On August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri a young black man named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer. While tragic and heartbreaking, this incident is not unique. This type of violence is echoed in communities across our nation.
What happened in the ensuing days is something that seized the imagination and attention of a country and perhaps a world. In the weeks following Michael Brown’s shooting advocates have rallied to call attention to issues of racial discrimination and the militarization of our police forces. UCC clergy and lay leaders have offered prayers, resources, and their physical presence both to aid in the healing of the community of Ferguson, and in an attempt to address the broader systemic issues that underlie what happened in Missouri.
These are challenging times and difficult issues, but together we are called to do the work of healing the hurt in our midst, addressing the lack of understanding between communities, and taking on the sin of racism in our desire to see the Church live and be as one.
Why "Black Lives Matter"
When a church claims boldly “Black Lives Matter” at this moment, it chooses to show up intentionally against all given societal values of supremacy and superiority or common-sense complacency. By insisting on the intrinsic worth of all human beings, Jesus models for us how God loves justly, and how his disciples can love publicly in a world of inequality. We live out the love of God justly by publicly saying #BlackLivesMatter.” (Read more.)
Prayer & Study Resources
Prayers for Racial Justice
Since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, a collective of UCC faith leaders from across the country have gathered on conference calls convened by the Rev. Geoffrey Black. They share about the on-going efforts at local and conference settings to keep people mobilized and engaged in countering institutional racism and sanctioned violence. And they seek to identify all-Church initiatives with course of actions that can make a difference over time. Last year they called UCC churches to recognize Sunday, August 9, 2015, the actual anniversary of Mike Brown’s death, as a time for us to pray together for racial justice. In the course of that process they prepared a variety of prayers for use by congregations. These prayers may be adapted and used on other days and in other settings in which people gather to pray and witness to justice for all who suffer the violence of racial injustice.
To request free"Black Lives Matter"
- Call to Worship - Dorhauer
- Call to Worship - Jefferson
- Children's Sermon Starters - Wood
- Litany on Gun Violence - Byrne
- Pastoral Prayer - Jefferson
- Prayer of Confession - Jefferson
- Prayer of Confession - Fairman
- Prayer of Lament - Fennema
- Charge to Community Action - Fennema
A Pastoral Letter on Racism: A New Awakening
As America honors the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ideals of equality, service and beloved community that he lived and died for, the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ has released a Pastoral Letter on Racism, with the hope and expectation that it will be read in our 5,100 churches nationwide on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend or to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Sunday, Jan. 25.
With the recent rash of deaths of African Americans at hands of police, the UCC national leaders hope Martin Luther King weekend will be an opportunity for us to both address those issues through our continuing advocacy and hope for change toward King’s beloved community. Read the letter.
Pastoral Response to Grand Jury Decision
United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black has released this statement in response to the decision of the grand jury.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
In the months that have passed since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown last August, the attention of the nation on Ferguson, Missouri, has sharpened the reality that racism still exists in our country and is as deadly as ever. Our prayers for justice have been fervent but the truth remains that in communities around the country, racial profiling of people of color by law enforcement, and particularly of young African American men, far too often has lethal consequences.
Day after day, protestors have peacefully marched in the streets of Ferguson, demanding that justice be done. People of faith, including UCC clergy and leaders, and young people living in the area, have provided key leadership in this organizing effort. Even so, a state of emergency was declared days before the announcement of the St. Louis grand jury decision on whether or not Officer Darren Wilson would face criminal charges.
Our United Church of Christ Statement of Faith reminds us that God promises to all who trust in God “courage in the struggle for justice and peace.” In the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Wilson and the implication that Michael Brown’s death was justified, the people of Ferguson, of the St. Louis area, and of the nation at large are left with an open wound and no visible means to begin the healing process. Disappointment, frustration and anger abound. Any and all of these responses are understandable.
However, we are also reminded by our statement of faith that we are engaged in a “struggle for justice and peace.” These two concepts are appropriately joined. To engage in the struggle takes courage and a renewed commitment to advocacy and action, to deepening racial awareness by engaging in sacred conversation, and to truthfully examining – then dismantling - the systems of privilege set in place by racism. It requires building God’s beloved community beyond racial divides. That is where true peace abides.
We in the national setting of the United Church of Christ stand in prayerful solidarity with the people of the St. Louis Association and the Missouri Mid-South Conference. We join you and all others who are advocating for justice and working for peace in Ferguson and the St. Louis area as well as in communities around our nation. We invite the whole United Church of Christ to do likewise.
Much more can and must be said on this topic. To that end, we are preparing a more extensive pastoral letter which will be issued during Advent. In the meantime, let us prayerfully face this moment of lost opportunity, seeking God’s gift of courage to continue the struggle. Therein lies our hope for the transformation of this society to a just society for all.
Peace and blessings,
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
UC News Coverage
Commentary: We Are All Affected
December 4, 2014
Lancaster Seminary to explore race and violence in forum on Ferguson
October 15, 2014
Moral march in Ferguson underscores justice for all
October 9, 2014
Support and solidarity with Ferguson
August 21, 2014
Geoffrey Black invited to preach, pray in Ferguson
August 19, 2014
UCC communities, leaders mobilize to support Ferguson
August 18, 2014
The Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery
A Biblical Reflection
As part of the implementation of the General Synod 29 resolution, the joint working group of Council for American Indian Ministries (CAIM) and Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) offer this resource for our churches to take up with prayer. To download the study, click HERE. Additional video resources:
For an introduction to the topic, see the video clip "Discovered, or Stolen?" For the history of the Doctrine of Discovery, see here for a 18-min. presentation by Dr. Roxanne Gould, All Nations Church UCC, Minneapolis, MN. See the same video (starting at the 18:40 mark) for Doctrine of Discovery and being a "pilgrim" today, a 10-min. mediation by the Rev. Emily Goldthwaite Fries.
Many Americans grow up learning that this continent was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. The concept of discovery, as if the land was empty prior to arrival and its indigenous inhabitants were somehow “less than” the explorers is, at its heart, racism and cultural superiority.
The doctrine of discovery, a concept of public international law expounded by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, originated from various church documents in Christian Europe in the mid-1400s to justify the pattern of domination and oppression by European monarchies as they invasively arrived in the Western hemisphere. It theologically asserted the right to claim the indigenous lands, territories, and resources on behalf of Christendom, and to subjugate native peoples around the world.
The U.S. Supreme Court used the doctrine to assert that the United States, as the successor of Great Britain, had inherited authority over all lands within our claimed boundaries. This decision allowed our government to legally ignore or invalidate any native claims to property and resources. To this day courts continue to cite this legal precedent. It is still being used by courts to decide property rights cases brought by Native Americans against the U.S. and against non-Natives.
The repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery by General Synod 29 provides an invaluable teaching moment for our congregations to understand systemic and continuous impact of racism on the daily lives of indigenous peoples in the U.S.
Learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery
What is the Doctrine of Discovery?
The discovery concept has basically has two separate references. Theologically, it provided the spiritual rationale for Europeans since the times of the Crusades to conquer and confiscate other lands, including what is now the United States. There were papal documents which laid the groundwork that, later, Protestants adopted. It treated the indigenous peoples as if they were animals; they had no (European) title to the land on which they lived. Thus, the Church justified removing and killing them.
Legally, the discovery concept was written into United States law as a doctrine to deny land rights to American Indians, through the Supreme Court case known as Johnson v. McIntosh in 1823. The decision stripped American Indians from the right of their own independence, providing a rationale for taking land away from the indigenous peoples, with the support of United States federal law. As a concept of public international law, it continues to be cited as recently as 2005. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues noted that the Doctrine of Discovery “was the foundation of the violation of their (Indigenous peoples) human rights."
Excessive poverty, teenage suicides that outpaced all other ethnicities, extreme incidences of Type II diabetes, unemployment rates that rank among the highest – these are but a few of the contemporary cultural, communal, and individual damages experienced by indigenous peoples in the U.S., due to the generational impact resulted from the legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery.
UCC Perspectives on the Doctrine of Discovery
Witness for Justice: Doctrine of Discovery
July 9, 2012
The Doctrine of Discovery: Why it still matters today
November 2, 2013
Rethinking Columbus Day according to the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A
October 12, 2014
Creating the Beloved Community: Invocation, Confession and Assurance of Pardon For Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend
|Download Prayer Resources|
Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
O God, all people are your Beloved,
across races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations
and all the ways we are distinctive from one another.
We are all manifestations of your image.
We are bound together in an inescapable network of mutuality
and tied to a single garment of destiny.
You call us into your unending work
of justice, peace and love.
Let us know your presence among us now:
Let us delight in our diversity
that offers glimpses of the mosaic of your beauty.
Strengthen us with your steadfast love and
transform our despairing fatigue into hope-filled action.
Under the shadow of your wings in this hour
may we find rest and strength, renewal and hope.
We ask this, inspired by the example
of your disciple, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
O God, we long to co-create with you the Beloved Community
which looks to the common good; privileges all equally,
and creates societal systems
which celebrate the humanity and the gifts of all.
And yet we focus on our differences, envy each other’s gifts,
devalue manifestations of you, O God, that are not like our own.
Perhaps our sin is a slow wait for justice:
We allow the voices of brothers and sisters
who do not look like us, love like us, or worship like us
to be silenced.
We have told them to wait for freedom, justice and equality.
We foster in them a denigrating sense of nobodiness. Lord, have mercy.
Or perhaps we have kept silence ourselves
in the face of their struggle for full human life.
For it is not solely hateful words and actions,
but also appalling silence that follows the path of oppression. Christ, have mercy.
Perhaps our sin is to give in to weariness, discouragement, bitterness:
You have called us to be drum majors for justice, peace and righteousness,
Yet the work of peace and justice overwhelms us at times,
To build with God the Beloved Community seems impossible,
and we grow weary.
We cry, “Peace, peace,”
but there is no peace within us or around us.
We find ourselves on the path
of hatred and oppression, violence and war. Lord, have mercy.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON (Isaiah 62:1-5)
Sisters and brothers, God is at work in us and with us!
God has promised:
“I will not keep silent and I will not rest
until the vindication of my beloved people
shines out like the dawn and their salvation like a burning torch.
My people shall no more be termed ‘forsaken’
and their land shall no more be termed ‘desolate.’”
We remember that you have given your Beloved people a new name:
“My delight is in them.”
Thank you, God for delighting in us even now,
for forgiving us our slow action, our silence and our weariness,
for empowering our work
and inviting us once again
to create with you the Beloved Community you long for.
Phrases from the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. have been woven into the prayer texts. They are identified by italics. Texts of King’s work are available in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington; © 1986 Coretta Scott King. A brief essay on King’s understanding of the term “Beloved Community” is available at http://www.wilpf.org/mlksbelovedcommunity.
Creating the Beloved Community: Invocation, Confession and Assurance of Pardon was written by the Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson, Senior Pastor of First Congregational Church, Stamford, CT. It was originally published in Worship Ways, volume 9 number 1, © 2010 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ.
"No matter who we are or where we are on our journey …” all are welcome to the table to participate in Sacred Conversation on Race and to engage in meaningful, life-changing dialogue on race. The invitation to engage in this dialogue is an acknowledgement of the legacy and tradition of the United Church of Christ in combating racism and racial injustice, and the desire to live out Jesus’ desire for the world, “That they may all be one.” John 17:21
The differing levels where individuals enter this dialogue and engagement of race can be expressed on a continuum. The continuum speaks to where we are on the journey, and offers the possibility of more learning on every level to re-encounter the self and others as we seek to change the world around us.
SEEKER –– New to race and racial justice dialogue. Ready to be involved in first, basic level conversation on race. Curious and seeking to know more about the issues. Ready for Sacred Conversation on Race.
LEARNER ––Participated in first Sacred Conversation on Race. Is concerned with learning more and wants to be engaged in deeper, more meaningful conversation to learn how s/he can make a difference in impacting the social construct of race and racism. Ready for Sacred Conversation on Race and how race intersects and permeates all areas of life.
FACILITATOR –– Served as facilitator for Sacred Conversation on Race. Received training as facilitator and is able to engage with others in dialogue, as well as lead dialogue on race. Has heightened sense of self-awareness around issue of race. Ready for “White Privilege,” “Internalized Oppression” and other focused dialogue.
ENGAGER –– Moved beyond basic dialogue. Desires to be in dialogue around changing systems and structures to have long-range impact on race dialogue and issues. Ready for Anti-Racism Training.
MOTIVATOR –– Received training on different aspects of race and racism. Desires to know more about living out the tools received in training. Ready for Diversity Training.
EDUCATOR –– Received many different levels of training. Realizes that there is the need to learn more from those who are on different levels of the journey. Actively seeks to participate with others on their journey as participant or facilitator. Ready for lifelong learning which re-engages conversation and training.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus encountered the risen Jesus as they walked (Luke 23:13-35). They were so absorbed in their problems that they did not recognize Jesus among them. Our lives are a journey with places along the road where we encounter the risen Jesus in and through the eyes of all those we encounter along the way. The disciples' eyes were opened as Jesus taught them, and then took bread with them. Our eyes will also be opened when we are willing to be taught and to break bread with the strangers who live among us.
As children of God traveling the same road on this journey that is life, all are at different places in life. There are those who live in homogenous communities where they rarely encounter individuals who do not look like them. There are those who are in mixed communities, consider themselves as finished with the work against racism, and see no reason to work anymore at changing the world. Yet there is the call to be ever mindful of the need to be engaged regardless of the experience or the time given to learning and being aware of race, because racism mutates.
There is work for all to do
There is much to be changed in global racial dialogue which begins with the need to engage this issue of race based on where individuals are, realizing there is work for all to do. Incidents of structural racism are rising in the U.S. even as explicit intrapersonal racism may be declining, for many of the policies and practices that produce disparities appears "race-neutral," but they impact non-Whites disadvantageously.
Hate crimes continue to be present among us and abroad. Young men and women continue to be unfairly and unjustly incarcerated because of the color of their skin. Mothers and fathers are still denied the right to a proper education for their children because of their race and where they live. Parents are denied the right to care for their children because of immigration status.
We are a society of inequities, where we claim justice, but no justice abounds for many. Our conversations must continue based on where we are on this journey.
A call to action
In this next stage of Sacred Conversation on Race, there is a call to action beyond the scope of the many discussions we will have, as we look carefully at the intersections of race and many social issues (criminal justice, sentencing, medical care, education, immigration, economics, etc.), and advocate for those who have less than we do, are underrepresented and experience marginalization based on the color of their skin.
There is a call for individuals to reflect on where they are and actively engage in the continuum which does not bring us to a place of finality, but places us on a track of life-long learning and discovery of where we are at and how we can help make a difference in seeing racial justice for all. The call to conversation is not passive, but an active call to care and concern for all.
The week before the celebration of July 4, the Supreme Court ruled on Arizona’s SB 1070 and the Affordable Care Act (Health Care Law), both of which have serious implications for the ideals in the Declaration of Independence - “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
For example, the Supreme Court upheld for SB 1070 the “show me your papers” provision, thus opening the doors wide open to racial profiling. As an online comment says, “[i]f race is not a basis for suspecting somebody is undocumented, then the only way for Arizona to apply this is to ask EVERYBODY for papers.” With the decision on the Health Care Law, the implementation of the new Medicaid provisions is expected to slow down, which means that significantly fewer people than the projected 17 million, of which 75% of those individuals are people of color, would be covered under the Medicaid expansion.
If we aspire to be witnesses for racial justice, there is one more step beyond being “colorblind.” Our eyes need to be wide open to the realities of layers of racial inequity inherent in our social structures and mechanisms. Systemic inequities found in our institutions might even be validated by Christian teachings long forgotten. The Doctrine of Discovery is one such example.
The Doctrine of Discovery (DOD) is a principle of law developed in a series of 15th century Papal documents and 16th century charters by Christian European monarchs that contained a theological justification for the colonization of the rest of the world. For more than 500 years, it is legal and “moral” to seize the lands and resources of originally free and independent people, and to undermine their sovereignty.
After the 1776 Declaration of Independence, the Doctrine of Discovery continued to be expounded by the Supreme Court to support a series of decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments. The DOD still governs United States Indian Law today and has been cited as recently as 2005 in the decision City Of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y.
In February 2012, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee denounced the “Doctrine of Discovery” that which has been used to subjugate and colonize Indigenous Peoples, and issued a statement calling the nature of the doctrine" fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus”. The Unitarian Universalists also voted in their June 2012 General Assembly to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and to demand that the U.S. government fully implement the standards of the 2007 United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The truth that all are created equal would only be self-evident if, our inalienable rights are not built on the backs of those whose ancestors showed hospitality to our founders, and of those who build our nation in generations past and present with their ingenuity, toil and health. Let us be forever working towards the ideal that is GREATER life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL.
The United Church of Christ has 5,194 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.
The concept of racism involves a value judgment. Because this term is so inherently value-laden, most people tend to restrict their understanding of racism to easily identifiable individual racist acts. This approach fails to acknowledge the far reaching impact of institutional or systemic racism that result from decisions and policies made by established and well respected institutions within society. Such instances of racism are subtle and less identifiable.
It is important that we work to understand the intersections of racism and the many other justice issues we are concerned about. How does racism intersect with issues like poverty, voting rights or environmental justice? Through prayer and reflection we can learn to understand the issue of racial justice in a more holistic way.
*New* The Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery - A Biblical Reflection
Many Americans grow up learning that this continent was "discovered" by Christopher Columbus. The concept of discovery, as if the land was empty prior to arrival and its indigenous inhabitants were somehow "less than" the explorers is, at its heart, racism and cultural superiority against Native Americans. This concept derives its theological rationale from the Doctrine of Discovery, which becomes a legal foundation for U.S. policies regarding Native American communities even to the present today. For an introduction to the topic, see the video clip "Discovered, or Stolen?" To download the study, click HERE. For the history of the Doctrine of Discovery, see here for a 18-min. presentation by Dr. Roxanne Gould, All Nations Church UCC, Minneapolis, MN. See the same video (starting at the 18:40 mark) for Doctrine of Discovery and being a "pilgrim" today, a 10-min. meditation by the Rev. Emily Goldthwaite Fries.
Exploring the Intersections
To deepen the Sacred Conversation on Race and learn how race intersects with many justice issues, a FREE and new resource for congregational use - the "Race and ..." series is NOW available [click HERE for flyer].
These 2-page, easy-to-read fact sheets include stories, examples, prayer, Scriptures, reflection and engaging questions to assist local churches in connecting the dots between faith experience, racial justices and church life.
Click on the following links to download the "Race and ..." resources:
Police in riot gear, fire hoses and police dogs. These are some compelling images of what advocates faced when marching for the right to vote and an end to racial discrimination, in the streets of the 1950-60s Civil Rights Era. Today, the threats of voter suppression impacting communities of color remain real and present. (Read more.)
Race is an historical factor in economic inequity. With the end of official discrimination, many assume that the economic playing field had been leveled. But we are less aware that racial inequities persist in economic practices today. (Read more.)
In 1982, the state of North Carolina chose a poor, mainly African-American community, Warren County, as the site of a toxic waste landfill to dispose of PCBs illegally dumped along the roadway of 14 counties. The residents of Warren County, N.C., enlisted the support of the United Church of Christ (UCC) Commission for Racial Justice (CRJ) to reject this toxic landfill through a campaign of nonviolent
civil disobedience. (Read more.)
Public education inequity is overlaid on the many injustices in housing, the economy, labor, transportation and social welfare, as well as inequity in the criminal justice system. Schools where several kinds of inequities converge often struggle to raise test scores. These systems work together to deny educational opportunity for particular racial groups of students. (Read more.)
The U.S. incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world. It holds a quarter of the world’s prisoners. One in every 32 adults in the U.S. is under justice system control in prison, or probation or on parole. Among the currently 2.3 million men, women and youth in prison, there are a disproportionate number of people of color. (Read more.)
“Because you’re an Arab.” That is the reason given to an Arab-American teacher in a Christian school by the principal, who told him that another teacher had been hired to replace him two days after the horrific 2001 terrorist attacks. More than 1000 incidents of hate crime and discrimination against Arab-Americans occurred in the first year after 9/11, according to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). (Read more.)
The intersections of race and women’s issues are numerous. The following are some examples of daily this daily reality.
Politcal Leadership - The recent election resulted in an all-time high of 20 women senators in the U.S. Congress. However, in this “Year of the Woman,” such new statistics actually reveals a racial bias in women’s access to power. The total absence of Black, Native American, and Latina women, except for Mazie Horono, a Japanese American from Hawaii, underlines the predominant White cultural norms in women’s leadership. (Read more.)
Statistics in June 2012 showed that people of color made up 36% of the labor force in the U.S. and 20% of business owners. These numbers correlate with census data that 28% of the general population are people of color. Yet, only about 4.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are people of color. In 2012, less than 4% of the U.S. Congress were non-White Senators. Nonprofit organizations are guided by boards made up of roughly 15% people of color on the average, and headed predominantly by White executive directors. (Read more.)
Racial profiling is the targeting of particular individuals based on the erroneous assumption that persons of a particular race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion are more likely to engage in certain types of unlawful conduct.
It is the impermissible use of personal characteristics when there is no reliable information that links a person of a particular race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion to a specific incident, scheme, or organization.
Why is it an issue of faith?
In honor to our Creator God, we honor all human beings as being created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). As people of faith, we are called to be in solidarity with all people, because God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35).
What does that really mean in real life?[i]
Nationally, Black drivers are twice more than White drivers to be arrested. Hispanic drivers are more likely than White drivers to receive a ticket. White drivers are more likely to receive a written warning than Hispanic drivers. White drivers are more likely than Black drivers to be verbally warned by police. Statewide data also confirm this pervasive phenomenon of “Driving While Black or Brown.”
In addition, minority pedestrians are often subjected to suspicion-less stops-and-frisks, as shown in data collected through the NYPD and LAPD. Street-level law enforcement authorities are provided with wide discretion in community policing, which is often exercised to racially profile minorities who are perceived to be a threat to public safety even if they have done nothing wrong.
Religious profiling is sometimes used as a proxy for race, ethnicity or national origin.
Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. are being singled out for question and detention, on the basis of religion and national origin, by federal programs such as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which requires certain individuals from predominantly Muslim countries to register with the federal government, be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated.
79% of targets investigated by the federal covert program OFL, Operation Front Line to “deter terror operations” were immigrants from Muslim majority countries. In our nation’s airports, individuals wearing Sikh turbans or Muslim head coverings are often profiled for higher security at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.
- Immigration law enforcement
Vast numbers of Hispanics – most of whom U.S. citizens or legal residents, are racially profiled. State and local agencies target Hispanic individuals and entire Hispanic communities in a broad way to enforce federal immigration law, when several problematic collaborative programs with ICE are supposedly to be narrowly focused.
In addition, some state lawmakers undertake initiatives of their own that further encouraged racial profiling. For example, Arizona’s S.B. 1070 turns mere civil infractions of federal immigration law, such as not carrying registration papers, into state crimes, and gives private citizen the right to sue Arizona law enforcement authority if they believe that the law is not being fully enforced.
What kind of legislation is proposed in regard to racial profiling?
The End Racial Profiling Act (S. 1670) has been introduced to the 112th Congress in 2011-2012, and heard by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. ERPA will create a federal prohibition against racial profiling, provide funding to train officials on how to end this practice, and hold law enforcement officials and agencies that continue to use racial profiling accountable.
[i] Restoring a National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling in America by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (Washington, DC), March 2012.
Affirmative action is a policy or a program promoting the representation in social institutions of groups of people who have been traditionally and systematically discriminated against.
As people of faith who strive to cultivate the Beloved Community, our General Synod supports affirmative action, because our nation cannot be completely free without all people’s sharing the same rights and equal access to opportunities for advancement and equitable treatment. It is about more than diversity, for it is in fact a moral obligation to racial equity.
Why is it an issue of faith?
All people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The history and legacy of discrimination in our social institutions denies honor to God. We are called to do justice, love kindness and work humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We are called to repentance and reconciliation by remedying the destructive impacts of systematic and compounded discriminations accumulated across generations.
Aren’t we “post-racial” yet?
The term "post-racial" may be used by individuals to express their sincere intention and desire that there is no more racism in our society. However, it does not describe the reality of racial disparities found in education, employment, housing, health and so on. It does not speak to the destructive impact of institutional rules, policies and structures that appear on the surface to be race-neutral in discrete entities (e.g. schools, districts). Structural racism is the cumulative effect of racial inequity in multiple institutions over time, and that is what Affirmative Action seeks to remedy.
UCC Social Policy Statements
The UCC historic policy based for Affirmative Action can be found in the General Synod resolutions regarding racial justice in 1971; racial and economic justice, women in church and society in 1975, implementation in the UCC, the church and persons with handicaps in 1979. The commitment to Affirmative Action in Church and Society was reaffirmed in 1981, and in 1995 in light of Supreme Court decisions.
1. Doesn’t affirmative action reward unmotivated people to get ahead in life?
Affirmative action only provides equal access and the fair chance to achieve success for underrepresented groups. It cannot guarantee that they will succeed, only that they are given the same opportunities that the White majority has. In reality, many underrepresented people can testify that they have to work twice as hard to prove themselves.
2. Doesn’t affirmative action justify the hiring or admission of under-qualified candidates?
Among qualified candidates, school should be allowed to choose based on their institutional goal of increasing diversity. At a deeper level, the history and legacy of systematic discrimination means that our society is not purely based on individual merit. People of color, women and the disabled have been put in positions by institutions that have not allowed them to maximize their full potential, and it would be unfair to judge people solely by their individual qualifications.
3. Doesn’t affirmative action punish Whites today for what happened hundreds of years ago?
While Whites today and virtually all of their ancestors never owned slaves, they benefit directly and indirectly from systematic racial discrimination. They have less competition for school admission, jobs and government programs, which helped propelled many Whites and their descendants into the middle and upper classes.
Many non-Whites and their descendants were and still are systematically left behind and denied the same basic educational, economic, and other opportunities. The wide gap created by a racialized system which promoted the dominant culture, mostly White male, for several hundred years unfortunately would take time to be closed adequately, so that eventually all candidates can be judged soley on their individual merit.