The New Digital Divide

TechMission, the Christian nonprofit I lead, was founded out of black and Latino churches and ministries that often found themselves on the wrong side of the “digital divide.” They lacked Web sites and computers, and church members were finding it increasingly difficult to get jobs without computer skills. So Bruce Wall Ministries, a community organization in Dorchester, Massa­chusetts, began a training program that provided computer classes to thousands of at-risk youth and unemployed adults.

But as more people get online, they are encountering another type of digital divide: the online segregation of Christians. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Eleven o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.” Most Christians are friends with and worship largely with people of their own racial background. We are segregated not only by race, but also by social class and income. As a result of injustice, the average income and wealth of African-American and Latino Christians are lower than that of white Christians.

As the recent book Divided by Faith points out, the segregation of the church results in a separation between rich and poor communities, which in turn perpetuates injustice. For example, a church member in a very re­sourced church who is looking for a job may get 10 referrals from friends in the church, whereas someone in a church where half of the attendees are unemployed might not get any referrals.

You can see a similar segregation reflected in profiles of Christians on online social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace; most people will have friends with backgrounds similar to their own. If everyone links to people they know, the result is that a disproportionate number of resourced individuals and ministries will link to each other, while ministries serving under-resourced communities are stuck in a virtual ghetto. The rich link to the rich, while the poor link to the poor.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2009
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