justice

The New Jim Crow and the church (another old post)

Note: This is a devotional piece I wrote for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in October 2010. It uses some church-y references that I’m happy to qualify if anyone wants it “translated.” 🙂

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19, NIV

We’ve been talking about the joys of missional ministry in this region for a year now. I want to complicate it a little today.

Thirteen percent of African American men (1.4 million) are not able to vote due to felony convictions.

What could this possibly have to do with the church? (more…)

How do we talk across the divide?

Two things happened today that have me asking the question: how do we foster up healthy conversation about issues on which we differ greatly?

The first thing was a fairly frivolous issue. I’m at the PANAAWTM conference right now (Pacific and Asian North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry) and a fun and spry woman from Arizona brought some political/religious tee shirts. One tee shirt delighted me so much I posted a picture of it on facebook: “Patriarchy means never having to say you’re sorry!” A person from a local church in my region whom I like very much was really offended by the shirt, feeling that I was attacking all men. Most of you reading this post know that I’m actually quite fond of men and consider them (most of them) allies in the struggle to end oppression. But because our society doesn’t foster up clear distinctions about how to define terms, my valued colleague didn’t see the quote criticizing a system that robs both men and women of the fullness of their humanity; he saw me criticizing men. That may be because of a negative experience he’s had where he’s been unfairly attacked for not respecting women, or it may be that he is a big fan of Rush Limbaugh and really believes that feminists are trying to rob men of power that is rightfully theirs. Either way, he clearly experienced me as antagonistic rather than playful, and I may not be able to have a meaningful conversation with him now on that complex issue. But that’s largely about the dangers of facebook and its inability to foster complex conversation. (more…)

…for you were aliens in Egypt.

Note: This post was originally written for the e-news for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in California-Nevada on March 1, 2012. That is who I am referencing when I say “the region.”
Exodus 22:21, NIV
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” SandhyaLast week there was an article in Business Week about the impact of of Alabama’s strict immigration law put into effect last fall.  The intent of the law was clear–Alabama had an 8% unemployment rate, and they were afraid their citizens’ jobs were being filled by undocumented workers. They passed a bill allowing police to question anyone they suspected might be in the US illegally, including children in school.

 

The first part of the impact was exactly what the state officials had hoped–immigrants left in droves. The second part, however, came as a shock: almost 60% of the crops in Alabama rotted in the field, and the diminished workforce has led to a loss in state economy that has caused a potential loss of 70,000 jobs in the state, many held by US citizens. (more…)

“But there are lots of people of color who support this policy, so it isn’t racist”

In a recent article about Michelle Alexander’s phenomenal The New Jim Crow, a book on the impact of the war on drugs on Black men and women, James Forman, Jr. of Yale Law School raised a criticism or two, including that he feels the book “ignores the violent crime wave of the 1970s and minimizes the support among many African-Americans for get-tough measures,” according to the article.

James Forman, Jr. is a brilliant scholar and comes from solid civil rights pedigree. His critique (soon to be released in the Yale Law Review) is not simply designed to swipe at the book in order to gain attention or diminish a colleague. While I might disagree with some of his analysis, the one thing that rubs me the wrong way is this: that African-American support for get-tough measures functions as a stand-alone argument. (more…)

Finding home (or, A million different Occupies)

I attended my very first Occupy the Hood meeting tonight.

It’s not like I was unaware of the movement–my co-pastor and I expressed enthusiasm and concern about Occupy Oakland almost simultaneously almost from the beginning, and when we read this article http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/10/occupy_the_hood.php in October, we were pretty sure this was where we belonged.

But then we (or at least I) got caught up in the ups and downs of the Occupy Oakland ocean–joy at the experience of thousands of people filling the streets for the November action, horror at the mistreatment of protesters, disappointment as the movement became more about a particular space than about people in this community who barely have a passing connection to City Hall, dismay at the disregard by organizers for the stated needs of laborers prior to the port shutdown in December, rage at the outright illegal actions of the Oakland Police Department on January 28 followed by almost equal rage at the remarkable number of arrestees who did not place their single experience of police brutality in the context of decades of a broken police system that misuses great cops and perpetuates a longtime gap between cops and community. (more…)