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"For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight." - Psalm 72:12-14
I have found myself repeatedly returning to this passage of scripture over the last several weeks. In a divided culture that often portrays social justice movements as a threat, it is encouraging to hear scripture describe the "cause of the poor" as a cause that God will defend. In a world of injustice, God judges the poor specifically with justice (v. 2). And this means that Christians, too, are called to defend this cause. My faith leads me to hope in a future where justice is realized in the kingdom of God, but the example of Christ also leads me to work in the present to achieve this future, even if its only a glimpse. What does it mean to be a Christian if we are not the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world?

There are moments at the beginning of every year when I wish that I could just sit down with parents and walk them through the harrowing process that is known as Elementary Education in the state of Oklahoma. But every year I put a smile on my face and walk them through the future that I hope we can create for their children, despite all the systemic obstacles standing in their way. My hopes for a better future wage war against an enemy too monolithic to fully describe. The following is a letter written by the System regarding the future that it has planned for our children. It is only a very small snapshot of a much larger network of systemic forces working together to destroy our children's future. school-bus-1527162-1280x960 Dear Family of _________, Welcome to American Dream Elementary! We are honored to incorporate your child into our data. Today, we partner with you in the challenging process of permanently institutionalizing your child for the rest of its life! We understand that you have many fears and worries. Rest assured, your child is in good hands.

Note: This is the second installment in a series discussing Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. For other posts in this series see: the new jim crow Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is fast becoming a favorite on my Kindle shelf. I’ve been slowly making my way through each chapter, researching her citations, and sharing my notes as I go. In Chapter 1, Alexander argues that America’s “War on Drugs” and “tough on crime” legislation emerged as a new form of racial control, directly opposing the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. She presents compelling evidence to back up her claims, starting with the history of reconstruction, working through the Civil Rights Movement, and then examining the major political movements that followed. Here are a few major talking points that stood out from Chapter 1:

It was early in August. Students would not be starting for several weeks. I had spent June and July in New York on a much-needed vacation with my family after a grueling first year of teaching. Now I was back. Ready to start a new academic year. Theoretically. I pulled into the parking lot of my school and grabbed a box from the pile of junk in the back seat. It had been two months since I’d packed up my classroom for the summer. Time to start another year. I finagled my way past the building’s rusty gate and somehow managed to open the southeast door with a few spare fingers underneath my box of supplies.

Note: This is the first installment in a series discussing Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. For other posts in this series: the new jim crow Even though it was only published six years ago, Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness turns up in everything I read nowadays about systemic injustice. After reading yet another article that referenced this book, I finally decided to take the plunge and read it myself. Given our current cultural context, I expect this book to be highly thought-provoking and intensely controversial. I’ve decided to blog out my thoughts from chapter to chapter in an effort to spark more discussion in my social circles surrounding the issues that Alexander tackles.

“Oh, I deal with drug addicts all the time with my job.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I wanted to take them back. But the damage was done. I had been talking about issues surrounding drug addiction with my mom, and it seemed only appropriate to mention my job. But I knew it was wrong. Just what was wrong exactly? Many, many things.

diversity-6-1238192 What are we supposed to do? A friend of mine, Kyle West, posed this question to me in response to a blog post about racism in my community. The answer requires more space than my blog allows. But I can provide some beginning thoughts. The gospel has the power to heal historical and cultural wounds, and it’s no secret that the American church is doing a poor job of it. Sunday mornings remain the most highly segregated day of the week in the entire country. Despite what the Bible has to say about “neither Jew nor Greek,” Christians continue to segregate themselves by race and class. The result is that the church continues to perpetuate social injustices. What do I mean by this?

[I do not blame the psychologist for what happened here. In many ways, she is just a cog in the machine and just as much a victim of the system as my student. The fact is that the following story is all too common. The future of children across the country gets trapped into a never-ending system of useless paperwork and ridiculous requirements that make it nearly impossible to get them help. The sad reality is that the school psychologist in this story really was, more than likely, too busy to do her job. This is a terrible injustice.] buried-alive-1241454 “I’m sorry. Perhaps if it were not so late in the year, we could do something for him,” the psychologist said. “I came to you in October with this data.” I breathed in slowly, attempting to control the tempest of rage inside of me, then breathed out. Dante had been my student since the beginning of the year. It was now May, and he couldn’t even write his name. Information slid from his brain like butter, and he was the only student in my classroom whose test scores actually declined mid-year. Something was wrong. Perhaps a learning disability? I couldn’t know.