White Christian Privilege - The Illusion of Religious Equality in America

Publisher’s Weekly - May 2020 - Joshi (New Roots in America’s Sacred Ground), professor of education at Fairleigh Dickinson University, explores Christian privilege, Christian normativity, and Christian hegemony in this powerful analysis. Her argument is simple: Christianity (particularly the European Protestant strain) has been established as the unacknowledged common culture, not simply religion, of the United States, leading to a situation where anything not white, Western, and Christian is seen as abnormal. Providing something of a whistle-stop tour—rather than an in-depth exploration—Joshi whisks through the development of white Christian privilege in just under two chapters. She explores the effects of the 16th-century papal “The Doctrine of Discovery” that authorized any Christian monarch who “discovers non-Christian lands has a right to claim a superior and paramount title to these lands” and argues it was used to justify the conquest of indigenous people. She also uses National Geographic’s 2018 apology for decades of racist coverage as a jumping-off point to examine contemporary problems in the representation of non-Christian minorities and foreigners. Joshi’s notes and bibliography will prove an invaluable guide for readers who want to continue exploring these ideas in more depth. This brisk overview is a must-read for those interested in America’s Christian foundation. (July)

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White Christian Privilege - The Illusion of Religious Equality in America (Description of the Book)

Christianity’s overwhelming social power shapes America today, even when religious discrimination is mistaken for racism or obscured in debates over immigration or national identity. The United States’ most powerful and enduring myth is that it was created as a haven of religious freedom for all, and that the First Amendment makes people of all faiths, and of no faith, genuinely equal before the law.

It is time for the world’s most religiously-diverse nation to understand that, in fact, Christian privilege has always been embedded in U.S. policy, politics, and society’s rules and assumptions about who belongs and who doesn’t. Drawing upon her decades of research and teaching, and on the literature in legal studies, history, sociology, religion, ethnic studies, and education, Khyati Y. Joshi maps the origins of Christian privilege and the entwinement of Christianity and Whiteness in American national identity. She traces these phenomena from their European orientalist roots, to the American colonial era and Westward expansion, through 19th-century immigration and citizenship policies, to present-day social movements. Using the voices of Christians and religious minorities, Joshi explores the effects of Christian privilege and White racial norms on how all sorts of Americans live religion in the present day. In doing so, she poses and begins to answer the most urgent question Americans may face today: How to become a "more perfect union" – a religiously pluralistic democracy that leaves White Christian supremacy behind.


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Publisher’s Weekly Review of White Christian Privilege

“Her argument is simple: Christianity (particularly the European Protestant strain) has been established as the unacknowledged common culture, not simply religion, of the United States, leading to a situation where anything not white, Western, and Christian is seen as abnormal…This brisk overview is a must-read for those interested in America’s Christian foundation.”

Read the full review by Publisher's Weekly.


New York Journal of Books

“‘In order to form a more perfect Union,’ books such as White Christian Privilege add enormous value to highlighting the gap between illusion and reality.”

Read the full review by New York Journal of Books.


Library Journal

Joshi explores the structures of white Christian privilege embedded in American institutions, laws, and culture. The first half of the book outlines the historical trajectory of white, Christian privilege through the emergence of national identity within the United States, ideals of white supremacy that are embedded within American culture, and the right (or denial) of citizenship. While the narrative is chronological, its intent is to outline salient past events that led to the present state. The next two chapters are arguably the most insightful, as they outline examples of those who have the privilege but are blind to it, and some of the inequities suffered by uneven privilege. The last chapter summarizes the major milestones needed to achieve to become a more inclusive society, and provides a glimpse of Joshi’s vision of an inclusive nation.

Verdict This academic work views privilege almost exclusively through the lens of social justice. Recommended for readers interested in historical roots of religious freedom.—Muhammed Hassanali, Shaker Heights, OH


David R. Blumenthal, Jay and Leslie Cohen Professor of Judaic Studies, Emory University, retired

"Joshi views subliminal privilege in the common metaphors and underlying assumptions of our society. This privilege is sometimes Christian, sometimes white, and sometimes both. White Christian Privilege sets forth the history and the evidence for this privilege, and then proposes how to change that privilege."


Zayn Kassam, John Knox McLean Professor of Religious Studies, Pomona College

”Insightful and provocative. Taking a social justice approach, this timely book explores how Christianity has been leveraged to maintain and reproduce structures of domination and subordination, a discussion that is much needed and most welcome as debates about borders, migrants, and citizenship inflect public policy and civic engagement.”


Paul Spickard, Distinguished Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Illuminates the myriad ways that social structures, individual actions, and cultural assumptions have brought White Christians outsized power and freedom from responsibility. Thoughtful people of all races and faiths need to read and heed her words."


Philip Goff, Director, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

"Smart and timely, energetic and approachable, this book is destined to be one of those touchstone texts that finds its way to a varied audience eager both to learn and to make meaningful change in American culture."


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Joshi, K.Y. (2018). Race and Religion in Public Life. In J. Corrigan (Ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion in America. London : Oxford University Press.

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Joshi, K.Y. (2016). Racialization of religion and Global Migration. In J. B. Saunders, S. Snyder, & E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (Eds.), Intersections of Religion and Migration, (pp. 123-149).



Khyati Y. Joshi

Khyati Y. Joshi is a public intellectual whose social science research and community connections inform policy-makers, educators, and everyday people about race, religion, and immigration in 21st century America. She has lectured around the world and published ground-breaking scholarly and popular work in her field, while also serving as an advisor to policy-makers and a leader in the South Asian American community.

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