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Interview: Glenn E. Bracey on ‘Race Tests’ and What Black Christians Risk in White Churches

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This interview was published in Faithfully Magazine No. 2 (Fall 2017).

Glenn E. Bracey is a professor of Sociology at Villanova University. Bracey specializes in critical race theory, social movements, and religion. In May 2017, the journal Sociological Inquiry published Bracey and Wendy L. Moore’s paper about a study he conducted between 2008 and 2011 involving White Evangelical churches. The paper was titled “Race Tests”: Racial Boundary Maintenance in White Evangelical Churches.”

As Faithfully Magazine reported online in April:

In his church visits and participation in homegroups/Bible studies, Bracey encountered what he described as numerous “utility-based tests” (does the person of color serve the church’s interests to appear “diverse?”) and “exclusionary race tests” from his White hosts. Of the latter, he explained: “When people of color were unwanted and/ or potentially threatened the boundaries of white institutional space (through their presence or their racial perspectives), white insiders in the churches employed exclusionary race tests to identify and repel people of color whose racial status, non-white customs, and/or racial politics disrupt the norms of white space.

During one of Bracey’s church visits, his White host caught herself as she blurted that her church had prayed for a Black man to join them. When he visited an all-White home Bible study, Bracey and a Hispanic man found themselves as the butt of a violent and racially-insensitive joke. The others in their group, however, had a great laugh at their expense. When Bracey visited another home for a different group gathering, his White hosts seemed startled to see that he was Black. While giving guests a tour of their home, Bracey’s Christian hosts [seemed eager to show off] their Confederate decorations.

You did the “Race Tests” study between 2008 and 2011 and restricted it to seven churches in Florida, Texas, Indiana and Illinois. Did you revisit or update any information to account for the gap in years before your paper was published?

On the one, let me say racism is entrenched in us and frankly, the things that make racism change aren’t common enough for there to be mass changes in how racism operates in churches. You’ll notice that in the article I cite several pieces where the data collection is more recent and some of them are quantitative, so they’re much larger studies that look across multiple churches and they’re consistent with what I find.

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Nicola A. Menzie
Nicola A. Menziehttp://www.nicolamenzieonline.com
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 faithfullymagazine.com. You can find her on Twitter @namenzie. Email: nicola.menzie (at) faithfullymagazine.com.

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