Race

Rev. Jim Wallis on Speaker Ryan’s Poverty Plan: We Must Acknowledge and Address Racism

                                                                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Michael Mershon, Director of Advocacy and Communications

Phone: 202-745-4654

Email: mmershon@sojo.net

June 8, 2016

Washington, DC - Sojourners Founder and President Jim Wallis today responded to the plan released by the House of Representatives’ Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility.

The Categories That Divide Humanity

John M Anderson / Shutterstock
John M Anderson / Shutterstock

THE GREAT POLITICAL and historical reality behind the incendiary rhetoric and conflict we have been experiencing in our country is this: In just a few decades, America will no longer be a white-majority nation; we will instead be a majority of minorities.

Some of our citizens, especially many older white Americans, are deeply fearful and resentful about the potential loss of white supremacy and privilege. They will not let this happen without a fight. Already there is a clear strategy to try to ensure that the changing demographic does not change America. There is a five-part strategy in place to delay, obstruct, and veto the new America.

First, gerrymander congressional districts. Second, shift the goal of immigration reform away from full citizenship, preventing the enfranchisement of 11 million new voters. Third, incarcerate mass numbers of citizens, leading to their political disenfranchisement. Fourth, put in place new voting regulations that make it harder for many people to vote. Fifth, elect a strong-man candidate who promises to do to “whatever it takes” to ensure that America does not change.

GLOBALLY, those who are on the “wrong” side of the categories, the most marginalized, find themselves most vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change, war, displacement, and poverty. As conflict rages in the most fragile countries, millions of people, many of them women and children, are displaced from their homes. The global response has been unacceptable. In Europe and the United States, politicians have stoked xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiments to block refugees seeking asylum. Walls are being built to keep the “others” out. Aid and relief to these areas are being cut in favor of expanding military budgets. Race sits at the intersection of all of these issues.

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Report: Racial Justice in Education Requires Investment in Black America

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Black Americans’ educational equality has improved in the last year, but college graduation rates and access to high-quality elementary and secondary education remains a problem, according to a major survey by the National Urban League — which wants Congress to ramp up early childhood education and provide more federal aid to black college students.

Other People's Shoes

everst / Shutterstock.com

I have been thinking about what it means for me to try to put myself into the shoes of other people, too. When I see someone who is different from me — a transgender person, a Muslim person, a politically conservative person, an 'any kind of different' person — I am tempted to look at that person through a hermeneutic of fear. I either fight against that person or flee from that person. But what if I look at that person through a hermeneutic of empathy? What if I put myself in that person's shoes and walk around? What might happen if I do that?

Remembering King: Breaking the Silence

Ebenezer Baptist Church
Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. L. Kragt Bakker Shutterstock.com

I believe pulpits are supposed to change communities and nations — and history. They are supposed to raise up preachers and their congregations to stand and speak and act for biblical justice. I have been very blessed on this tour for my new book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, by preaching and being in many of those pulpits that are changing things yet again.

When Justice Work Becomes an Idol

Zlatko Guzmic / Shutterstock.com

I think there is a very real need for us to grapple with an idolatry of justice. As technology affords us both an instantaneous and relentless awareness of myriad justice causes, and the often-illusory perception of our capability to effect change, it becomes very easy to puff up our justice egos and enlarge our savior complex. Pragmatism and good ol’ work ethic drives us to advance our movements by documenting success, hitting program goals, and mining visible storytelling of dramatic life changes of the people we rescue.

MLK + 50: An American Jubilee Year of Truth & Transformation

April 4, 2018 — two years from now — will be the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April 4, 2017 — one year from now — will be the 50th anniversary of his speech to Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, at Riverside Church in New York. There he warned us of the “deadly triplets” of racism, militarism, and materialism that were endangering America. (And still are.)

This Is How Real Change Happens

The Summit 2015
The Summit 2015, by JP Keenan/Sojourners

Imagine what it would look like for a diverse mosaic of justice movements to stand together to oppose white supremacy.

Imagine what it would look like for our spirituality to be infused with a longing for repair and restoration of what centuries of racial division have broken.

Imagine what it would look like for a room full of business leaders, local pastors, grassroots organizers, and artists to discuss real answers to deep problems.

That’s the vision for The Summit 2016. And we need your help to make it happen.

Parenting for Racial Justice

Lauren Simmons / Shutterstock
Lauren Simmons / Shutterstock

WE ARE A baseball family, with our two boys playing on many teams over the years with multiracial teammates, coaches, and leadership in the organizations shaping those programs. I have long been a Little League baseball coach, and my wife, Joy, has been commissioner at every level too.

In baseball, talent and teamwork are the metrics and measuring sticks, not the race of one’s teammates. For both of my boys, their teammates are their closest friends.

Being a Little League coach (for 11 years and 22 seasons!) has given me a place to reflect on our nation’s racial issues. Playing baseball brings you closer together. My son Luke often says his high school teammates are the best friends he’s ever had, and at every level of Little League, my players always testify in our final team meeting of the season how they have become such close friends. Being teammates really does help overcome racial bias and prejudice, because it is the issue of proximity that finally helps human beings understand one another and learn empathy. On Little League teams we are all cheering for one another, looking out for one another, picking one another up when we fall down or make a mistake, and learning to be positive as we work together for our common goals.

One of the best things to watch over the course of a season is how, across racial lines, the parents of players become friends as well. It is especially interesting to see how the conversation topics develop over time, moving from “just baseball” to school and future, to work and family, to sharing of life experiences, and even to national events, which sometimes includes race. What becomes clear is that we all care more about our children and their future than anything else, and beginning to talk about our kids’ futures together can be a very powerful moment.

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