Session 1

How I Was Trained to Be Quiet (and What Caused Me to Speak): White Silence from a Do-Gooder Christian Perspective

America in Crisis

Why do the majority of white people keep quiet about the injustices of racism? Why do white people do so many good deeds but nothing ever changes? Seeking answers begins with understanding racism as a social and cultural force. White people are socialized into racism and they reinforce it because they benefit from white supremacy.

Dr. Levens shares her story and breaks down how she was trained in white silence as the path to excel at doing good, and how that myth cracked and broke when she learned about the decimation of Durham’s Black Wall Street neighborhood after the Civil Rights Movement.

Session Video Lecture

After the Session: Research, Action, and Reflection

Below are suggestions for further research and activities to engage in your learning toward change.


1. Are you interested in beginning or learning more about race discussions among white communities? Spend at least twenty minutes viewing the resources from Teaching Tolerance, especially those in the Black Lives Matter page. If you are unsure using terms like “whiteness” and “blackness” are a good idea, this article on Why Talk About Whiteness? is especially important for you. This website was developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Educators of children and youth are its target audience. How detailed are these articles? What aspects of human experience do these articles address as connected to racial experience (e.g. emotions, knowledge, behaviors, habits), and why are they important? How do these resources connect personal racial experience with larger trends and structures of American society?

2. When Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, people forget (and historical resources published from white institutions fail to emphasize) that the event was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march called for specific structural changes to American society. Stanford University’s King Center has developed an interactive animation of this speech to demonstrate the cultural and systemic racism issues Dr. King names. Spend some time listening and exploring this resource: “Freedom’s Ring.” Reflect upon a portion of this speech that you have not heard before, such as Dr. King’s “bad check” metaphor. What systemic racism issues does Dr. King talk about? Can you look in your current city or remember where you grew up, and try to identify systemic racism in action? If you can’t see it, who could you talk to or ask for help to see it?

3. Take Austin’s Word for It: Dr. Levens spoke about her experiences of social segregation inside integrated education and in city planning. She highly recommends listening to the black experience in the post-Civil Rights “colorblind” era, because it helped her see the racist structures that she as a white person had ignored in the past. Read or listen to Austin Channing Brown’s memoir, I am Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. Austin Channing Brown has been leading racial justice courses for several years and also has blogs, videos, and anti-racism lectures on her website.

Dr. Laura Levens

Assistant Professor of Christian Mission

Dr. Levens oversees course development and teaching for the department of Christian Mission. She teaches a Foundations of Christian Mission Course, exploring biblical, theological, and historical aspects of mission practice. She also teaches several mission elective courses based on student interest in topics like Social Justice, Global Christianity, Women’s Experience, Leadership and Wisdom, and Biblical Interpretation.

Her scholarly interests include Christian missions history, women in Christian history, biblical interpretation, justice and transformation, and theology and practice of mission. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society of Missiology, the Conference on Faith and History, American Baptist Historical Society, and the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion.

Dr. Levens is a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and is ordained through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. She has served in various Kentucky, Texas, and North Carolina congregations and para-church ministries as associate minister, youth work, camp and retreat staff, preacher, teacher, and advocate for the rural homeless. She currently serves as the volunteer Children’s Sunday school coordinator for Central Baptist Church in Lexington, KY.

Dr. Lewis Brogdon

Research Professor of Black Church Studies and Preaching

Dr. Lewis Brogdon has served in numerous positions in undergraduate and graduate institutions as a professor – Assistant Professor of New Testament and Black Church Studies at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and Religion and Biblical Studies at Claflin University, and an Associate Professor of Christian Studies at Bluefield College. He also served those institutions as an administrator – the founding director of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary’s Black Church Studies Program, Provost at Simmons College of Kentucky and Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Research at Bluefield College. Brogdon is the author of several books including A Companion to Philemon (Cascade 2018), The Spirituality of Black Preaching (Seymour Press 2016) and others.

Dr. Brogdon is also a popular preacher, lecturer, and panelist. He has lectured at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, the Interdenominational Theological Center, the University of Chicago Divinity School, Claflin University, and Radford University on nihilism in black America. He was the keynote speaker at a city wide Martin Luther King dinner in Dayton OH, and received an invitation to the White House in 2014. Brogdon is an ordained minister of twenty six years and has pastored churches in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

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