THE IMPORTANT WORK OF PURSUING RACIAL EQUITY
Our Local Work
Through our Mass Incarceration Education series, we screened Ava DuVernay's Netflix mass incarceration documentary,13th, for over 200 people.
Pictured below are Work Group Follow Up Sessions led by Leaders Hakim Nathaniel Crampton and Marvin Cato. Our target issues are: Raise The Age, Welcoming Communities and access to housing and employment for Returning Citizens.
Race and Power in America
Gamaliel, ACTION'S national affiliate, is invested in an intense process of strategic discernment looking at where we wish to lead our communities 20 years and more from now. From this work is emerging a vision of “God’s Commonwealth” that looks radically different from the unequal and racially divided society we live in today. We invite people to join us as we share a new vision that names building racial equity as the common theme uniting our work for jobs and sustainable transportation infrastructure, better education opportunities for our youth, and immigration reform.
From bus routes to community benefit agreements and expanding Medicaid to ending food deserts, our leaders are known for winning on one social justice issue after another. Our recent Jobs and More Jobs report (http://bit.ly/jobsandmorejobspdf) documented how our organizing work in 2012-13 alone brought 450,000 jobs and $13 billion in investment for our communities.
Now we seek to re-focus our organizing to address not just the consequences of an inequitable system but also to reform the system itself. We draw inspiration from laws and policies that gave power to ordinary people, like the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. While we’ve come a long way since then, many of those laws and policies are under attack today, too.
Join us as we chart our way forward, seeking both to save the civil rights a previous generation won, and to build a fairer, more inclusive society that provides wealth and abundance that all can share.
Trying to define racism in the 21st Century is very difficult. I tend to agree with Danielle S. Allen in her book “Talking to Strangers.” She wrote:
“A great deal of interracial distrust now is a product more of retrospection than of immediate personal experience and prevails along fossilized boundaries of difference.”
It is not that we don’t have policies, systems and people that harbor racist ideologies and stereotypes explicit or implicit; it is rather that identifying the motive as racism when people clash at the color line is more a default position
than absolute fact.
A review of the historical nature of racial conflict between people of color and police departments has raised the consciousness of America about the deeper nature of race in profiles of power. The recent shootings of unarmed black males by white police officers have brought a nation-wide resurgence of the race question and the question of equal justice for people of color.
Hopefully, a meaningful dialogue about race will bring back a healthier level of trust. Systems of justice, however, must be challenged to reflect greater accountability and transparency. The current system of internal police investigations, close association with local prosecutors and private grand jury hearings leaves too much room for malfeasance and the miscarriage of justice.
Better training, racial balance among officers, body cameras and community policing programs should help reduce poor judgment and the need to use deadly force. The use of an independent prosecutor and the establishment of a community review board with subpoena power will enhance accountability and create a higher level of trust.
Finally, as a theologian, allow me the privilege of sharing a biblical truth. There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). Racism is a social construction intended to marginalize and subjugate people as “the other” under systems of power and attitudes of oppression. It dehumanizes in order to support a sense of privilege, a supremacist view of life and the desensitization of a person’s worth and value. However, when you peel back the skin, that’s all it is –skin. It covers the body but it doesn’t define character. What a wondrous point of human diversity that skin comes in a variety of beautiful colors!
Reverend Dr. Melvin T. Jones is the Pastor of the Union Missionary Baptist Church and President of Action's Board of Directors.
Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
ACTION of Greater Lansing Clergy stand in solidarity with Charlottesville and Black Lives Matter Lansing in a Love Rally Against White Supremacy, Michigan State Capitol.