Continuing the Conversation on Race

By Alicia Philipp 2-26-2016

Editor’s Note: We’ve had the privilege of connecting with many members of the broader Sojourners community (including some of you reading this!) during Sojourners President Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin book and town hall tour. Our conversations in cities like New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Portland are serving as a tool to engage people – particularly people of faith and white people — more robustly on issues of white privilege, race relations, criminal justice reform, and inequalities work. The conversations have already been so rich and we wanted to capture a few reflections from those we see on the road to share with you all. The following reflection is from Alicia Philipp, CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, who we met up with at the Atlanta History Center gathering alongside 70 of CFGA’s donors and board members.

Race and equity underlie every aspect of American life and should be even more deeply felt and engaged with in the American South — yet, there is often deafening silence. Many of the issues the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and its donors focus on have roots in racial inequity: affordable housing, access to health care, neighborhoods, environment, and more.

We began a journey last year when we heard Robert Putnam speak on his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, which galvanized a group of our donors to join together on a learning journey about the opportunity ladder and the root causes of inequity on the steps of the ladder. By engaging with David Dodson of MDC around the State of the South, and hearing from and discussing Ta-Nehisi Coates book Between the World and Me, the learning continued.

Data, speakers, and reading all clearly show the huge racial component in the inequities.

So it was fortuitous that Jim Wallis came to Atlanta and presented another opportunity to go deeper on the difficult issue of racism and white privilege when he spoke on his new book, America’s Original Sin.

“If white Christians acted more Christian than white, black parents would have less to fear for their children,” Wallis said. As a public theologian, political activist, and author, Jim Wallis reminded us that the white-on-black shootings that continue to plague our country are not singular, but rather are a part of our country’s historical legacy of racism and white privilege.

This racial strife has been present throughout history and continues to be systemic in our education, criminal justice, and economic systems. Wallis challenged listeners at his lecture to begin thinking about the “Bridge to New America” and to stop thinking about racial equality as a threat.

“There are no easy answers to the issues Mr. Wallis presented, but the discussion hopefully moved us a step closer to living in a community hallmarked by goodness and humility where citizens act justly and love mercy, “said Knox Porter, an attendee of the event.

See additional tour dates for America’s Original Sin here. You can read a few additional reflections on the tour and conversations so far here, here and here.

Alicia Philipp is president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

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