Regina Shands Stoltzfus hasn’t opened her new book yet. She’s eagerly waiting on her co-author and longtime friend, Tobin Miller Shearer, to receive his box of copies.“Then we’re gonna get on Zoom and we’re gonna to open them together, like the nerds we are,” she said.
The new book, “Been in the Struggle: Pursuing an Antiracist Spirituality,” is co-authored by Shands Stoltzfus, professor of peace, justice and conflict studies, and Miller Shearer, professor of history and African American studies at the University of Montana.
“Been in the Struggle” seeks to promote the idea that “there can be a spiritual component to doing antiracism work,” according to Shands Stoltzfus.
“How do we sustain ourselves for the long term nature of resisting oppression?” she said. “What is true for [me and Miller Shearer] is that having a spiritual basis for the work can be really, really important. And by saying that, we don’t mean that we need to pray harder or go to church … both of those are fine things to do, but that’s not the work.”
“Been in the Struggle” isn’t Shands Stoltzfus and Miller Shearer’s first collaboration. In 1995, they co-created the Damascus Road Anti-Racism Program (now known as the Roots of Justice Anti-Oppression program).
Shands Stoltzfus says that her working relationship with Miller Shearer “is based on a friendship.”
“If all we do is work together, that’s not sustainable,” she said. “So that’s just been our friendship and our insistence on doing this kind of work … in a way that feels humanizing. We’re real people, and we like to eat good food and go to movies and do all that stuff, so let’s do that, too, if we’re going to spend so much time together [with] stuff that’s not pleasant to talk about.”
With more than 1,700 miles between them, Shands Stoltzfus and Miller Shearer had to meet via Zoom while researching and writing “Been in the Struggle.”
“It was hard,” Shands Stoltzfus said. “And we both were teaching full time and doing all the things that go along with that … and so the writing was almost like having another job on top of the job that you have.”
Shands Stoltzfus and Miller Shearer wanted the book to include stories of their experiences in antiracism education, emphasizing the idea that “anti-oppression work is work for the long haul.”
“When I was younger, I was really convinced that this country was committed to equality for all people and that we still had to work at it, but we were gonna get there,” Shands Stoltzfus said. “And I think we need to think that, we need to think that the work we do matters. But what I’ve learned over the years is that there have always been people who have resisted oppression and yet here we still are.”
After submitting an initial proposal and sample chapter for the book in Nov. 2020, Shands Stoltzfus and Miller Shearer were told that they would need to have a first draft completed by May 1, 2021.
“It was a fast turnaround,” Shands Stoltzfus said. “But we actually beat our deadline ‒ we sent it to them in April.”
After several months of content and copy edits, “Been in the Struggle” was published on Nov. 2.
Shands Stoltzfus hopes that it will “spark conversation” among readers.
“I don’t feel as though I’ve arrived at the epitome of knowledge about how oppression works and what to do about it,” she said. “But I do so enjoy having conversation partners and people who care about this … I live for that.”
Shands Stoltzfus reaffirms that readers do not need to be of religious faith to read the book.
“I believe that God … desires a world that is at peace and is justice-filled, and that doesn’t happen by magic,” she said. “It happens by God’s people working at it in all kinds of ways, and this is one of the ways that I have given a lot of my time to. And it’s not to say that everybody has to have that belief, but that’s what’s worked for me ‒ that’s what’s held me.”
Students and community members who are interested in reading “Been in the Struggle: Pursuing an Antiracist Spirituality” can be on the lookout for a copy in the Good Library. Copies are also available for purchase online.