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.
For all of you are the children of God. —Galatians 3:28
Each person is created in the image of God. But whenever we devise, maintain or perpetuate systems and structures that oppress people based on race and/or ethnicity, we interfere with God's purpose and the opportunity for all God's children to be fully who they are created to be. Racism is an affront to God.
Racism is racial prejudice plus power. It is rooted in the belief that one group has racial superiority and entitlement over others. Its power is manifested in every institution and system, both nationally and internationally, which was historically established and continues to function to benefit one group of people to the disadvantage of other groups. Awareness and education will help us to become anti-racist individuals and foster the development of anti-racist systems and institutions that can eliminate privilege for some and oppression for others.
The United Church of Christ and its predecessor churches have made a priority commitment to supporting policies and structures that make real our Christian commitment to racial justice. The UCC's emphasis means more than simply challenging personal prejudices, but involves a commitment to in-depth analysis of societal policies and structures that either work toward the elimination of racism or perpetuate it.
During General Synod 23 an addendum was added to 1993 Pronouncement calling the UCC to become a Multiracial, Multicultural Church. The addendum called the UCC to also become an "Anti-Racist" denomination. In doing so, we encourage all Conferences and Associations and local churches of the UCC to adopt anti-racism mandates, including policy that encourages anti-racism programs for all UCC staff and volunteers.
Introduction Letter: Minister for Racial Justice
It is with great joy and God’s blessings that I serve as the Minister for Racial Justice with the Justice and Witness Ministries staff within the United Church of Christ National Office.
“Open the gates of justice! I will enter and tell the Lord how thankful I am.” Psalm 118:19
In America, the topic of race continues to be difficult to discuss in many social settings. Very few Christian churches are leading bold and courageous conversations, engaging in direct social activism, and participating in civil disobedience as a way to bring attention to and disrupt racist systems and structures.
The Christian Church is the catalyst for addressing historical and contemporary issues regarding the intersections of race and racism that continues to harm communities of color. The United Church of Christ acknowledges and supports the equality of all humans. In 1993, The Nineteenth General Synod called upon UCC congregations in all its settings to be a true multiracial and multicultural church. Twenty-five years later the call continues to go forth.
The call to be a multiracial and multicultural church is an acknowledgement that racial justice is the inclusiveness of all humans and never excludes anyone based on skin color, culture or ethnic origin. The United Church of Christ stands in solidarity with the creation narrative in Genesis 1:26-27, which clearly outlines what matters to God—all of humankind and a just world for all. God created humankind in God’s image and likeness, women and men are image bearers, sharing equal status as human beings. God did not create race, racism, superior groups of humans, and hierarchical and hegemonic social structures. God does not sanction human suffering including America’s involvement in—
- Enslavement, social isolation and surveillance
- Genocide and inhumane social confinement
- Global confiscation of another cultures land and resources
- Human trafficking and forced sexual slavery
- Deportation and the separation of families
- Militarization and the intentional murder of people of color
- Using global armaments on innocent civilians domestically and abroad
- Discrimination towards other faith communities
In the Hebrew Scriptures the Psalmist tells us “The earth and everything on it belongs to the Lord,” (Psalm 24:1), and the Gospel of John affirms what matters to God when the writer says, “For God so loved the world…” in John 3:16. Therefore the United Church of Christ believes that “God is Still Speaking” and those who believe so are called to “Be the Church” creating a “Just World for All”
The Gates of Justice are open for Dismantling and Eradicating Racism
Visit our website: www.ucc.org/justice_issues
For more information contact: Velda Love, Minister for Racial Justice (216) 736-3719
Together we can Dismantle Racism - How to Engage
Racial justice means celebrating humanity’s rich cultures and diverse ethnic backgrounds, traditions, and expressions of faith. Racial justice demands Christians actively, boldly, and without reservation participate in dismantling racism within systems and structures that oppress people, limit equal access, and denies children, women, and men their civil and human rights.
We provide UCC congregations with knowledge and skills to become racial justice advocates to:
- Educate others when injustices occur
- Actively advocate with oppressed communities
- Develop strategies to counter hate speech
- Engage in courageous conversations; act to eradicate racist policies and behavior
- Oppose and respond to militarized police action against people of color
- Learn and teach from culture-centered biblical and theological resources
- Develop meaningful relationships across diverse cultures and ethnicities, and faith traditions
- Resist hegemony and patriarchy as a model for building holistic communities
- Eradicate constructed race categories within the Christian Church and society
- Restore God’s human family—the equality of humankind
Our intention is to disrupt and dismantle racism. It has no place in our world. It cannot be taught from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, tolerated in worship spaces, preached from pulpits, or supported by the government. We affirm God’s creation. All people bear God’s image and likeness. And God desires all people be treated with dignity and respect.
A Call to Action
“What does the Lord require of you but to do Justice” Micah 6:8a
God is calling us to actively engage in the work of racial justice by eradicating racism, staying current, and collectively strategizing to inform our congregations, community organizations, and concerned citizens when racism impacts all lives. Below are websites to report racist abuses in our nation, your local church, and communities:
- Fight Voter Suppression Laws: Contact the American Civil Liberties Union
- Report Hate Speech
- Report Acts of Racism, Extremism, and Violence
- Prevent Cyberbullying and Social Media Abuse. Familiarize yourself with language, buzzwords, and symbols.
- Know your rights. Contact Equal Justice Under the Law.
General Synod Policy Statements on Racial Justice
The foundation of our work rests on the policy statements made by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ. During General Synod 23 an addendum was added to 1993 Pronouncement calling the UCC to become a Multiracial, Multicultural Church. The addendum called the UCC to also become an "Anti-Racist" denomination. In doing so, we encourage all Conferences and Associations and local churches of the UCC to adopt anti-racism mandates, including policy that encourages anti-racism programs for all UCC staff and volunteers.
Visit our website: www.ucc.org/justice_issues
For more information contact: Velda Love, Minister for Racial Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org or (216) 736-3719