I'm about ten years older than the Scheeres, grew up in the Midwest (although not in Indiana), and I don't remember any of the blatant racism David experienced. However, part of my childhood was spent in cities, part in small towns. I remember African-American teachers in my schools and not giving it a second thought - they were Mr. or Mrs._____ and that's it. Since I hated moving to a small town, basically for my high school years, I understand the weirdness of a small town versus a city and the difficulty moving to a rural community. Small towns can be rather ingrown and inbreed. But, it would be a horrible mistake to label all Midwesterners who are Christians with the broad brush of "fanatic-Christian-racists". We aren't. Some are, but not all of us. While the Scheeres household was fanatic, it was also abusive with indifferent and violent parents. I really think even Scheeres herself (from reading her interview in my copy of Jesus Land) would encourage readers to not hate all Christians. I actually prefer the UK release title, Another Hour on Sunday Morning, because Jesus had nothing to do with what happened to Julia and David Sheeres.
On the other hand, perhaps many people don't realize that they carry with them some racist attitudes. A comment on a blog recently had me pondering this. It was meant to be a throwaway silly comment about kids playing "cowboys and Indians." But see, there's the rub... We have good, dear friends who are Native Americans and live on the Rez. The whole kids playing "cowboys and Indians" comment would never come into my mind, let alone out of my mouth or put into words on a blog. Do I think the blog writer is racist? I don't know. Did I find the comment hurtful? Well... yes.
Also, from my memories, I think David certainly could have reported the abuse and would have been taken seriously in many places in the Midwest at that time. I was a young adult in the late 70's and early 80's and reports of child abuse were consequential by that time. I can't speak with any certainty about Lafayette, Indiana, but any reported abuse would have been taken quite seriously in many other small towns and communities in the Midwest. Edited to add that now I'm wondering if this memoir is slightly exaggerated, and part of the perceived racism was dealing with bullies.
Julia Scheeres and her adopted brother, David, are sixteen years old. Julia is white. David is black. It's the mid-1980s and their family has just moved to rural Indiana, a landscape of cottonwood trees and trailer parks, and an all-encompassing racism. At home are a distant mother - more involved with her church's missionaries than with her own children - and a violent father. In this riveting memoir Julia Scheeres takes us from the Midwest to a place beyond our imagining: surrounded by natural beauty, the Escuela Caribe - a religious reform school in the Dominican Republic - is characterized by a disciplinary regime that extracts repentance from its students by any means necessary. Julia and David strive to make it through these ordeals and their tale is relayed here with startling immediacy, extreme candor, and wry humor.