God’s timing is perfect and that is certainly true for Sheila Wise Rowe’s book on Healing Racial Trauma. In the midst of a pandemic year, which may well be the worst imaginable year to launch a book, God has allowed our present circumstances to usher in a deep need for the message of Rowe’s book. By steeping ourselves in the narrative stories of systemic racism as told by their subjects and sharing in the prescriptive wisdom that leads to repentance and resilience, readers of any race will appreciate the frustrations of people of color and, hopefully, be motivated to do something about it. For those who are suffering directly from the effects of systemic racism and discrimination, Rowe brings not only hope and understanding, but her own experience as she too suffered at the hands of white people who screamed obscenities and threw rocks when black children were bused to the schools of their white children during Boston’s court-enforced busing era.
This book comes with two invitations: “To people of color, that you might experience your own life story affirmed and acquire new solidarity with other people of color. Also, that you will obtain tools to help heal your racial trauma and to persevere on the road to resilience. My invitation to White folks is to be open to however these stories may challenge you to be a better friend and ally to people of color…My hope is that this book will lead you to greater empathy and activism.”
The early chapters provide definitions of various types of racism and historical facts behind these scourges on American society. As a white reader, I appreciated these clarifications. Oswald Chambers says, “Understanding follows obedience.” Reading Rowe’s text is an act of obedience because it teaches us how to love our neighbor more effectively, and with these small acts of love we gain an understanding of who they are and why their story matters. It isn’t enough to spray paint a blanket hashtag #blacklivesmatter on a plywood board without further engaging in a process which leads to a personal self-examination and understanding of why #blacklivesmattertome. With this process comes repentance of ways I’ve lived without black lives mattering to me, or any person of color’s life and Rowe guides us in the path of lament, repentance, and forgiveness if we are willing to engage with the text and its author on this level.
Finally, her strategies for healing and growing in resilience are worth engaging for those who have been racially traumatized and for those who have not. She often paints with acrylics to keep her heart centered and her creativity ignited. Rowe is on her own path to healing from racial trauma and her hope is that, “Restoration of the future is the goal of forgiveness, not just handing out punishment, which locks everything into the past.” Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience* paints a hopeful picture of a future restored if we are willing to do the real work of laying down our lives for the sake of our brothers and sisters of color.
*Discussion Guide and Glossary of Terms provided in the back of the book to facilitate group engagement.