of color being empowered to minister to other people of color suggesting that white people cannot be successful in ministering to black people. People of color should lead urban ministries and, moreover, white people should seek to be lead by people of color in predominantly white ministries as well. Where does this leave white people in ministry? Barber suggests that whites create positions of power and influence and then actively seek to bequeath them to people of color along with the funds to make them successful. It seems, then, that black people should be given all the resources and authority to minister to all races while white people do nothing.
Through the centuries and in our current time, the author is frustrated with everything the white church does and does not do. It’s not enough for them to evangelize, they need to change their entire systems of doing so. Barber claims that white people have a flawed view of missions, but black people see missions as their natural surroundings. It’s not enough for white people to give money (because he claims that almost all money comes from whites), they must change the way they fundraise so that it doesn’t inadvertently exclude people of color who don’t have rich white friends and family like all white people do. White people shouldn’t be “storytelling” about people of color in order to gain funding for mission work in urban areas because they have no business being involved in urban ministries to begin with. It’s not enough for white people to hire minorities (regardless of qualifications), they must consistently forfeit their culture and “power” and wisdom to make way for people of color. It’s not enough for churches to minister to immigrants because their only motive is to “increase their mission numbers,” they must change the laws (even though he claims that immigration is not a political issue). In the chapter about “Caring for the Stranger” Barber says Christians are wrong to not embrace and provide for illegal immigrants claiming that it is “unjust” to have laws that limit immigration. He fails to make the important distinction between legal and illegal immigration.
One of the most frequently stated points of this book, which would have more appropriately been titled “Affirmative Action in Missions” is that non-profits and urban ministries must be intentionally diversified, but when this is forced as he initially claims that it must be by setting a percentage of people of color to hire and working toward it, he complains that people of color feel like tokens. This is exactly what happens when you hire someone simply because of the color of their skin. It’s not enough, though, says Barber to have diversity of skin color. The author claims to have attended a conference filled with diversity of skin color but still totally “Anglo.” I’m not even sure how that happens, but apparently people of color were being too white in the way they were conducting the conference. Not only is it insulting to say that they had been “assimilated” but it’s arrogant to claim that they were all too similar to each other (even coming from all different races/ethnicities) to represent true diversity. While the author proposes that diversity can and should come from diversity of location, economics and education these apparently not enough when considered among a group of white people.
While white people should actively work toward diversity, an entire chapter is devoted to encouraging people of color to being true to yourself as a person of color. It is filled with bad theology and is woefully contrary to Galatians 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”). The author writes “Let the light of Christ bring peace and harmony to your soul by allowing you to know yourself.” I find nowhere in scripture that suggests that knowing ourselves is what brings us peace and harmony. Knowledge of God, not self, is what brings peace. According to Barber, while people of color are to embrace their culture, white people should not be attached to any culture and should actively work to deny and dismantle their culture since it is inherently racist and unwelcoming to people of color. He writes that white people should expect and embrace the discomfort that comes from working with, and being lead by, people of color, but he implies that any difficulty felt by people of color as they serve with whites is automatically the fault of the whites for not changing everything they do and turning everything into a quest to make people of color comfortable.
In terms of what should be done about the situation we are in, there are plenty of ideas for white people but there are practically no takeaways for humans in general as they seek to live at peace with one another. One frequently stated action point of the book is that white people should seek to give up their power so that black people and other minorities can have power over them, noting that it is major progress when leadership of organizations that the author is a part of is made of of hardly any whites. He writes to white people, “Be ok with following. As a white person, you don’t have to have control. You can enjoy following.” While this is true, it’s true for all people. I would give this advice to anyone who claimed to have a heart for ministry and I would give this advice to the author himself when, earlier in the book, he insisted that because he had a “calling” to lead, he should be trusted to lead and that not being given the opportunity to do so was a sign of racism. Leading is not about being in leadership. This is something the author seems to have no concept of. He speaks frequently of leadership equaling having money to spend and being the person who makes the decisions and who has the power. Anyone who feels called to lead and who believes that necessarily means he must be in a leadership position to fulfill that call has missed the important Bible teaching that those who wish to become great must become the least of all.
Speaking of Bible teaching, I assumed that there would be some in the book. For a book about missions, the was hardly any mention of how the Bible teaches us to engage other people about the gospel. Granted, a few verses were quoted here and there (many of which from the Message Bible paraphrase which, in my opinion, should pretty much never be used) but there was precious little theology involved. In the author’s view, white people need to simply butt out (unless they are paying for people of color to do ministry or are creating organizations and then asking people of color to lead them). The fact that God calls all people to follow Christ and to be Christ-like is completely absent from these pages.
The more I read the book, the more I started to feel that the misquoting of the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children” in the title was a mere preview of constant assumption that white people are overvalued and people of color are undervalued instead of embracing the truth that it’s not “which has more value” but that “all have value.” I wanted very much to be challenged and engaged about this topic but was deeply disappointed. The author sounds like a well-intentioned man. I believe he wants to be used by God and I don’t doubt that he has been an asset in all of the ministries in which he has been a part and in the many lives he has touched, but over 200 pages of how white people are doing it wrong (and have been for centuries) just was not helpful.
But it was much more than that. Red Brown Yellow Black White (RBYBW) is a summons for those of us who ‘say’ we care about reconciliation and justice to quit playing a it; it calls us to get on with working for real change in how we minister across the racial divide. In these pages, Barber opens up about his sometimes painful journey in the urban ministry world, how discrimination from fellow leaders and boards, locked him and fellow minorities out of key leadership positions. Because Barber is such a great relational leader, he sets his story alongside friends and co-conspirators.
In RBYRW, Barber grounds missions in the Missio Dei–the mission of God (God’s larger purpose for his people and his world and the end He is leading us toward). But the history of missions, at different points, bears little resemblance to the Missio Dei. Often white Europeans blended their efforts to spread the gospel with imperialism, colonialism and paternalism. Missionaries came to new cultures to minister, but seldom included indigenous leadership in their mission. Fast forward to the modern era and you find that missions organizations and missionary boards are still predominantly white.
Barber is an African American leader called to urban mission who launched his own non-profit and has led national and international missions organizations (he is currently the global executive director of Word Made Flesh). His heart burns for more diversity in mission and he has led ministries (like Mission Year) and counseled others to be more thoughtful about how to promote diversity in their organizations. Barber doesn’t tells stories of not-for-profit organizations which have labored to change the culture and are working to promote diversity. While reconciliation is a difficult journey, real diversity is possible. And when it happens, we reveal the Kingdom of God to the watching world.
For us white Evangelicals, this means we share power! Barber observes how even justice-minded, white evangelicals fail to include African Americans in decision making, and fundraising. He also relays several stories from the field, where leaders of color were deemed unqualified by short-term, white teams even though they had years of experience and understanding that these teams lacked. Unfortunately these racial attitudes can still poison the well of real diversity in mission. Leaders of color bring different histories and gifts to the realm of mission and leadership. We are impoverished in our missional attempts when we fail to make space at the table and include people of color. For when we do, they can help shape our mission to the wider community in beautiful ways.
RBYBW is challenging for me. I love and respect Leroy and am grateful for the ways he has invested in my growth (and countless others). I am captivated by his vision of diversity in mission. And yet this book highlights how much work is still to be done. I have recently become pastor at a mostly white church that does care about racial justice and reconciliation. We are making an impact on our city but I still have a lot to learn about doing mission well. Barber highlights the racial and socio-economic dimensions of urban mission for me and helps me pay attention to the dynamics. This book is a goldmine!
I highly recommend this book. Anyone interested in the mission of God (which should include Christians everywhere) will gain insight on how to engage in mission in ways that are sensitive to race and culture. For white evangelicals (like me), we can be ‘color blind’ in a way that demeans the challenges that people of color face. We can also fail to value the gifts that people of color bring to our organizations and leadership. I give this book five stars and think that this book should be required reading for pastors, non-profit directors and missionaries. ★★★★★