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Keywords:

  • whiteness;
  • reparations;
  • race;
  • Black Manifesto;
  • Protestantism;
  • racial justice

ABSTRACT

This essay brings Critical Whiteness Studies into liberationist Christian ethics in order to analyze white Protestant responses to the 1969 Black Manifesto, which demanded reparations from white churches. The essay's primary argument is that the absence of a sense of white moral agency among white Protestants manifested itself in behaviors and rhetoric that ensured whiteness went unacknowledged, which caused Protestant responses to the Manifesto to fail. A related argument is that white behavior and rhetoric were particularly dramatic because of the call for reparations. Reparations assume that race is a material relationship in which there has been a perpetrator and a victim, rendering the acknowledgment of white agency unavoidable. This essay thus analyzes several ways in which whites can be seen turning away from white selves, turning a scrutinizing gaze instead to Black selves and, in the process, absenting white agency from the work of racial justice.