Social Justice

social justice is not just for liberals

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” ~ Deuteronomy 32:4

“For I the LORD love justice.” ~ Isaiah 61:8a

A picture hangs in the hallway of my school, put there by students completing a project. A three-year-old child named Alan lies face-down in the sand of a beach. His lifeless body looks cold and wet. Arms limp at his sides. I pass it every day on my way to the office, and the picture cries out, “Save me!” in haunting lamentations as I walk. It’s too late, I think in grief. You’re already dead.

[Note: This is the third installment in a series on Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. For other posts in this series see: I've moved away from the discussion/commentary structure of my previous posts in this series to instead just listing the main sources that Alexander cites, along with the facts they reference. My impression has been that most people reading this series are scrolling through for relevant information to aid their own research. Hopefully formatting each post to more clearly focus on the sources and facts will be more helpful.] the new jim crow In Chapter 3, Alexander focuses her attention on the racial disparities between groups in the criminal justice system that cannot be explained by higher rates of crime, drugs, or other factors. Here are the major talking points and some of the evidence she offers in support:

“Hey, look at my eyes!” The girl pressed her fingers to the corners of her eyelids and slanted them upwards, then downwards, then upwards again. “Haha!” She started chanting in a sing-song manner, “Ching-chong, ching-chong!” We were at summer camp and eating ice cream at a picnic table. I was barely 12 and joined her happily, as did our friends. When she saw that I joined, she dropped her hands and laughed even louder, slamming the table and saying, “You look so funny!” I didn’t get it. Wasn’t that the point? I thought we all looked funny. But I could tell from her inflection that I was the one who looked particularly funny.

gun-1564450-1280x960 I was born in America. I was raised to believe that the Bill of Rights was God's gift to mankind. I grew up memorizing the preamble to the Constitution and thoroughly internalizing the absolute necessity of the "right to bear arms." I know all about the dangers of tyrannical government and the importance of self-defense. I get it. I get the Second Amendment and all the reasons why people protect it so religiously. But actually I don't get it anymore.

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“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause."

- Isaiah 1:16-17

Today marks the eve of the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. The Tulsa Race Riots nearly wiped out the entire African American community in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Angry, white mobs invaded the wealthy community of Greenwood, killed unknown numbers of people, bombed it from the sky, looted its stores, and burned down over 35 city blocks of buildings and homes. For decades after the violence, white women could be seen walking down the streets of Tulsa wearing the jewelry, coats, and clothing of the Black women whose homes were looted and destroyed. Ninety-five years later, the massacre is still disregarded by many as just a bunch of “riots” over race, instead of the terrible act of terror that it actually was, duplicated on a smaller scale in cities across the country.

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“Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:5

I’ve only been a teacher in a low-income school for four years, but sometimes it can feel like too long, I’ve started the school year with no supplies, no curriculum, and no principal. I’ve walked into my classroom to discover it had been trashed by “construction crews” the night before. I’ve sent thirsty children to get water, only to discover that the fountains don’t work and the water from the classroom sink runs yellow. I’ve taught over 30 students by myself at one time, watched children with learning disabilities sit in classrooms for years without receiving help, given paperwork for parents to sign that makes them believe their child is getting extra support when no such thing is happening, and seen countless children pushed onto the next grade when they don’t even know how to write their name. I’ve spent nights weeping after laboring to the point of insanity to do everything in my capacity that I could possibly do, and it still wasn’t enough. It never is enough. And then I read the words of Jesus in Revelation, “Behold I am making all things new,” and it hurts. It hurts because it is easier for me to believe in the brokenness of our systems than it is for me to believe in the power of God to protect our children from the evil at work in this world. It is easier for me to believe that the world is corrupt than to believe it is being renewed. It is easier for me to see the tears of a six-year-old child because they cannot pass a standardized test, than it is for me to see the fullness of who they are, a fullness that even the worst systems in the world could never take away.