racial justice

'Now is a Time for Theology to Thrive'

a katz / Shutterstock.com
a katz / Shutterstock.com

AUG. 9, 2014, is a day I’ll never forget. It was the day that Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson.

For many young people in the United States, especially those of us involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, this was our Sept. 11. We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when the news broke of another police-involved killing of an unarmed black citizen.

I was in the final days of a yearlong internship with Sojourners. My fellow interns and I were on our closing retreat in West Virginia. I was on my phone checking my Twitter timeline when I began to see retweets of images: Michael Brown laid out on Canfield Drive with blood still leaking from his bullet wounds. I remember the anger that instantly came over me. “Not another one!” was all I could think.

As the day wore on, I felt frustrated that I was stuck in a retreat house, forced to sit idly by while the grieving community in Ferguson was antagonized by officers in riot gear with police dogs. I knew then that I had to do whatever it would take to join the people in this fight for justice. I never imagined how this movement would change the way I—and many others—actually do theology.

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As the National Park Service Turns 100, It’s Time to Diversify

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Parks and monuments tell our nation’s stories and shape our collective memory. Our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are where we learn, play, and pray. We treasure these places of beauty that reveal the wonders of our Creator. And today, on the centennial celebration of the National Park Service, we must pass on their spiritual and cultural significance from generation to generation.

Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. do not yet find their stories reflected or protected in our system of national public lands. While there are plenty of sites that honor military leaders or white historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison, there are far fewer sites that honor Native American, African-American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, or women’s history.

When Patience Becomes Complacency: Why We Can't Wait

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Why We Can’t Wait is the familiar title of Martin Luther King Jr.’s book from 1964. The volume includes his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (written April 16, 1963) and makes an argument to recognize 1963 as the beginning of “the Negro Revolution” while extolling the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance.

King’s “Letter” issues a call for urgency. He wrote it as a response to eight local white clergymen who had criticized his activities in Birmingham and appealed for a more patient and restrained approach to lobbying for civil rights. The “Letter” expresses King’s deep disappointment with “the white moderate,” who “paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.”

VIDEO: Asian Americans Show Support for #BlackLivesMatter

This week Asian-American women leaders at American University in Washington, D.C., released a video of local Asian Pacific Islanders reading a letter of solidarity in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The collaborative letter was drafted online last month as Asian Americans across the country responded to the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, black men killed recently by police officers.

Christians, Want to Take Action on Racial Injustice? Here's How You Can Start

Image by JP Keenan for Sojourners

I want to encourage us to consider the ways we can engage our neighbors beyond an effort to provide a sense of comfort or peace. I believe we are called, in whatever small way we can, to not only accompany them in their grief, but also to acknowledge, validate, and recognize the injustice or atrocities that occur — and to seek to take action to address this within our own sphere of influence. 

Subverting Democracy Is Not Partisan. It Is Immoral.

Moral March in Raleigh, N.C., in Februar 2014. EPG_EuroPhotoGraphics / Shutterstock.com

Since the summer of 2013, we have called this law — which the 4th Circuit struck down on Friday — a monster voter suppression bill. It was the first and the worst of many voter suppression measures to pass through state houses since the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision stripped the Voting Rights Act of its power to guarantee fair elections in this country. In many ways, it performed the new Southern Strategy of James Crow, Esq., which attempts to hold onto power as white voters become one among many minorities in this country. It is a strategy that necessarily depends on old fears, racism, and divide-and-conquer tactics.

R.I.P. White Church?

Ruslan Grumble / Shutterstock
Ruslan Grumble / Shutterstock

AS THE BLACK LIVES Matter movement has shone a light on police brutality against black people across the country, the public conversation in the United States has been unable to ignore the legacy of racism that shapes many of our nation’s most vital institutions. In his important new book, The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), makes the bold claim that White Christian America (WCA)—the fertile ground that gave root to and energized the legacy of American racism—is dead. Granted, this does not mean the death of racism. But for those of us striving for racial reconciliation, the changing societal narrative that Jones offers here is a hopeful one.

Jones begins the book with a tongue-in-cheek obituary for WCA: “Although examiners have not been able to pinpoint the exact time of death, the best evidence suggests that WCA finally succumbed in the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century.” He ends the book with a eulogy for WCA that is much more serious in tone and draws upon the stages of grief named by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her eminent book On Death and Dying.

Jones defines the WCA as a distinctly Protestant entity, with two primary branches, white mainline Protestants and white evangelical Protestants. Jones notes that although these two subgroups are often at odds, together they comprise the “single dynasty” of WCA. “For most of the nation’s life, White Christian America was big enough, cohesive enough, and influential enough,” Jones writes, “to pull off the illusion that it was the cultural pivot around which the country turned.”

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Forget VBS. These Summer Camps Teach Kids to Be Community Activists

Franklin Golden / RNS
Children sing at the community-organizing camp in Durham, N.C. Photo via Franklin Golden / RNS

Instead of the traditional vacation Bible school, this downtown church partnered with seven other congregations — black, white, Baptist, Jewish, Episcopal, Pentecostal, and nondenominational — to put on a community-organizing camp for kids aged 4 to 12.

What Will It Take to Repair What Race Broke?

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What if these were not our foundations? What if these foundations did not lay the groundwork for philosophical and legal frameworks that created separate and unequal schooling for the next 150 years? What if they did not lay the foundations for racialized de-facto exclusions from the Homestead Act and the G.I. Bill. And what if they did not lay the foundations for environmental and climate injustice that causes heightened hardship in communities with less healthcare and fewer resources. And what if they did not lay the foundations for 1.5 million black men to go missing from black communities, families, churches, and civic structures — prized booty of America’s racialized Drug War and a new source of near free labor for American corporations within state and federal prisons.

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