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Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

Just wanted to call attention to my friend Amanda Long’s two-part series at UrbanFaith.com. She writes about the Justice Journey taken by members of her church and several other Christian leaders in Omaha, Nebraska. The Justice Journey is based on the Sankofa event that was birthed in the Evangelical Covenant Church. It involves a usually multiracial group of folks taking a bus trip to historic civil rights sites in Southern cities and reflecting on that history and what it should mean for us today. The goal is to give participants a more personal and informed understanding of what may be required of us for true racial reconciliation and social justice in our churches, communities, and nation. Amanda’s two articles explore the “event” of the Justice Journey and look at how the experience is transforming the churches in her Omaha community.

Amanda Long

Amanda and her husband, Jeremy, are very dear friends who used to reside around the corner from us in the Chicagoland area but returned home to Nebraska a few years ago. Looking at Omaha through her “Chicago eyes,” Amanda was startled to discover that there are a lot of similarities between her new town and the big “urban” city that she left behind. She writes:

Omaha is routinely rated as one of the best mid-sized cities in the U.S., and we enjoy all it has to offer. However, soon after moving here I was surprised to discover some stark realities.

Omaha is a wealthy city, but it has the highest black child poverty rate in the entire United States. In the midst of our current recession, Omaha’s unemployment rate is still under 5 percent. However, in parts of North Omaha, which is a primarily black community, the unemployment rate is 20 percent overall, with census tracts that chronically experience a 30 to 40 percent unemployment rate. When friends from Chicago visit, it is not unusual for them to be disturbed by our local newscasts — they thought Omaha, Nebraska, would be different from Chicago — but we too hear regular reports of almost nightly shootings and homicides. We’ve also realized how segregated the city is, even compared to Chicago. So, while Omaha is a great place for some, others in my city have a different experience.

 This is Amanda’s first foray into journalism, and she does a wonderful job covering the Justice Journey event and interviewing the various leaders of the Omaha movement. Please check out her articles, then chime in with your comments. Have you ever participated in a Sankofa or Justice Journey? How effective do you think experiences like these are for bringing about genuine racial healing and reconciliation? Would the churches in your community benefit from a joint “Justice Journey” experience?

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An article in the Chicago Tribune caught my attention this morning. It’s about the “Ebony Experiment,” an Oak Park, Illinois, couple’s controversial mission to “buy black” and spend their money exclusively with black-owned businesses for an entire year. John and Maggie Anderson’s purpose is to encourage the growth of African American business and entrepreneurship and help solve what they call “the crisis in the black community.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“More than anything, this is a learning thing,” said Maggie Anderson, who grew up in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami and holds a law degree and an MBA from the University of Chicago. “We know it’s controversial, and we knew that coming in.”

But the Andersons said they also have known that a thriving black economy is fundamental to restoring impoverished African-American and other “underserved” communities, and they have discussed for years trying to find a way to address the problem.

What they came up with is provocative. One anonymous letter mailed to their home accused the Andersons of “unabashed, virulent racism.” “Because of you,” the writer stated, “we will totally avoid black suppliers. Because of you, we will dodge every which way to avoid hiring black employees.”

Apart from that letter, a solid majority of comments they have received have been encouraging, the Andersons said, adding that most people see the endeavor as beneficial to all.

“Supporting your own isn’t necessarily exclusive,” said John Anderson, a financial adviser who grew up in Detroit and has a Harvard University degree in economics and an MBA from Northwestern University, “and you’re not going to convince everybody of that.”

The undertaking “is an academic test about how to reinvest in an underserved community” and lessen society’s burden, John Anderson said. Focusing the estimated $850 billion annual black buying power on black businesses strengthens those business and creates more businesses, more jobs and stronger families, schools and neighborhoods, the Andersons and other advocates said.

In today’s crippled economy, is there a place for the Kwanzaa principle of Ujamma, or cooperative economics? Furthermore, is there a legitimate place for this kind of activism in the lives of people, like many of the readers of this blog, who desire racial and social reconciliation in an already fragmented nation?

This issue elicits many questions, particularly the one alluded to in the excerpt above concerning the criticism that if members of the white community promoted something as brazenly separatist and racialized as this, they would be immediately castigated as racists. And that suggestion of a double standard is understandable. Yet, whether we agree or disagree with that contention, I think it’s important to acknowledge the complexity of our national history around the issues of race, slavery, segregation, and social justice. Though we’ve long since repudiated and attempted to move forward from our nation’s biggest failures on the matter of race, a lot of the residue of our failures continue to inform our personal and institutional relationships today. To ignore that fact only hinders our efforts toward true progress and reconciliation.

This commentary by blogger Fredric Mitchell presents some interesting food for thought that, at the very least, can help bring context to our thinking on topics like the Ebony Experiment.

Still, there’s so much to ponder here: Isn’t this Ebony Experiment inconsistent with the Obamaesque notion of a “post-racial America”? Is there a place for an ethnically-exclusive approach to economics in our day and age? And, if so, what does it say about our commitment to diversity, justice, and reconciliation?

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Lots of articles and posts to call your attention to this week. Though one friend recommended I post something on the lighter side, I think I’m still trending heavy with these. Forgive me.

  • A couple week’s ago, I posted about Michael Emerson’s UrbanFaith.com article on “The Redistribution Question.” It generated lots of feedback, mostly negative. Many disagreed with Michael’s perspective on the issue regarding what a Christian vision of economic justice might require of us. Last week, blogger Black Wasp presented a passionate defense of sorts of Michael Emerson’s commentary on redistribution. Needless to say, the topic stirred up a lively conversation over there as well.
  • Denise Wilmer Barreto, a Judson College classmate of mine, also posted a provocative commentary last week.  In it, she wonders about the motives of some Christians who advise “we really need to pray” for President Obama. Denise acknowledges that she’s treading on delicate ground, presuming to know the true intent behind what some folks are saying. But I think her willingness to “go there” can help us get one of the current evangelical “elephants in the room” out there “on the table” for discussion. (How’s that for mixing my metaphors? Sorry.) 
  • Did anyone see this article about the Christian high school in Texas that fired its girls basketball coach for allowing his team to run up the score and defeat their opponent 100 to 0? The story raises some interesting questions about competition, sportsmanship, leadership, and character development. I think the reader comments attached to this one are especially fascinating; you can see the “survival of the fittest” mentality in clear opposition to the “mercy and good will” spirit. 
  • Finally, I can’t resist offering one for Just Meee, who, as I said earlier, suggested I lighten up. Back in November, I did a post about the need for a new Barack Obama impersonator on Saturday Night Live. Well, in case you missed it, here’s one of the follow-up skits to the Obama parody that I highlighted by Jordan Peele from FunnyorDie.com. Be sure to watch it carefully for a subtle dig at one of President Obama’s (hopefully former) habits. 

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