Been in the Struggle: Pursuing an Antiracist Spirituality – Regina Shands Stoltzfus and Tobin Miller Shearer

Been in the Struggle Regina Shands Stoltzfus Tobin Miller Shearer
Been in the Struggle: Pursuing an Antiracist Spirituality by Regina Shands Stoltzfus, Tobin Miller Shearer
Published by Herald Press on November 2, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Racial Reconciliation
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The work of dismantling racism doesn’t happen overnight.
Been in the Struggle nurtures, challenges, and fosters the work and witness of dismantling racism for the long haul. Filled with wisdom and insight from nearly three decades of partnering across racial lines in this work, authors Regina Shands Stoltzfus and Tobin Miller Shearer offer a powerful mix of practical direction and poignant reflection to empower and sustain those working to dismantle racism, regardless of their stage on the journey.
Stoltzfus and Shearer draw on the power and promise of interracial relationships to offer a vision for an anti-racist spirituality. Together this Black woman and White man address the spirituality of conflict and crisis, embracing Blackness amid an anti-Black culture, and the importance of spiritual disciplines in the work of antiracism. Whether working to dismantle racism in our own lives or inside institutions, their words on transformation, historical trauma, spiritual formation, and the importance of authentic, restorative celebration will inspire and sustain us for the road ahead.  

Been in the Struggle is the reflections of two individuals who have spent the last few decades cultivating an antiracist spirituality while tearing down systemic racism. In a lot of ways, this felt similar to The Heart of Racial Justice by Brenda Salter-McNeil and Rick Richardson. In both books, you have a white man and a Black woman, each who have worked together to combat racism, using their shared friendship as a backdrop to their academic and experiential expertise. Not only do the authors of Been in the Struggle—Regina Shands Stoltzfus and Tobin Miller Shearer—have the credentials to write this book, their friendship shows the fruits of living out the antiracist spirituality they preach.

Been in the Struggle is conversational and personal. Just in the introduction, you get a glimpse into each author’s life and their struggles and success working within Anabaptist circles and the circumstance that led to the book. The book switches between being historical and academic, practical and persuasive, and light-hearted and conversational. It’s two friends having a good time talking about a shared passion, hoping that others will jump in with them.

Stoltzfus and Shearer have a particular focus on the term “antiracist spirituality.” A spirituality is a way of addressing matters of faith and religion without tying oneself to any particular form of dogma. Antiracism is exactly what it sounds like—a specific attempt to tear down racism in all forms. Been in the Struggle recounts ways in which readers can, through their faith, engage in the work of ending racist systems.

Along the book’s journey, Stoltzfus and Shearer try to show what an antiracist spirituality might look like in different contexts. They are clear to note that this work is always a journey—one is always in the pursuit of betterment and never reaches a place of satisfaction or completion. The work is something that has been going on, something to which you should join yourself, and which will be always continuing.

While a lot of the book does retread things I’ve heard before, their chapter on dismantling racist institutions and identifying such as “principalities and powers” is incredibly powerful. Institutional transformation does not inherent come out of individual transformation. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book as it clearly lays out principles for redeeming racist institutions.

Been in the Struggle may not be completely original, but it adds to the wealth of literature that is confirming over and over again that there is a way forward—that we can commit to pursuing an antiracist spirituality that leads to mutual flourishing. Regina Shands Stoltzfus and Tobin Miller Shearer use their own stories and a wealth of history to frame the conversation for how we move forward. It’s an engaging work.