A few years ago I started listening to a podcast called Seminary Dropout. The host was thoughtful and the guests were usually influential authors and interesting voices in Christian circles. Shane Blackshear and Kerri Fisher started up a spin-off podcast back in 2016 called On Ramp that’s meant to be a starting point (an “on ramp”) for those just entering the race conversation. Season 2 was released in December of 2017. As I’ve really benefitted from the podcast, I reached out to them and Shane and Kerri agreed to answer a few questions for me. I’m excited to share this interview with you!
1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourselves? Where do you live? What’s your day job? Who are your people?
Kerri: Well, my name is Kerri Fisher. I live in Waco, Texas. I work at Baylor University as a full-time lecturer in the school of social work. My people? Hmmmm, members of the Branch Church in Abilene and Doxology Church in Austin (both now defunct in the literal sense but alive in the supernatural sense). Also, I suppose, my people are writers, readers, comedians & other creatives/contemplators as well as my literal family The Charles Fishers and all my chosen family accumulated over the years. That’s as brief as I can be if I am to be accurate and appropriately inclusive.
Shane: I’m Shane Blackshear. I live in Austin, Texas. I host a podcast called Seminary Dropout in addition to On Ramp with Kerri, and I work in real estate. My people are my wife Kate, my two kids Margot and Amos, and my church family of Austin Mustard Seed.
2. How do you two know each other and how did you decide to start this podcast?
Shane: We met and became good friends in college, and have been ever since. Through my other podcast, Seminary Dropout I had some eye opening conversations with people who are, in my opinion, some of the greatest thinkers in the area of race and racial justice. Meanwhile I think Kerri had also been working through some issues on race through her own family history and her career in social work. We’d talk about this stuff when we saw each other here and there. At some point the idea popped into my head and I asked Kerri if she would do a podcast with me on race through the lens of our Christian faith. The rest is history.
Kerri: Yes, Shane has relayed this accurately.
3. For those of us who have no idea what goes into producing a podcast, what is the process involved in creating it?
Kerri: It is hilarious for me to answer this question first. I want to say, “I have no idea?” For my part the process is thinking and talking with Shane about what we want to communicate, then going to Shane’s house to record and then sending academic or other research support for any claims I have made during the recording. Shane can now explain everything cool and technological that I actively avoid learning.
Shane: Kerri’s downplaying her role. The planning part is one of the most important steps. Also On Ramp couldn’t exist without the academic and other research, and Kerri with her academic background is much better at that part that I am. We’re big on truth at On Ramp, so obtaining reliable information is everything. Beyond that, the technological stuff is pretty boring, but basically I set up the mics, mixer, and recorder, do some sound editing, write show notes, and upload the audio file. I should probably do more promotion afterwards, but by the time I get to that part I’m exhausted (Please tell your friends about this show).
4. Do you have a favorite episode? Why?
Shane: It’s hard to pick, partly because they all kind of blend together and partly because I’m proud of them all. Actually the first one stands out to me. That’s where we got to really lay out our vision and heart for On Ramp and what we wanted it to be.
Kerri: In general my honest answer is that I always get a kick out of the ones where we get a little giggly, it reminds me of our college glory days and its sweet to have that recorded. As for a specific favorite, I agree they all blend together a bit, but I remember really liking our first episode of season two more than I thought I would because we got “Jesusy” and I am always nervous to suggest or have the appearance of suggesting that I have a better idea than anyone else who Jesus is, or how to be a Christian, or how to navigate this human experience, but as I re-listened to that episode I must say, I felt touched at what we stumbled on together about the holiness—the otherworldliness of laying down privilege. It made me feel warm. And I hope it did for others too.
5. What was the hardest episode to record? Why?
Kerri: I would say for me generally the hardest episodes are when I am sharing personal things about what it means to be a person of color rather than academic considerations. My childhood self is very shocked and appalled at how frequently I am telling the truth about the challenges of oppression and privilege—she was very happy to ignore race and its consequences, so sometimes that still creeps up in episodes like the one from season two about being a black woman in white evangelical spaces. In the moment of the actual recording though, the hardest episode for me was the final episode in season 1 where Shane and I processed our own relational and podcast related hiccups related to our own identity-related behaviors. Even though those hiccups were very minor, I still felt shaky as we discussed the impacts of privilege and oppression in our own very real relationship. I think that’s crazy because Shane and I have been extremely close friends for over 15 years and there are still ways that talking about race can feel awkward even for the two of us.
Shane: The episodes that require the most vulnerability are always hard. I see my role in this podcast as one that is first one of a listening posture. As a biracial woman, Kerri has the lived experience of having racism directed at her as all people of color do. As a white guy, my lived experience is one of privilege. So my hope is that I model a listening posture, and a willingness to lay down my privilege as much as I can and be a champion of Kerri’s words and experience. That’s not easy, so while I can’t nail it down to a specific episode, the times when I’ve needed to be quiet and acknowledge & lay down my privilege are not comfortable.
6. What are your favorite/go-to books about race?
Shane: I love this question. I always love recommending books because they say it so much better than I ever could. For me these books make up my required reading list when it comes to matters of race in no particular order:
The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
The Myth of Equality, Ken Wytsma
Let Justice Roll Down, John Perkins
Disunity in Christ, Christena Cleveland
Kerri: Oh boy. Yes to lots of Shane’s suggestions. I also really have been touched by at least portions of each of the following:
The Souls of Black Folks, W.E.B. Dubois
Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama
The Hidden Wound, Wendall Berry
The Color of Water, James McBride
The Devil’s Highway, Luis Alberto Urrea
Negroland: A Memoir, Margo Jefferson
I am eager to read:
The Potlicker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, John T. Edge
The Warmth of Other Sons, Isabel Wilkerson
7. Have you gotten any push-back or criticism from listeners? What kinds of things?
Kerri: I have been really surprised, relieved and grateful for how kind and supportive our listeners have been to us. I think we’ve had a few people who wanted to hear more theology or more or different content on a certain race-related concept but that is to be expected and as long as it is delivered in a gracious manner it is encouraged. We are very interested in what our listeners are interested in.
Shane: Like Kerri I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the lack of criticism, especially harsh criticism. Unlike a written blog post, you can’t skim a podcast. I think people who would be harsh critics just don’t take the time to listen. The criticism we have received has been scattered. Someone took issues because we “changed the definition of racism”, but the definition we used, “prejudice plus power”, is the definition that relevant professionals have used for a long time. Someone else gently asked why we haven’t talked about oppression towards women, which is a subject I think we both care about deeply, but we can’t say all truths in the world at the same time. On Ramp is specifically about race through the lens of Christianity so we focus on that. So the criticism has been light and for the most part respectful. I assume that if On Ramp picks up steam the longer it’s out there, we’ll start to receive heavier push back.
8. As this interview is published, the much-anticipated Black Panther film is about to come out. In your opinion, what is all the buzz about?
Shane: There’s another podcast that’s great (and I have to admit more popular that either of my podcasts), called “Truth’s Table” hosted by three black Christian women. It’s fantastic! In the first episode I happened to listen to the women just talked about how excited they were for Black Panther. The trailer had just come out and they were dissecting every frame. Their excitement was contagious.
There have been over 55 feature length Marvel & DC movies made since the year 2000 and none of them have featured a black main character. Even Ghost Rider got 2 movies in that time, and Ghost Rider is terrible.
People of color are not only under-represented in super hero movies, but in all media, and when they are represented it’s done poorly. Too often people of color are represented as criminals or people with low morals, or they’re the black best friend stereotype existing for the white leading characters benefit. The general story of Black Panther is an empowering story of a man and a society who don’t need help from white people. The characters are extremely intelligent and their society is advanced.
Kerri: Well, I know literally nothing about Black Panther and had little interest in seeing it, but Shane has now convinced me. I am certainly interested in supporting films that represent the complexity of black people and blackness because that has been a lifetime longing of mine that has rarely been offered or available to me. Fingers crossed for Black Panther and more and more good storytelling to come.
9. Will there be a season 3 of On Ramp? If so, what are some of the topics you still hope to discuss in future episodes?
Kerri: Well, as of this writing Shane and I haven’t discussed season 3 very much but I guess I would say I would love to do a third season if we have evidence that people are listening to it and find it useful. I’m not sure what topics we would discuss next—I loved hearing listener questions and interests at the end of season 1 so hopefully that would give us some ideas. We both love discussing entertainment and politics, so I could see us finding news and entertainment stories and applying some of the concepts from seasons 1 & 2? I don’t know though. I’ll eagerly await Shane’s answer.
Shane: Like Kerri eluded, I think it depends on the feedback. It is a considerable amount of work, and although we like to do it, if people aren’t connecting to it, or if there are more affective resources out there, then we have no problem ending On Ramp at season 2 and being proud of the work we did. That all sounds pessimistic but I don’t mean it to be. I hope that On Ramp is meaningful and helpful to many people and that we’ll keep going for seasons to come. So if anyone out there has feedback or suggestions of what they’d like to hear in the future, please let us know!
Thank you, Shane and Kerri for providing such a wonderful podcast for all of us. And I am so grateful you took the time to answer my questions for this interview!
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, you can find On Ramp Season 1 and 2 here!
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How is God calling you to enter the race conversation?
This month we’ll be discussing racism, privilege and bridge building. If you’d like to guest post on this topic, please email me at scrapingraisins(dot)gmail(dot)com. Yes, this is awkward and fraught with the potential for missteps, blunders and embarrassing moments, but it’s necessary. Join me?
I’ll go first.
(Consider joining the Facebook group Be the Bridge to Racial Unity to learn more about how God is moving in this sphere.)
If you are a writer, consider using the hashtag #WOCwithpens to showcase the writing of our black and brown sisters of faith every Wednesday specifically, but anytime as well! You can find the explanation for the hashtag here.
If you’re a white person who’s new to all of this, I compiled some resources to start you on your journey (because I’m not much farther ahead):
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