Racism is a Sin Affecting Abuser and Abused

Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Sojourners Lisa Sharon Harper speaks with the film's star Alfre Woodard after screening. Brandon Hook / Sojourners

The ethos of slavery still runs deep in our national consciousness. Alfre Woodard, a supporting actress in the upcoming movie 12 Years a Slave, hopes that point is taken by all who see it.

“Whenever there is repression, it takes toll on everyone; especially a physical and psychic, stunting pain on the abuser,” Woodard said at a panel following a pre-screening of the movie hosted by Sojourners last week. “My hope, expectation is that audiences will start to think about slavery in a new way. That they’ll come away with some small perspective to understand each other better.”

The panel gathered to begin the conversation about residual impacts of slavery on the United States. Woodard started the discussion with a description of what it was like to be set and involved with a film that revolves around such a difficult emotional topic.


Survey Says Americans More Pessimistic Than Ever. But Here's Why There's Hope.

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Even though the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, 72 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. is still in recession, a figure unchanged from 2014. While that figure has remained steady, this year has seen a dramatic spike of discontent regarding economic inequality. Over the past four years, only slight majorities (53 to 55 percent) have agreed that “One of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.” But in 2015, 65 percent of Americans agreed.

And Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly agree, at least on this: The federal government is looking out for the rich. The American Dream, seemingly in question since the Great Recession, is now only an idle daydream for most.

And as Americans give up on the American Dream, they grow more suspicious of immigrants. In 2012, 57 percent of Americans believed that immigrants strengthened the U.S. That number has now, dangerously, fallen below a majority, to 46 percent. And it has gotten personal — more people report being bothered when they encounter non-English speakers.

'Black Lives Matter' Signs at Churches Vandalized

Image via River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation / RNS

Banners posted at predominantly white churches across the country in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement have been vandalized — some of them more than once.

Since the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution last summer affirming the movement, 17 of more than 50 congregations that have posted signs have seen them vandalized or stolen.

The Rev. Neal Anderson, senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada in Reno, said his largely white congregation posted its fourth sign after the third one was stolen on Halloween weekend. The first banner was vandalized in August.

“For me the vandalism was sort of this physical and visible sign of white supremacy,” he said of the first act of vandalism.

The Power of Protest at Mizzou

Jesse Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia. Adapated image via Adam Procter/Flickr

We have witnessed a remarkable series of events on the Columbia, Mo., campus of the University of Missouri this week. The university president and the chancellor of the Columbia campus resigned Nov. 9 in response to protests claiming that university leadership had failed to appropriately address and respond to a toxic racial climate on campus.

The recent racist incidents, which many students and faculty felt the administration had failed to confront, reveal a stunning lack of empathy for students of color at the university. They include: racial slurs hurled at a black student body president and a black student organization, and a swastika painted in human feces on the wall of a residence hall.

But these specific incidents merely allowed a long-simmering stew of disrespect, verbal attacks, and marginalization of students of color to come boiling to the surface.

The Columbia campus of the University of Missouri is only a two-hour drive from Ferguson, Mo. When Michael Brown was shot in August 2014, protesters took to the streets of Ferguson every night, and student activists from Mizzou were among them. They saw what standing up to entrenched institutional racism looked like, and they saw that victories could be won with non-violent protest.

11 Easy Mistakes to Make When Thinking About Racial Inequality in the U.S.

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1. Don’t assume racial inequality is normal . This shouldn’t be an easy mistake, but it is one of the most common and most consequential mistakes when thinking about racial inequality. The largely absent social and political urgency over racial injustices makes it clear that many have concluded deep and persistent racial inequality is normal, unsurprising, and not a social emergency.

Yet, how can one see racial injustice if racial inequalities are “supposed” to be as they are? How can our children believe us when we say skin color is irrelevant to one’s abilities if we accept as normal the racial inequality present in all areas of modern life, and teach them to do the same? How can black people as a group not be stigmatized if massive inequality is the expected reality?

When racial inequality is perceived to be normal, then it is obvious that an old, ugly rationale — that black people “get what they deserve” — is alive and well.

Mizzou President Resigns After Boycott, Walkout, and Hunger Strike

The columns in front of the University of Missouri. Image via  / Shutterstock.com

The president of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, agreed Nov. 9 to resign, reports NBC.

After a series of racist incidents on campus, a graduate student went on hunger strike and the football team boycotted all team-related activities in protest of Wolfe's handling of the incidents. Some University of Missouri faculty participated in a solidarity walkout as well.

South Carolina Sheriff Fires Officer After Violent Arrest, Places 'Some Responsibility' on Student

YouTube / Magic Storm Media / CNN

Screenshot via YouTube / Magic Storm Media / CNN

South Carolina sheriff Leon Lott announced Wednesday afternoon that Ben Fields, the police officer who violently arrested a 15-year-old black female student at Spring Valley High School, has been fired.

"It's not what I expect from my deputies, and it's not what I tolerate from my deputies," said Lott.

Although Lott removed Fields from his police force, he also commented on the behavior of the student.

School Police Officer Assaults 15-Year-Old Black Female Student in Classroom

Screenshot via Heavy

Screenshot via Heavy

On the morning of Oct. 26, a student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina was flipped out of her desk and tossed across the room by school resource officer Ben Fields.

Fields is already facing an outstanding lawsuit filed against him for "recklessly targeting African-American students with allegations of gang membership." But in 2014, Fields received a "Culture of Excellence" award for being "an exceptional role model to the students he serves and protects."

Ole Miss Takes Down Mississippi State Flag After Student Activism

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Campus police officers at the University of Mississippi removed the state flag from its campus this morning, days after resolutions from the student body, staff, and faculty urged such action, according to a press release from the University of Mississippi.

It is the first predominantly white institution of higher education in the state of Mississippi to ban the flag.

The student senate was the first to pass the resolution, after 3 hours of "respectful and impassioned debate" culminating in a 33-15-1 vote in support of removal.