Showing solidarity after a divisive election season, and in the wake of political racism and outrage, 32 United Church of Christ conference ministers are distributing a pastoral letter calling on "all settings of the church to maintain a vigilant voice in this struggle for racial justice and equality."
The letter's author, Florida Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi, said a combination of social media outbursts, national commentary on post-election racism after President Barack Obama's re-election, and a need to express the UCC's commitment to racial justice prompted the letter.
"Put all that into the mix, it was my own initiative prompted by colleagues saying we should take a stance on this," Siladi said. "We want to use this moment to address the unity of the church."
In the letter, Siladi writes that "equality for all races [is] now being put to the test. In the days following the re-election of this nation's first black president, there are painful reminders of how pernicious the evils of white power, white privilege and white supremacy remain in this great land of ours."
The letter has the signatures of nearly three dozen conference ministers throughout the United States.
"I am proud to be a part of a team of colleagues willing to speak to our covenant partners about the blatant racism that is surfacing in the days following the re-election of this nation's first black president," said the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, Southwest Conference Minister. "Our beloved church, throughout its history, has found the courage to name race hatred when it surfaces. Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, it is an honor to join the throng of justice seekers who preceded us and add our voices to those who cry out for racial justice and equality."
Siladi said the awareness of the post-election racism was there "if you were looking for it." The website floatingsheep.org and its team of geographers took note of racists messages on Twitter after the election, and mapped where such racists tweets originated. The site found that Alabama and Mississippi led the country by a considerable margin.
Of course, the study on racist tweets prompted reaction and opinions from both the blogosphere and mainstream media.
"On Sunday, the New York Times had a fine article on political racism in the age of Obama," Siladi said. "It was a helpful article on where we are on racism of the post-election era."
The Times wrote that political racism still exists four years after Obama became the first African-American president, using an example where college students at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., responded with racial slurs and derogatory disruptions when learning of the election results.
There have been other examples of divisiveness since the election. Citizens in Texas started a movement to have the state peacefully secede from the United States by gathering 80,000 signatures for a petition to leave the union because "the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers … are no longer being reflected by the federal government." The petition qualifies for a response from the White House since the Obama Administration will address petitions that have more than 25,000 signatures. A group in Louisiana collected 30,000 signatures to its petition, but those are the only two states out of several to surpass the 25,000 threshold.
The UCC recently distributed new resources on ways in which racism intersects with justice issues with an update to the "Sacred Conversations" series, a resource for congregations to enter and discuss the topic. The officers of the church also wrote a letter urging the nation to come together to build community after the election.