Racial Justice

First Baptist Church-Madison has a strong tradition of social justice activism, but recent events have galvanized us into new action. We organized a discussion in June 2020 to see what our church was going to do in light of the racial injustices that were highlighted in the news. Participants were encouraged to identify individual actions to commit to in order to promote racial justice.

In addition to that, a Racial Justice Team (RJT) was formed to create and implement a program to educate ourselves on racial injustice and the ways it manifests itself in the systems that impact our lives.  Ultimately, we want to be a part of, individually and as a collective, solutions for healing and transforming the systems that perpetuate systemic racism.

Our goals are to:

  • educate ourselves about racial injustice and systemic racism through such means as reading materials, lectures, films…
  • dig deeper through dialogue and discussion
  • create individual and collective actions to promote racial justice
  • live in ways that reflect our new or enhanced awareness

We invite you to embrace our goals by:

  • investing time in exploring and learning
  • spending time in self-reflection to enhance our self-awareness
  • stepping outside of your comfort zones

We are grounded in Micah 6:8 (NLT) which says,

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Please keep reading to see how we are living that.


Documentary Discussion: 13th

Stamped Book Study: General Explanation and Information

Stamped Book Study: Discussion Questions for July 26: Prologue and Section 1

Stamped Book Study: Discussion Questions for Aug 2: Section 2

Stamped Book Study: Discussion Questions for Aug 16: Section 3: in development

Stamped Book Study: Discussion Questions for Aug 23: Section 4: in development

Stamped Book Study: Discussion Questions for Aug 30: Section 5 & Epilogue: in development

Shared Agreements




13th Documentary Discussion

July 19th, 9am

13th is rated TV-MA and is currently available on Netflix and YouTube (Youtube is streaming the full documentary for free).

Contact the church office for the Zoom link.  It is the same link we used for the June meeting.

Discussion Questions for 13th, the documentary

These questions were pulled from four discussion guides that are linked at the bottom of this document.  We encourage you to check out page 14 of this discussion guide by Amy Williams, as it is particularly thought provoking for Christians.  

This documentary has four primary themes: African Americans portrayed as criminals, Mass incarceration as replacement for slavery, Corporate interests shape prison population, and the Dehumanization of African Americans.

  1.  How did you feel after viewing 13th?  Did you feel helpless, inspired, stirred to action, or a combination of all three?  Do you think the message of the film was ultimately hopeful?  Why or why not?
  2.  How does 13th characterize our criminal justice system and political institutions?  How did this film shape your understanding of the prison system?  Was there a particular case or series of facts that altered or challenged any of your pre-existing views?  
  3. This documentary emphasizes that the current crisis of mass incarceration is directly tied to our country’s legacy and history of slavery.  By showing how slavery shifted to convict leasing, to Jim Crow segregation, to the war on drugs, 13th argues that “systems of oppression are durable and they often reinvent themselves.” As Angela Davis stated in the film, “Historically, when one looks at efforts to create reforms, they inevitably lead to more repression.” What do you think are some of the factors that allowed this system of racial control to simply evolve and replicate itself for the past 150 years?  What are ways to end this cycle?  
  4. Many politicians, including the Clintons, Newt Gingrich, and Charles Rangel in this film, have apologized for their role in promoting devastating “tough on crime” legislation.  Considering the billions of dollars made off the imprisonment of people, the ongoing practice of prison labor, and the cases of unjust imprisonment, is an apology enough?  Is our country compelled to repay these communities and families in a more material, restorative way?  Why or why not?

5 questions from our local Nehemiah organization’s discussion guide:

  • A Legacy of Slavery: What’s the underlying motive for the 13th Amendment leaving a loophole for slave labor?  Were you aware that the 13th Amendment still allows for some forms of slavery?
  • The Politics of Mass Incarceration: Before watching this documentary, were you aware that both political parties were complicit in creating the conditions that led to mass incarceration? 
  • African American Representation: How do you think media and popular culture representations of Black Americans, particularly Black men, have contributed to a climate of white fear and anxiety? How has that affected tough-on-crime policies? 
  • Black Stigma: How do you think media have contributed to the “dangerous black man” narrative?
  • The Humanity of Statistics:  This film is full of statistics, many of them startling. Which statistic stood out to you the most? Why do you think this is? What will you do with this statistic? 

Discussion Guides we used as resources:

Nehemiah Discussion Guide

Amy Williams, aHopeDealer.org Discussion Guide

Influence Film Club Discussion Guide

Education for Justice Discussion Guide


Stamped Book Study

Starting July 26th, FBC-Madison will begin discussing the history of racism in the US.  We will read one (or both) of the following books:

Stamped From the Beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi


Stamped: Racism, antiracism, and you by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.

These two books explore the history of racism in America.  One is written for adults while the other targets young adults from about the age of 12 on up.  Both books follow the same organization; the adult version contains more information and is more formally written.  The young adult version is more informal and more brief.  Reading either book will prepare you for participation in our online discussions.

Choose your book and join us for a series of discussions about the history of racism in America.

Please purchase your book individually.  We encourage you to use Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago, a Black Woman-owned bookstore.  If you need assistance purchasing a book, please contact the church office.

Discussions will be held using Zoom and will meet on Sunday mornings at 9am for an hour on the following dates: July 26, August 2, August 16, August 23, and August 30th.  Check back for updates on discussion questions.

Bookstore options:

Stamped From the Beginning (ADULT)
Semicolon (Black woman owned bookstore in Chicago)
A Room of One’s Own (Locally owned)
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (YOUNG ADULT)

Session One Discussion Questions

Stamped From the Beginning/Stamped

Prologue and Section 1

July 26, 2020

– What are your hopes for these discussions? Why are you here?

– Why study the sources of racist ideas?

– The Prologue lays out three positions: segregationist, assimilationist, and antiracist.

  1. Thinking about instances where you have encountered or experienced racism, how was your experience tied with these positions?
  2. Have you seen examples of how these ideas are promoted in pop culture today?

– Part 1 covers the years from the 1400s through the North American colonial period. It discusses the rising economic importance of African slaves and the classification of humanity into races, and covers the development of racist theories such as climate theory, curse theory, and polygenesis.

  1. What especially struck you about this history?
  2. There are a lot of ideas out there. How do you distinguish good ones from bad ones?
  3. The history of the American Baptist Church is entwined with the history of the nonconformist pilgrims. After reading Part 1, would you change the Baptist history taught our children?

Session Two Discussion Questions

Stamped From the Beginning/Stamped

Section 2

August 2, 2020

  1. Thomas Jefferson’s father Peter believed that “Christianizing the Negroes makes them proud and saucy, and tempts them to imagine themselves upon an equality with the white people.” Cotton Mather’s missionaries agreed that “a good Christian will always be a good servant.”  Discuss the use/misuse of Christianity and its effect on the Black people of that day.  We don’t hold those principles today, but are there subtle ways we/FBC has misused our White privilege to be less than inclusive to persons of color?


  1. Two of the strategies used by assimilationists in this section are exhibits of “extraordinary Negroes” and uplift suasion. Why did assimilationists think these strategies of countering racist ideas would be effective? According to Kendi, how did these strategies only further perpetuate racist ideas about Black people? How do these assimilationist strategies persist in our society today?


  1. How does Kendi’s portrayal of the Enlightenment, the American founding, and figures such as Thomas Jefferson compare to the history that you’ve encountered in school and elsewhere? How does the history presented here—particularly how these movements and figures were deeply implicated in the production and dissemination of racist policies and ideas—complicate American mythology of the nation’s founding?

Consider this additional background relating to the above questions

1743 was the end of an era when theologians mostly dominated racial discourse, and the beginning of a new intellectual era (the Enlightenment) which strongly associated enlightenment with light/white.  Whiteness equaled reason and darkness ignorance.  These ideas were just some of many which were mobilized to justify a racial hierarchy.  How has this been embraced by our culture both then and now?


Benjamin Franklin was a very educated/revered man of his day, but his ideas today would be seen as racist.  Thomas Jefferson expressed conflicting views of slavery, owned slaves and fathered six children with an enslaved woman of mixed race.  What can we learn from these historical figures and how does this relate to us today and how history will treat us?  What racial “skeletons” might have existed in our past and what are we doing to rid ourselves of them now?


One of Kendi’s key arguments throughout the book is that racially discriminatory policies that serve the self-interests of the powerful have driven the development of racist ideas. How does this dynamic emerge in this portion of the book?


Central to anti-Black racism are racist ideas about sexuality and gender. How did racist ideas about Black women’s bodies and sexuality uphold the institution of slavery?

Shared Agreements

GROUP  AGREEMENTS  (via AORTA Co-op aorta.coop)

  • ONE MIC:
One person speaks at a time. We ask people to try to leave a few moments in between speakers, for those who need more time to process words, or are less comfortable interjecting in a conversation.
In any conversation, especially ones about systemic power (race, class, gender, etc.), we know that each person comes to the conversation with different levels of lived experience and embodied expertise. We also believe that each person has something to contribute to the conversation. We ask that we all practice being humble, and look for what we have to learn from each person in the room. It asks us to share what we know, as well as our questions, so that others may learn from us.
Often, when someone does or says something that causes harm or supports the values of oppressive systems, it is not their intention to do so. But when we use our good intentions to deny (or avoid being accountable) for the harm, more harm is caused. We ask that we each do the work to acknowledge that our intent and the impact of our actions are two different things, and to take responsibility for any negative impact we have.
This agreement is a twist on the one more commonly known as “step up, step back.” If you’re someone who tends to not speak a lot, we invite you to move up into a role of speaking more. If you tend to speak more, we invite you to listen more. The “up/up” confirms that in both experiences, growth is happening. (You don’t go “back” by learning to be a better listener. In fact, listening is a frequently feminized skill that is often seen as a lack of something. On the contrary, choosing to learn how to listen moves both you and the group “up.”)
We may wish we could! Often people feel hesitant to participate in a workshop or meeting for fear of “messing up” or stumbling over their words. We want everyone to feel comfortable participating, even if you don’t feel you have the perfect words to express your thoughts.
We make better decisions when we approach our problems and challenges with questions (“What if we…?”) and curiosity. Allow space for play, curiosity and creative thinking.