Standing in the tragic gap

The stories, criticism, and practices in this book invite us into what I can reparative intercession. To be reparative intercessors is to take up oral, attitudinal, and behavioral practices that turn off the white noise and build the moral muscle to topple Whiteness. Drawing on the model of intercessory prayer, reparative intercession is public speech and action using one’s power to benefit unrepresented and silenced individuals and communities. By attending to structural realities that blot out the power of non-White people, reparative intercessions deviates from the platitudinous invitations to embrace human sameness and create interracial kumbaya experiences.

Reparative intercessors migrate through the world honoring the dignity of difference and leveraging their social privilege – maleness, Whiteness, middle- or upper-classness, US citizenship, Christian identity, or heterosexuality – to champion justice and equal opportunity for racialized others – people disadvantaged because of skin color, those whom Howard Thurman has said live with their backs against the wall. For Christians, reparative intercession embodies a commitment to the way of Jesus of Palestine, combatting racist perspectives, policies, and practices as a cost of discipleship. For me, the love ethic of Jesus normalizes practicing socially conscious solidarity with humans assaulted by power structures and trapped under the suffocating knees of disinheritance and injustice.

The duty to stand in what Palmer terms “a tragic gap” draws us out of our neutrality or allegiance to racism. In A Hidden Wholeness, Parker claims, “The insight at the heart of nonviolence is that we live in a tragic gap – a gap between the way things are and the way we know they might be.” This tragic gap symbolizes the excruciating distance between the hard realities around us and what we know is possible – “not because we wish it were so, but because we’ve seen it with our own eyes.” White noise reinforces the racial power gap. Standing in the tragic gap means that the reparative intercessor learns to hold the tension between “reality and possibility” authentically and resiliently. This starts with a broad form of truth-telling that is noncooperative with how things are and a sacred imagination to see an alternative. 

From “Silencing White Noise: Six Practices to Overcome Our Inaction on Race” by Willie Dwayne Francois III – Brazos Press