“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.
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.]
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:
“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.
The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, when it comes to criminal justice in America. While police still rank among the most trusted institutions in American society, public confidence in the police has nevertheless hit a 20-year low. Outcries surrounding the deaths of people like Michael Brown and Eric Garner only scratch the surface of a much larger barrage of viral videos, personal accounts, and troubling statistics that have gripped the public imagination in recent years. The effects of such sweeping indictments against the criminal justice system are impossible to fully predict. But it’s safe to say they aren’t going away.
In the midst of this public controversy, I find myself torn between two opposing factions — factions that don’t really exist but can seem quite real in the midst of heated rhetoric. On one side are the marginalized and oppressed. On the other side are police. In reality, neither of these factions exist. If you were to ask the average American whether they belong to one of these sides, they would say something like, “I don’t, but those people do.” They are factions that allow us to demonize the other side while pretending to be neutral ourselves. And they are tearing us apart. more “What Cops, Teachers, and Soldiers Have in Common”…
I remember hearing about Tamir Rice’s death over the radio as I drove into work last year. The news brought me to tears. It grieved and frightened me like few news stories can. I cannot help but think of my students when I hear about this story, and the idea that one of my kids could easily be him is terrifying.
In the wake of the recent grand jury decision following Tamir Rice’s death, many people in much more eloquent words than mine are speaking out about this horrific incident. I hope that this incident sparks a larger discussion in our country surrounding issues we have ignored for too long. Here is one look at how the U.S. compares to other developed countries:
We cannot look at this data any longer and pretend that we don’t have a problem. Something is deeply wrong.
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. more “Blogging Through “The New Jim Crow””…
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.
“Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
– James 2: 5-9
Here’s a sample of things people say to me about poor people, especially poor people of color:
“It’s the parent’s fault.”
“My family was low-income, and they worked their way up.”
“They know how to work the system.”
“What can you do when the only people at home they can look up to are drug addicts and dealers?”
“Not much you can do when they just refuse to accept your help.”
“Aren’t Black people just as racist against White people?”
“We have a Black President now.”
When I graduated from college and moved to Tulsa to become a teacher, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. There I was, a person of color who had nevertheless grown up in tremendous privilege her entire life, now teaching in one of the most historically underprivileged communities in the entire country. more “The Racist-Classist Things People Like to Hear”…
I took a long hiatus from the blogosphere, and I’m glad I did. When I started this blog, my intention was to create a space where people could stay updated on the things I’m thinking about and learning, but when I embarked on a masters program two years ago, I knew life was about to get very full, very fast. Taking a break from blogging was necessary. It allowed me to focus on my degree (in Education Administration) and spend time reflecting on my experiences, instead of just writing about them.
Now that my degree is complete (yay salary raise!) my hope for this blog remains the same. I want this to be a space where people can connect with my thoughts and experiences in life and benefit by reading what I have to share. Ultimately, my hope is that the kingdom of God be strengthened as a result. more “Returning, reflecting, and moving forward”…