Racism

Since the beginning of the modern era almost 500 years ago, Western culture has been marked by a distinct aversion to history. Thus we have come to narrate our lives primarily through our stories as (seemingly) autonomous individuals, instead of through the social stories of the peoples and places to which we belong. One of the unfortunate consequences of this shift is that we often become blind to the socioeconomic narratives that have set the stage for our present lives.

One of these is white supremacy, which has shaped the geographical, educational, and economic systems of our land over many generations and played a formative role in the life of almost every American. In his excellent new book, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, Drew Hart turns our attention to this story and particularly to the ways it misshapes our Christian faithfulness. Hart begins the book with a description of how racialized our lives are. Historically, nonwhites were excluded from many important spaces in U.S. public life: schools, governmental positions, and even churches. Although few, if any, of these spaces today explicitly exclude nonwhites, our socioeconomic systems are rooted in these earlier eras and continue to promote a highly segregated way of life. “When we can be honest about how our entire society is deeply racialized,” Hart says, “we will be ready to move forward.”

Hart reminds us that race is not simply about the color of one’s skin but also about power and the question of who gets to dictate the course that our society will follow. Early in the book, he spends a chapter exploring how our understanding of Jesus is often too white. We are inclined to imagine Jesus as an influencer, one who works in the upper echelons of our hierarchical society and who has the power to control the course of society. Hart emphasizes that this is not the Jesus that we find in the gospels, who aligned himself with the marginalized and who mostly rejected hierarchical society. “Where the old order dominated and violently lorded over others,” Hart observes, “the kingdom of God arose from the bottom, margins, and cracks of society, freely inviting people to share in the peace and justice of God made available in the presence of Jesus.”

03-28-2016

Listen to the interview here.

Outspoken evangelical preacher Jim Wallis has been arrested many times at civil rights and anti-war protests over the years. In the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, he tells Andrew West it's time for America to confront its 'original sin'—racism.

03-28-2016

We must resist the terrible teachings of Donald Trump

This week, as Christians mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we find ourselves traveling from the darkness of Good Friday into the light and joy of Easter Sunday.

Lisa Sharon Harper 03-24-2016

This week, as the five candidates still in the running for the White House turned their campaigns westward; vying for top spots in Arizona, Idaho, and Utah, pundits wondered aloud if voter suppression would make an impact on the general election. At the same time, miles-long lines formed in Arizona’s Maricopa County, the most populous and racially diverse county in the state. According to reports, lines of voters were still winding around blocks and parking lots even as news stations were projecting winners. Why? Because Maricopa County had reduced its polling places by 70 percent between 2012 and 2016, from 200 polling places to 60. How could they do that?

the Web Editors 03-23-2016
Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Rarely is racism confessed so baldly.

John Ehrlichman, domestic policy chief for Richard Nixon, admitted in 1994 that the "war on drugs" was a way to "criminalize" the ant-war left and black people, and "disrupt those communities," according to a recent article from Harper's Magazine.

Ehrlichman was known as a close adviser to Nixon, and served 18 months in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal.

the Web Editors 03-21-2016

Jacinta Gonzalez. Image via Puente Arizona / Youtube

Three protestors — two white, one Latina — were arrested March 19 for chaining themselves to cars and blocking traffic headed to a Donald Trump rally, reports .Mic.

Of the three, only one was transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to investigate her legal status. And guess which one it was.

03-18-2016

Here’s my review of “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America,” a new book by Jim Wallis: If you are a Christian, you should read this book.

Wallis, founder of Sojourners, a national faith-based organization that advocates for social justice, is a public theologian and the best-selling author of 12 books. He is white.

Rather than summarize his latest book, I am sharing some of my favorite passages. In Wallis’ own words:

Jim Wallis 03-17-2016
Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral Sergio TB / Shutterstock.com

Racism is being incited and condoned, and now violence is being incited and condoned. So we will need to bring what Archbishop Desmond Tutu once called “a spirituality of transformation.” I remember when he preached that message from the pulpit of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. I had the blessing of preaching from that same pulpit this past Sunday, and I wanted to share the sermon I preached with you. 

03-16-2016

Listen to the segment here.

03-10-2016

Ian Haney Lopez articulated like no one else has why Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) talking about race comes off as cold to my African-American ears. And his explanation highlighted for me not only how I believe Hillary Clinton gets it right, but also how discussions of race and “America’s Original Sin” of racism should be handled going forward.

03-09-2016

While black churches have long led the charge against racism, the white Christian community has largely held back, says author Jim Wallis.

He's on a nationwide mission to change that, including in Portland.

Wallis's newest book, "America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America," is an indictment of white Christian apathy and inaction towards systemic racism. We interviewed Wallis about the book last week. 

03-09-2016

Listen to the interview here.

The leader of the Christian social justice group Sojourners says the young black Americans who have been killed by police are victims of deep, structural racial sins that go back to the founding fathers.

03-09-2016

Jim Wallis autographs a copy of “America’s Original Sin” following his talk at the Carter Presidential Library.

“Racism is in the air we breath and the water that we drink."

03-09-2016

The Denver areas's best-selling books, according to information from The Tattered Cover.

FICTION

1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

2. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

3. Midnight Sun, by Jo Nesbo

4. The Widow, by Fiona Barton

5. Georgia, by Dawn Tripp

6. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

7. S., by J. J. Abrams

8. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf

9. My Name Is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

10. The Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende

03-09-2016

How the hell can anyone who calls themselves a Christian vote for Donald Drumpf?

That’s the question that needs to be asked as this racist, misogynist hate-monger who supports torture, ridicules the disabled and wants to ban all Muslims from America, comes ever closer to winning the Republican nomination and, potentially, the White House.  

03-09-2016

Listen to the full program here.

Jim Wallis 03-03-2016

It’s time to put the moral crisis over the political one. Donald Trump’s potential nomination by the Republican Party is not just a crisis for that party and for election politics in general, it is a moral crisis for the country, for democracy itself, and for the state of faith in the nation.

The media can act shocked about Trump failing to quickly and very clearly denounce David Duke and the KKK and their support for him, but they didn’t seriously ask the more important question: Why do the advocates of white supremacy like and advocate for Donald Trump?

Ku Klux Klan parade in Washington D.C. in 1926. Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com

If Donald Trump is telling the truth, he only recently learned that David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is an avowed segregationist. Apparently, the KKK and its history have faded from many white Americans’ memory. Jeffrey Lord argued on national television this week that the Klan is an invention of “the left.” As native sons of the South, we could forgive these men their ignorance. (“Bless their hearts. They ain’t from around here,” is the polite way to say it.) But we can neither forgive nor ignore the way 400 years of white supremacy have been naively reduced to whether a candidate will disavow the support of a hate group leader. Racism lives on in policies that perpetuate racial disparities, with or without the KKK.

The Editors 02-24-2016
Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Everett Historical / Shutterstock

A Way Forward

Thank you for publishing Jim Wallis’ excerpt “Crossing the Bridge to a New America” in the February 2016 issue. It has injected in me some much-needed optimism and energy. The idea that racism is, indeed, America’s original sin is a powerful one that imbues in our fight against it a new hope. That we can and need to repent from this awful and systemic plague is both challenging and encouraging. With the murders of so many people of color—including Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland, among too many others—it becomes easy to slip into resigned indifference. But Wallis reminds us that we, as both a nation and as a church, need to accept and act on the truth, for it is the only way forward.

Charlene Cruz-Cerdas
Manchester, New Hampshire

The Original ‘Original Sin’

Regarding the excerpt of Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin in the February issue, it seems to me that our treatment of Native Americans is just as much our “original sin” as our treatment of slaves.

Anne Courtright
Pueblo, Colorado

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