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Interview: Chicago Pastor Daniel Hill on Getting White Awake

This is Q&A was published in Faithfully Magazine No. 2 (Fall 2017).

Daniel Hill is the founding pastor of River City Community Church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. Hill, who previously worked on staff at Willow Creek Community Church, has written a book about his journey of awakening to his White cultural identity. In the book, White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White, Hill chronicles his missteps and wisdom gleaned in coming to terms with how whiteness has shaped how he views the world. Hill calls on other White Christians to embark on their own racial and cultural journey, pointing readers to the reconciling work and example of Christ. Hill offers a seven-point roadmap for the journey, which includes “encounter,” “denial,” “disorientation,” “shame,” “self-righteousness,” “awakening” and “active participation.”

It is pretty brave to put a book like this out there and you are taking a risk, as you very well know. There’s the possibility that you will be misunderstood. With that in mind, who did you envision as your audience when writing White Awake?

I only pictured it to be White people to be honest, but it has been interesting that a lot of the most positive feedback I’ve gotten has actually been from people of color who do a lot of work with talking to White people. (They) found it to be helpful just even in understanding kind of the psychology or mindset of how White folks tend to engage with race, especially in some of the earlier stages. I’m really happy about that, too. But definitely, at a broad level, (the book was written) to White folks…I’d probably say White Christians. I try to be as hospitable as I can in the language, so I’m hoping—in fact, I’ve already had a number of White folks who are not Christian read it. So I’m hoping … it will introduce them to some of the concepts around race and maybe even help them connect with the faith and even bear witness to Christ at some level. Even if they interact with it, I think it’s actually problematic when we approach these things without some kind of a— for Christians, I would say—a faith perspective, and when I’m talking about it with secular folks, it has to have kind of a moral imperative to it. 

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Nicola A. Menzie
Nicola A. Menzie
Nicola A. Menzie a religion reporter whose bylines have appeared on the websites of the Religion News Service, The Christian Post, CBS News and Vibe magazine. Nicola is the Managing Editor at You can find her on Twitter @namenzie. Email: nicola.menzie (at)

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