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.
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.
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.
Just before Hollywood’s most glamorous — and this year, controversial — night of the year, a new study shows just why the Oscars are so monochrome. This is the first-ever exhaustive analysis of film, television, and digital streaming services for issues of diversity and inclusion. Conducted by Stacy L. Smith of the Media, Diversity & Social Change [MDSC] Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the study reveals how exclusive of women, people of color, and the LGBT community those platforms are.
In the next few decades, a fundamental change will occur in the United States. By the year 2045, the majority of U.S. citizens will be descended from African, Asian, and Latin American ancestors, according to the U.S. Census Bureau projections. For the first time in its 240-year history, America will no longer be a white majority nation. Rather, we will have become a majority of minorities — with no one race being in the majority. The United States will be no longer a dominant white nation but a multiracial nation, which will make the assumptions of white privilege increasingly less assumed.
Some white Americans would like to try to “fix” the systemic racism that exists in our criminal justice, educational, economic, and even our religious institutions. But in order for real change to occur, our understanding of realities like white privilege must also move beyond the institutional and into the very personal.
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!”
Here is what Pope Francis said to the world in his Lenten message:
“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”
Instead of giving up chocolate or alcohol for Lent, the pope seems to want us to give up our indifference to others.
Listen to the interview here.
We’re hearing a lot about what “white privilege” means in America these days. But are we talking about it enough on Sunday morning? That’s the contention New York Times bestselling author Jim Wallis makes in his latest book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America.
When I began writing my latest book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, my hope was to help foster that new conversation on race in America — and to point to the action that needs to come from it. Because only when we openly and truthfully speak to the roots of racism and inequality in our country — white supremacy, white privilege, and the dehumanization and devaluation of black lives and bodies — will we able to deal with the modern-day realities of that legacy and solve the obvious problems before us in racialized policing and the blatant racial disparities in our criminal justice, education, and economic systems. So we launched a “town meeting” tour that creates space for the voices of diverse local leaders in each city and allows for the multiracial, truth-telling conversations and actions we so urgently need across this country. I’m happy to say that tour has started, and it has been powerful to see and hear.
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.
Watch the interview here.
America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, the newly released best-selling book by Jim Wallis, Sojourners President and Founder, forms the foundation of the timely interactive series we’re proud to announce he’s curating a t the 2016 Wild Goose Festival!
For nearly half a century, Jim Wallis has been at the forefront of the conversation about the Gospel and social justice. We talk to him about his life, his work, and his new book, America's Original Sin.
Red Letter Christian and Sojourners President Jim Wallis recently published America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America.