Latasha Morrison shares why facing uncomfortable truths is the only path to racial reconciliation
Words by Javacia Harris Bowser
Holy discontent. That’s what drives the work that Latasha Morrison does through her nonprofit Be the Bridge, which provides racial literacy training to churches, socially-conscious companies, and other organizations.
Morrison describes holy discontent as “righteous anger.”
“Sometimes we think, ‘I can't get angry because I'm a Christian,’” Morrison says. “But you can have righteous anger. Jesus had righteous anger at points of Scripture.”
Let’s not forget the story of Jesus flipping over tables in the temple because money changers were turning a house of prayer into a marketplace.
Morrison’s righteous anger began to reach a tipping point with the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old Black boy who was fatally shot in Sanford, Florida in February of 2012. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who pursued and gunned down Martin was acquitted of murder charges.
“I had just started going to a white church and all my community of friends and I were talking about was Trayvon Martin, but when I stepped into this white space, it was like it didn't exist,” Morrison recalls. “It was like our pain didn't exist; our confusion didn't exist. It was like we were invisible in that space.”
Morrison has shared in other interviews she had a similar experience after white supremacist Dylann Roof gunned down nine Black Christians at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June of 2015.
Morrison has also had a fellow church member tell her how unfortunate it was “what Lincoln did to the South” because “people loved their slaves.”
“I actually wanted to become the Incredible Hulk and knock over the table,” Morrison said in an interview with Religious News Service. Jesus would probably approve.
But righteous anger is anger used to fuel positive action. And for Morrison, that action was founding Be the Bridge, which she started when she lived in Austin, Texas.
“Holy discontent is where there is righteous anger that is allowing me not to be comfortable, that I have to not just talk about an issue, but I have to put action to it,” says Morrison, who’s now based in Atlanta, Georgia. “So, there's a holy discontent to the point where I want to submit myself to this pain because I want to be free from it. I want to be liberated from it. And so I'm going to submit myself to this discomfort, to this pain, so that I can get to the other side.”
Having uncomfortable conversations about race with white church members was a start, but she couldn’t stop there. She founded Be the Bridge to encourage racial reconciliation among all ethnicities, to promote racial unity in America, and to equip others to do the same. The Fayetteville, North Carolina native wants to see diversity, equity, and inclusion in all sectors of society and for all people.
“I cannot rest with living in a world that's inequitable,” she says. “I can't just look at this from an individualistic lens and say, ‘Well, my family is OK. And I've never experienced that. So, we’re good if it is not bothering me.’ Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and that is a holy discontent.”
Back to Basics
Morrison and her Be the Bridge team work with churches, companies, and other organizations to create a culture that is truly inclusive.
“If you do have a diverse staff, do they feel like they belong?” Morrison asks of her clients.
Likewise, she challenges churches to reconsider their efforts to reach diverse communities.
“If you're really trying to reach the community, you can't just have a cookie-cutter experience for everyone,” Morrison says. “And so we do trainings that will help people begin to dial in to understanding God's view on diversity and having a rich theology on diversity, not based on your political party. But what does the Bible say about diversity from Genesis to Revelation? What does God think about justice?”
Are people of color truly being welcomed and included in churches led by white pastors, or are they expected to assimilate?
But first, Morrison goes back to basics.
“One of the things that I looked at before starting to Be the Bridge was people didn't understand the basics,” she says. “There was no common language. If you tell people to define race, ethnicity, or racism, they're going to come up with all different types of terminology.”
The Be the Bridge website offers a racial justice glossary with terms such as color-blind racism, gaslighting, implicit bias, and microaggressions.
The Be the Bridge training also examines the past to pave a path to a brighter future.
“We do training on historical context,” Morrison says. “How did we get here? A lot of times, we're looking at what we're dealing with now, but we're not looking at the systems. People don't understand, for example, redlining and the impact of redlining and geographical racism.”
The civil unrest and racial reckoning that our country witnessed in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd sparked an unprecedented interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion among various organizations. Be the Bridge began to get more training requests than they could handle. So, Morrison and her team launched Be the Bridge Academy, an online learning platform that provides video trainings, programs, webinars, and courses.
Unfortunately, Morrison worries that much of the fervor around equity and inclusion was feigned.
“What we saw was a performance,” Morrison says. “We saw performative movement. There are some people where there has been a conviction. But what we saw as a whole is a lot of churches and organizations make empty promises. And as soon as it became unpopular, you saw people retracting and retreating. We want you to commit to this work because it's the right thing to do, not commit to this work because you're going to look bad if you don't.”
The Truth Sets Us Free
Morrison believes that churches have the power to help usher in racial reconciliation, but to do so, religious institutions must face some ugly truths.
“The church has been historically on the wrong side of history,” Morrison says. “And so, you have to examine critically why the church participated in the enslavement of other humans, of people who are created in the image of God. And we have the Black church because we weren't allowed to worship in White churches.”
Facing these facts, however, is the first step to changing society for the better.
“God cannot heal what we conceal, so we have to be able to talk about those things,” Morrison says. “Nothing can be reconciled that's not recognized.”
As books and lessons about race are being banned in schools, Morrison believes it’s more important than ever for organizations and individuals to speak up about the history of race relations in our country.
“The truth sets us free,” Morrison says. “We are still speaking the truth. And we're trying to inspire people to utilize their agency, to utilize their voices, to leverage their power, to legislate, to create. I believe that this is a God movement.”
Morrison believes the Bible offers evidence that God cherishes diversity, from the various creatures listed in Genesis to Abraham being declared the father of nations.
“You see this upside-down kingdom of God, this cross-cultural faith, where God uses the voice of the marginalized, uses the voice of those that are considered less than, uses the voice of those that are oppressed in their communities, to bring about justice, to bring about redemption, to bring about restoration,” Morrison says.
This is a truth Morrison believes many Christians ignore as their views on race and diversity are being informed by politics and not biblical standards.
“Politics are not a bad thing,” she explains. “Everything that was done to people of color in this country was done politically; it was done by policy. And so, it has to be undone by policy. So, policy is not a bad thing. Politics are not a bad thing. But partisanship is totally different. And it has become an idol in a lot of faith communities that really has to be torn down.”
Diversifying the church, which Morrison stresses should not be seen as the responsibility of Black people, is a daunting endeavor, but one she believes Christians are called to tackle.
“I’m going to go to Scripture and I’m going to look at Revelation 7:9 when it talks about every tribe, every nation, and I'm also going to go and look at Acts 6 and when the church grew and the church was strong when everyone was taking care of the needs of each other,” Morrison says. “We are better together.”
Simply put, Morrison believes racial unity is a dream worth dreaming, for the Bible tells her so.