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Leaning into the Discomfort: Interview with Jim Hart
September 21, 2020

By Sophia Vega

Conversations on race can be difficult. For SSW part-time lecturer and DSW candidate, Jim Hart, he has decided to lean into the discomfort of these conversations for his profession, congregation, and family.

Beginning at home, Jim and his wife Yetunde of seventeen years, have experienced obstacles as an interracial couple. Yetunde is Black and Jim is White.

As Yetunde’s husband, it has given Jim a front row seat to the daily experiences of Black people in America, as he witnessed the racism, discrimination, and microaggressions she has experienced. This became of even deeper importance as parents of three biracial sons. 

"I realize that my sons could be the next Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd just because of the color of their skin. I’m clear that law enforcement will see them as men of color. The reality of police brutality, discrimination, and prejudice is a very real concern that my wife and I have to discuss with them. My level of sensitivity to these issues has certainly been elevated by being in an interracial marriage. Due to white privilege I could very easily dismiss, ignore, or be blind to present day racism that people of color experience, but having a spouse who is African American has certainly transformed by sense of white racial consciousness.”

Jim’s personal experiences helped to shape his research interest in the DSW program.  “During the first year of the DSW program I wrote a case study focused on using racial lifemaps with interracial couples to help them address microaggressions that adversely impact their relationship. For the second year, my qualitative research may focus on the formation and development of racial identity within interracial couples”.

In regards to his congregation, Jim has been a member of the Abundant Life Family Worship Church in New Brunswick, NJ for more than 20 years, which has a predominately Black congregation. He has been one of the Associate Pastors for Abundant Life for the past 12 years.

"Being a pastor at Abundant Life has given me the opportunity to witness the tremendous role of the church in the African American community as source of spiritual renewal, support, encouragement, and empowerment both educationally and economically. And one of my roles in the church has allowed me to address the disparities that occur within this community."

For Jim, commitment to being an ally for the Black community begins at home as he supports his wife and sons, and has grown to further calls in his work, academic research, and in advocating for his congregation.

"Being knowledgeable on the topic of racial inequality is a necessary step towards understanding how you can make a difference," Hart says. "Along with becoming educated, I encourage my fellow white brothers and sisters to lean into any discomfort that they may have about race and to courageously address any racially insensitive behaviors they see perpetuated. It is encouraging to see so many of my white brothers and sisters standing side by side African Americans and other minorities during the recent protests. I now ask those same white brothers and sisters to now stand next their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends to have honest conversations about racism, discrimination, and prejudice. Our country will see significant change when it first occurs within our own individual homes first.”

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