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.
Eight years into the nation's first African-American presidency and amid an increasingly racialized election cycle, what can we say about the state of black America? According to a new report by the National Urban League, it’s mixed: African Americans have made strides but a clear opportunity gap persists.
In the last year, the group has met with civic leaders, including four mayoral candidates, police commissioner Kevin Davis, and the governor’s Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, the council tasked with crafting a plan to reduce the prison population in Baltimore. Several leaders, including Archbishop Lori, went to West Baltimore following the protests to help clean up and lead services. Imam Earl El-Amin of the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore said several members had developed a relationship with a seniors’ building during the uprising, sharing medicines and food. Rev. Deckenback’s church has been accepting donations over the last year for areas impacted by protests.
New initiatives are seeking to curb what is often portrayed as a growing epidemic of heroin use in America. But as Ekow Yankah wrote in a brilliant piece last month, titled “When Addiction Has a White Face" this new attention to the plight of the addicted and the justification from law enforcement that “these are people with a purpose in life” has only come when the faces of addicts are no longer black and brown, but white.
Putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill isn’t going to fix any of this. But I find it hard to not be excited that a strong black woman is being honored for being a strong black woman. Is a $20 bill an imperfect vehicle for this recognition? Yes. But I’m encouraged by the fact that the U.S. at least wants to appear as if celebrating black people is a normal thing to do.
While Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has admitted that mistakes have been made and takes full responsibility, the residents of Flint to this day have not found remedy. His initial action was to have city fire stations serve as bottled water and water filter distribution points. Michigan National Guard personnel provided water to residents there.
And the nation knows the crisis — high lead levels in children’s blood tests and a spike in Legionnaires disease.
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.
As a black person who has lived and worked in struggling cities like these for most of my adult life, I know that the stakes are high in Baltimore. As a black mom, I will have to teach my child what to do if stopped by the police, even though I have no fear that she will ever commit a crime. As the wife of a black man, I wonder if he will be hassled by the police for shoveling our driveway. As a parent who chose to move to the city to give our child the opportunity to have peers who look like her, I know that I am blessed with choices and resources. For those who lack choices and resources, effective leadership is even more crucial.
Though God originally intended that humankind experience goodness and abundance, forces that seek to counter the divine will of God continue to struggle. The divine will of God is for God’s children to prosper, live in peace, unity, and attain equity of God’s resources. God in infinite wisdom established a plan for reconciliation to the disruption in social order before the foundation of the earth.
In this way, God took a stand for what mattered: against the evil that coopted the human experience by way of sin; for God children’s to all have equal access to the graces and life available that came through acceptance, profession of faith, and obedience.
It is no secret that in today’s culture, there is an outcry that resembles the prophetic witness of taking a stand for what matters.
TRAVELING AROUND the country this winter has given me a tremendous opportunity to promote multiracial truth-telling in many local communities as well as to foster multiracial commitments to action in service of racial justice.
During the first two weeks of the “town hall” tour around my new book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, we engaged an audience of tremendous diversity—multiracial, intergenerational, interfaith, secular, and intersectional. The audience and panelists at these forums have been baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials, and again and again we’re seeing new insights and directions as a wide variety of people and perspectives are brought into the dialogue.
In Baltimore, leaders who were in the streets with their congregants following the death of Freddie Gray, such as Revs. Heber Brown III and Brad Braxton, talked about the lessons they learned from the protests and how those lessons must be applied across the country in the days to come.
In New York, Heather McGhee, president of the public policy organization Demos, said that successfully navigating our country into the new demographic reality—in a way that removes both privilege and punishment based on skin color—could be the first opportunity to truly realize our “American exceptionalism.” I often speak against the notion of American exceptionalism, but I wholeheartedly agree with McGhee’s assessment.
Self-professed best friends, Anthony and Dustin have two very different energies. Anthony is compact, and speaks with vivid and pointed images that cut through the fog of misconception. His gaze is simultaneously direct and yet deeply reflective. Dustin emanates a good ol' southern boy vibe: easy grin, easy mannerisms, each movement relaxed and deliberate.
And then there is the one glaring difference between them: Anthony is black. Dustin is white.
I don’t know who posted it. But on Feb. 2, as I customarily do, I checked into Facebook to see what my friends were talking about. A post popped up about 86 children slaughtered in Dalori, Nigeria, by Boko Haram, the terrorist group that kidnapped upwards of 300 girls on April 14, 2014. The children, the post dated Jan. 31 noted, were burned alive.
I reflexively shuttered. How was is possible that is was Feb. 2 and I had heard NOTHING of children burned alive, not on any news network?
Rev. Michael Piazza is well known for developing Dallas’s Cathedral of Hope, the first predominantly LGBT church in the country. The Cathedral of Hope grew from a store-front church into a megachurch with a message of inclusivity, love, and justice. I am taking a class taught by Rev. Piazza this semester, and with us he recently shared a compelling insight. Rev. Piazza believes that America will have another Great Awakening.
I think that the time for that awakening could be right now, and Beyoncé’s documentary does a stellar job of showing us why.
The white power structures were offended, so they fought back. Fox News interviewed Rudy Giuliani about the halftime show. The interview is a textbook case in America’s 400-year history of silencing black voices. The segment shows four white people critiquing Beyoncé’s performance and the black lives matter movement. They lectured Beyoncé on her performance. One commentator said, “In the end we find out that Beyoncé dressed up in a tribute to the Black Panthers, (the dancers) went to a Malcom X formation, and the song, the lyrics, which I couldn’t make out a syllable, were basically telling cops to stop shooting blacks!”
Black History Month is a time to reflect on the contributions African Americans have made to this country. We are right to pause and look back on those who have fought for justice and equal rights. But we mustn’t stop there. We also need to look forward and act to address one of the deadliest legacies of racial inequality: toxic pollution that is harming our children and poisoning our environment.
The crisis in Flint, Mich., has sparked outrage and condemnation, hitting covers and front pages of national media outlets, and pointing to yet another example of our country's original sin of systemic racism. Photographer Heather Wilson shares with us this image from Flint: the old water pipes — blamed for high levels of lead in the city's water, leading to neurological damage in infants and children — v. the new pipes in the background.
I recoiled harshly when I heard suggested that white supremacy was at the core of the issues Flint had been dealing with for decades and continues to struggle with now. I knew what white supremacy was. Lynching, KKK, police dogs, etc. I didn’t think there was any way that my good intentions to help Flint had any white supremacist motivations. But that's where I, and to a large degree most white Christians, are wrong.
Our lawyers have made a strong case this week that the voter ID component of this legislation places an unnecessary and undue burden on voters — especially poor and African-American voters. We will ultimately win this fight in the courts. But this case is about much more than defeating voter ID laws. It is about a central question of 21st-century American politics: is a multiethnic democracy possible?
People of color in the United States, particularly young black men, are burdened with a presumption of guilt and dangerousness. Some version of what happened to me has been unfairly experienced by hundreds of thousands of black and brown people throughout this country. As a consequence of our nation’s historical failure to address the legacy of racial inequality, the presumption of guilt and the racial narrative that created it have significantly shaped every institution in American society, especially our criminal justice system.
Often I wonder, what is it about me that puts me at the table? I love my x chromosomes and femininity; being a woman is an amazing thing! But in these circles, they seem to come with a cost. No, I’ve not been barred from sitting at the leadership table, but am I only here because I don’t have two other things I longed for – a husband/partner to share life with and children to love and care for and call my own.