The ARC of Racial Justice
From Slavery, to Civil Rights, to the Present Moment–A Call to Action
God’s dream for the world is one of flourishing for all people. Diversity of all kinds is not a threat, but a gift emblematic of God’s shalom. In our best moments, the church has embodied this. We have lived out what the apostle Paul taught – that “in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for we are all one” (Galatians 3:28). Yet, in our worst moments, the church has done the opposite. We have harmed our neighbors who looked or believed differently than us. We have propped up racism and segregation. We have acquiesced to white supremacy – the sin that believes one race of God’s children is inherently superior to another race of God’s children.
In the summer of 2019, several of us at fpcw read a recent book by Jemar Tisby, “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism.” We also studied a couple of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous works together: his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the final speech he gave before his assassination in Memphis, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”
King’s work, as always, is riveting and challenging to revisit. His words are as relevant and prophetic now as they were back then. Tisby’s book is compelling and thorough, inspirational and painful. It offers a history many of us have ignored or don’t know.
One practical suggestion Tisby gives to those of us beginning our racial justice journey is the acronym ARC, which stands for Awareness, Relationships and Commitment. Each step is crucial and they have a symbiotic relationship with one another. We’ve put together an initial list below and would welcome any feedback you may have.
Start by increasing your awareness of the issues involved in racism in our country. History and context are important. Some resources are:
- The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, by Jemar Tisby
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s singular “A Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written in April 16, 1963
- King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, delivered the night before he was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
- Statement by Alabama Clergymen, “A Call to Unity”
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown
- The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, by Anthony Ray Hinton
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
- How to Be an Antiracist, and Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James H. Cone
- State of Racial Justice in Chicago
- Subscribe to Sojourners: Faith in Action for Social Justice Publication
- Listen to Footnotes with Jemar Tisby
- Listen to Speaking of Racism
- Listen to White Lies
- Watch HBO documentary, True Justice
- Watch Bryan Stevenson’s Ted Talk on racial injustice
- Watch Thirteenth Amendment Documentary
- Watch United Shades of America on CNN, with W. Kamau Bell
- Go to Storefront in Evanston to learn about Black History on the Northshore
- See the exhibit at the Art Institute of Eldzier Cortor, depicting black life in Chicago
- Go to DuSable Museum
Some action steps that help develop interracial relationships:
- Start with people you know of another race. Have you talked to them specifically about their experiences and perspectives of race and justice?
- Find new places to hang out…a purposeful effort to develop relationships with people from diverse relationships.
- Join a club or sport or activity with people who are different than you,
- Help with one of our mission projects: C24/7, Family Promise, Family Matters, Connections for the Homeless
- Volunteer at Stock the Shelves or Produce Mobile
Committing to improving the lives of others who experience racism starts with each of us. It is a life-long endeavor. By speaking out, we commit ourselves to making our world more just.
- Put a Black Lives Matter sign in your yard, or bumper sticker on your car
- Learn about Reparation efforts
- Publicly denounce racism
- Give money
- Support Evanston’s 5th ward’s Laundry Cafe project
- Support the Southern Poverty Law Center
- Start and sign a petition to make Juneteenth a National Holiday
- Go on a pilgrimage. Let Pastor Jeff if you are interested in joining a group to visit locations in Chicago that would help us know more about racism within our own city, and if you’d be interested in a trip to the center of the civil right history–Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama [watch the HBO documentary, linked above to learn more about the new Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration]