Trouble I’ve Seen by Drew Hart

Trouble I've SeenThis was a great book for helping Christians understand the nature of racial hierarchies present in the United States – much would be also true elsewhere, but Hart’s focus is on his home country. A few factors make this a highly recommended read to me:

Hart speaks well from the facts as well as his own experience. Facts alone could easily come across as boring. His experience alone could be easily dismissed as an anomaly. This book carries a great balance: relatable but going much deeper than just a few stories of discrimination.

Hart’s work is accessible to white people (like myself) while critiquing the system of white supremacy. There are many ideas that I’m sure would still offend many of us simply because it puts us on the defensive for our complicity, and they should offend us if we haven’t been desensitized to it, but I never felt like he was attacking me individually. It carried a pastoral tone, using more positive reinforcement to call us into something better rather than berating us. I regularly see white people getting upset over language of white supremacy insisting that they individually are not a member of the KKK. Hart does a great job explaining why this is missing the point while being gentle toward those who are missing the point.

It is an unashamedly Christian book. His arguments are not primarily about human rights violations or unfair laws, although there are plenty to talk about on both counts. His arguments are primarily focused on the need for the radical Kingdom of Jesus to break down the walls of racial division. He pinpoints how Christians are often the most segregated despite claiming to worship a god who clearly fought against such things. This is what separates it from a lot of other good books on racism, in my opinion. It was not trying to rally us to change the laws, although that could be helpful. It was not lamenting on the terrible state of affairs in the United States, although I can’t really blame those who do that. It was Jesus-centred, hopeful, and practical.

While the topics can be hard to swallow, the style of writing is very easy to sit and read for a few hours at a time. I’m a very slow reader, and often struggle to find time to read, but when I did sit down for this book, I did not move until I took in at least 50 pages.

The only piece that felt out of place for me was the second-to-last chapter where Hart attempts to express his awareness that racial hierarchies are far from the only hierarchies present in our society. He touches on the need to dismantle patriarchy and plutocracy as well. I definitely agree, but it felt like a tangent. I might have preferred it if he simply said occasionally throughout that there are lots of forms of oppression but this book is about his specialty of racism, instead of filling out a chapter that doesn’t really give much depth to other issues. I don’t want to project too much onto Hart’s motivation, but I have seen myself doing something for blogs that felt similar. I know there is always something to be outraged about, usually rightfully so, and I try to cover everything so I’m not accused of leaving some out. But sometimes you just can’t do justice to everything in one blog post or one book.

Other than that hiccup, this was one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in the past couple of years, a definite 5 out of 5 rating from me.

Note: I received an advance review copy through NetGalley and Drew is a fellow MennoNerd (see interview above). I was under no obligation to give a favourable review and the opinions expressed here are my own.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.