The Myth of Equality: Privilege is Real / by Louis Holstein


The Myth of Equality is the book every white person in America should read. Insightful, convicting, and hopeful, Ken Wystma weaves in and out of personal experiences and American history to tell the complicated story of race relations in the Land of the free, and Home of the brave. The book is broken down into three sections: The Story of Race, Equality and the Kingdom of God, and The Challenge of Privilege. The Story of Race is a  historical look at not only racism in American history but also the advent of racism in the history of the world. (Spoiler Alert: racism is a newer thing)

It's in this section that he introduces "hard" and "soft" white supremacy. "Hard" white supremacy is "the intentional building and maintaining of white power by those who did not or do not believe in equality."(20) "Soft" white supremacy is what has emerged because of "hard" white supremacy, that is, the white normative standard. We can see this throughout history in our immigration systems, policies, and social structures. Wytsma graciously lays out examples to these claims throughout the rest of the section. I was broken at the reality of how unfair our American society has been to people of color... from the beginning.  

Below is a graph that grabbed me by the throat, featured in the first section:

You're reading correctly. That's 345 years of inequality, so no, African Americans can't just "get over" slavery and segregation. Also, no, 54 years of "equality" is not going to fix the 3 centuries of injustice. 

You're reading correctly. That's 345 years of inequality, so no, African Americans can't just "get over" slavery and segregation. Also, no, 54 years of "equality" is not going to fix the 3 centuries of injustice. 

The second section, Equality and the Kingdom of God, was probably the most impactful for me. It addresses the Christians in the room and calls to light the fascinating history of the American church. I've never been afraid to question what I believe or question why things are done a certain way (in the Church), so it wasn't the end of the world when new details of American Christiandom emerged. Confronting one's own internal bias is never an easy thing, but always a very necessary thing. This book helped me do that. I found the passage below to be a chillingly convicting:

“Walter Brueggemann says, ‘Sometimes the church itself takes the form of empire when it insists on absolute governance and absolute opinion making.’ In other words, if the church becomes an empire unto itself, a self-interested institution concerned with its own power and influence (as the temple had become in Jesus’ day), it is capable of slipping into direct opposition to the kingdom of God- the very thing it is supposed to be nurturing, spreading, and protecting.
— The Myth of Equality (92)

Wytsma makes a clear argument for justice and healing to start with the Church in America. It is not a question of if our nation needs racial reconciliation or healing, it's a question of how we are to go about bringing the reconciliation and healing. This is obviously a very complex situation, build on hundreds of years of hurt and injustice, but nothing is too big or too complex for our God. Wystma points out the plethora of Scripture where God calls us to join Him in fixing the problem: being a light to the world. In the third and final section, "The Challenge of Privilege," Wytsma leaves us hopeful and gives a practical guide to what comes next. 

As a man raised in the privilege, the story of race in America has been a journey for me to understand and come to grips with. That's not to say that I didn't believe racism and privilege existed, I just struggled to find my role. I’m eternally grateful for the extensive research found in this book, not only regarding race relations but also in the history of the American Church. I feel that I have facts to stand on now. I feel that I have a clear role to play. In the last three years, God has put me at the center of race relations in the community of Mulberry. I was certainly not equipped with the knowledge I have now, but what I found to help me understand was simply listening. God had called me to listen. So I listened. I learned. Now, most recently, through this book, I have listened some more. Listening breeds empathy, and empathy breeds action. We cannot cover our ears any longer, the future of the church depends on our ability to listen and in turn, act.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
— Mother Teresa

The Myth of Equality by Ken Wytsma can be found online and in book stores nation wide.