Category Archives: Front Page

The Intersection Between the Heart of Christ and Juneteenth

The Intersection Between the Heart of Christ and Juneteenth

Leslye Colvin 
June 29, 2020

Upon hearing of a program being offered at the local cathedral that addressed poverty and the Church’s social justice teachings, I knew it was for me. Through JustFaith, I was provided insight to the heart of the Gospel of Christ as taught by the Catholic Church. Having entered this church as a young child in an apartheid state, I had already gained a deep appreciation of Moses and the Exodus from the Black Protestant Church. I also recognized the strong similarities between the enslavement and subsequent struggles of the Hebrew people, and those of us as African-Americans. The connection and assurance of God’s presence in the midst of ineffable suffering was as certain as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. 

My family entered the Catholic Church amidst the racial segregation of the mid-1960s. While the priests and parishioners welcomed us, I know our lived experience was not shared by all African-Americans, not even for those who identify as cradle Catholics. It was years later in JustFaith that I saw my families experience of welcome as a clear example of the Church’s social teaching on human dignity. This was transformative as I began to feel a pull towards a professional path guided by these principles. However, before that would unfold, the economy crashed and I became a ninety-niner, one who who received 99 weeks of unemployment benefits during the Great Recession. 

An acquaintance called to ask if I would be interested in an internship with the archdiocese through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), a unit of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that addressed domestic poverty. I promptly completed and submitted my application. A short time later, I was offered the position. While it was part-time and with no benefits, it was an opportunity to move beyond unemployment  and to do work that resonated with me. The new path was appearing.

By the time my internship began, there had been two significant changes that were causes for concern but I did not have the luxury of walking away from the opportunity.  My first surprise was learning my acquaintance had resigned and been replaced. The second change was another reason for pause. The CCHD internship was a part of Social Justice Ministries and, in this archdiocese, functioned under Catholic Charities. With the change, the internship and Social Justice Ministries, which would become Justice and Peace Ministries, was moved to a new unit named Communications and Advocacy. The Advocacy component included Disability Ministries, Jail and Prison Ministry, and Respect Life Ministry as well as Justice and Peace.

The decision to combine Communications with Advocacy was problematic in the best of circumstances. Communications is responsible for representing the interests of the institution, primarily the archbishop and the archdiocese. Advocacy is charged with encountering those on the margins with the heart of the Gospel. There is an inherent tension between the two units requiring discernment and contemplative action from leadership.

On the first visit to my new office, I was escorted by the head of Communications and Advocacy. The short walk had only one memorable moment. For no apparent reason, I was told, “We don’t talk about liberation theology.” Not wanting to rock the boat before it left shore, I did not response. Although two weeks later, I was offered a full-time position in Justice and Peace Ministries, the director’s comment was a precursor of the challenges to come and, in time, I would begin to reclaim my voice.

How do you tell an African-American woman not to discuss liberation theology? Although the distorted slaveholder’s Christianity of the United States, present in Catholic parishes and Protestant churches, has denied it for four centuries, liberation flows through the veins of the Gospel and the heart of Christ. Jesus was a man who lived under oppression, yet his words are clear, “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives. . .” 

On this Juneteenth of 2020, the nation remembers the last enslaved people of African descent who learned of their freedom in Texas more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Shamefully, the oppression of chattel slavery was replaced by the era of Jim Crow and institutionalized racism that we continue to resist as did our ancestors. As “Black Lives Matter” is proclaimed, may our nation follow the guidance of James Weldon Johnson as we “Lift ev’ry voice and sing ’til earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty.”

Washington, D.C. Deserves Equal Representation

Washington, D.C. Deserves Equal Representation

Sr. Quincy Howard, OP
June 26, 2020

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, legislation introduced by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton that would finally give equal representation to the more than 706,000 people who call Washington, D.C. their home. NETWORK supports this legislation and the movement to secure equal representation and equal rights in the U.S. Congress for the District of Columbia.

In a letter sent to Representatives today, we write, “With a majority Black and brown population, the fight for D.C. Statehood cannot be separated from the struggle for racial justice in our nation. The lack of voting representation for D.C. residents is part of the harmful heritage of racial injustice in our nation. Our government cannot continue to arbitrarily revoke the fundamental, constitutional rights of our fellow citizens living in the District. It is wrong to justify the status quo based on party politics or the historical precedent of preventing Black and brown people from voting.”

The House vote on H.R. 51 could be a significant step forward for Democracy, as Rep. Holmes Norton said on twitter, “Neither chamber has passed the DC statehood bill in DC’s 219-year history. This is the beginning of the end of taxation without representation and the start of consent of the governed for DC residents.” We urge all representatives to vote yes on H.R. 51!

Read NETWORK’s full letter to the House of Representatives below, or download as a PDF.

 

 

June 25, 2020

Dear Representative,

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges you to vote YES on the Washington D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51). H.R. 51 is a vital piece of legislation that will finally give equal representation to the more than 706,000 people that call Washington D.C. their home.

Voting representation is the foundation of our democracy and it is past time to extend it to the people of D.C. Even with the passage of the 15th Amendment and the success of the women’s suffrage and Civil Rights movements, District of Columbia residents have remained disenfranchised from voting since its establishment. Today a population the size of Vermont—all neighbors to our nation’s epicenter for democracy—are stripped of their most fundamental right to vote. Our nation cannot proclaim to be the world’s strongest democracy when we deny hundreds of thousands of people political representation simply because of their zip code.

With a majority Black and brown population, the fight for D.C. Statehood cannot be separated from the struggle for racial justice in our nation. The lack of voting representation for D.C. residents is part of the harmful heritage of racial injustice in our nation. Our government cannot continue to arbitrarily revoke the fundamental, constitutional rights of our fellow citizens living in the District. It is wrong to justify the status quo based on party politics or the historical precedent of preventing Black and brown people from voting.

As people of faith, we believe that it is every citizen’s right and responsibility to participate in the political process as an expression of their inherent dignity. Our nation was founded on the principle of self-governance, but the people of D.C. do not have control over their own laws or their own budget. Residents of the District must no longer be denied this sacred right and responsibility—it is time for Congress to act.

Our status quo maintains that these Americans are not worthy of fully participating in our democracy. This historic vote brings us closer to achieving the ideals articulated in our founding documents. We urge a quick passage of H.R. 51 in the House of Representatives to grant Washington D.C. the sovereignty, rights, and dignity of statehood. Additionally, NETWORK Lobby urges a NO vote on any MTR’s introduced on the floor that diminish the pro-democracy reforms that H.R. 51 accomplishes as currently written.

Sincerely,
Sister Quincy Howard, OP
Government Relations Advocate, NETWORK

The Seventh Anniversary of Shelby: A Reminder of the Fight to Restore Voting Rights Protections

The Seventh Anniversary of Shelby: A Reminder of the Fight to Restore Voting Rights Protections

Sr. Quincy Howard, OP and Eva Sirotic
June 25, 2020

This week marks the seven-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The Shelby decision, which was passed on June 25, 2013, gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), leading to states and localities across the country to enact restrictive voting laws, disenfranchising millions voters in the United States. For six years, civil rights organizations have been fighting back against these discriminatory laws. We need Congress to restore the VRA to its full strength to ensure that all eligible voters have equal access to the ballot and that every vote counts.

The ideal of “one person, one vote” is central to our understanding of democracy in the United States, but the reality in our country falls short. While the legal discrimination that prevented people of color from voting for hundreds of years is no longer in place, today a new combination of restrictive standards and requirements keep voters from exercising their right to vote. Whether implementing voter ID requirements, purging voter rolls, restricting early voting, or closing polling locations, state-level election laws can make it considerably harder, if not impossible for many eligible citizens to vote. Furthermore, these requirements have a disproportionate impact, often by design, on low-income and voters of color who are less likely to have flexible schedules, access to transportation, or a government photo ID.

Many of these tactics are familiar to communities of color, but ever since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 there had been an effective mechanism in place to apply federal oversight of potential voting rights violations. Specifically, Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) used a formula determined by the VRA in 1965 to identify jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination and subject them to federal preclearance requirements prior to implementing any changes in voter registration or casting of ballots. In 2013, however, the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision stripped the VRA of this preclearance mechanism—deeming the formula outdated—and opened the door for states to pass more restrictive voting standards with impunity.

Since the Shelby ruling, 23 states have freely implemented more restrictive voting laws and conducted elections accordingly. The only recourse left is under Section 2 of the VRA—to challenge these laws after the fact. Meanwhile, the resulting voter disenfranchisement has already taken place and the results of potentially rigged elections stand. Accordingly, unfair elections around the nation have begun to resemble a discriminatory game of wack-a-mole: lawsuits of voter discrimination have quadrupled in the five years since the Shelby decision. Expensive and slow-moving litigation is an untenable approach to reinstating fair elections; and Section 2 offers no remedy for the impacts of disenfranchisement.

NETWORK is calling on the Senate to pass legislation that restores the Voting Rights Act and provides critical emergency election funding to prepare for this November’s election. In 2020, with COVID-19, we are still seeing the implications of voter protection inequities. Congressional failure to address the Shelby ruling in 2013 combined with a global pandemic are wreaking havoc on our elections. A series of botched primaries in the midst of a deadly virus has revealed how a racist system that fails to protect voting rights ultimately harms the entire nation.

The debacles we saw in the Wisconsin primary, and subsequently in Georgia, are warnings for the upcoming general election. While it may be hard to distinguish motives—suppression, intimidation, incapacity or indifference—it is clear that a racist system enabled these outcomes. Protections written into the Voting Rights Act—and gutted in the Shelby ruling—were designed to avoid exactly this type of disenfranchisement. H.R. 4, a bill that would restore these protections, passed the House last year but languished in the Senate for months prior to the pandemic. Today, passage of the VRAA is more urgent than ever.

The Senate also has an obligation to provide $3.6 billion in emergency funding for state and local capacity to run fair and accessible election in a pandemic. The adjustments necessary to ensure that every eligible voter is counted in COVID-19 cost money and take time. There are only four months for states and local election officials to be ready. The Senate’s failure to act now is a dereliction of duty and risks disenfranchising millions of voters in the 2020 general election.

To learn more about the legacy of racism in our election systems, watch Suppressed: The Fight to Vote. This 37-minute film documents how the election system in Georgia failed voters at multiple stages in 2018. And please join NETWORK Lobby and the United Methodist Church on June 30th for a panel discussion about these same threats to November’s general election in COVID-19. RSVP for the discussion.

Eva Sirotic is a rising third-year at the University at Virginia majoring in Global Studies. She is passionate about issues related to social justice, particularly women’s rights and racial equality. Outside of the classroom, she works for Take Back the Night, a sexual violence prevention organization and The Fralin Museum of Art in Charlottesville, VA.

To Honor Pride, Pass the Equality Act Now!

 To Honor Pride, Pass the Equality Act Now!

Ness Perry
June 23, 2020

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court announced that the federal law that bars sex discrimination in employment also applies to LGBTQ+ workers. This landmark decision is especially significant because June marks the celebration of Pride month for the LGBTQ+ community.

NETWORK applauds this historic recognition of human rights, but the struggle for equality isn’t over. Last week, the Trump Administration finalized a rule that erases protections for transgender patients against discrimination within health care. LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ BIPOC, cannot access housing, health care, and more. We need the Equality Act to address systemic discrimination LGBTQ+ people face every day. We strongly affirm people of all sexual identities, orientations, genders, and expressions; this is why we call on the Senate to vote on the Equality Act now!

The Equality Act, which the House of Representatives passed over a year ago, provides needed legal protections from discrimination for all LGBTQ+ people. When LGBTQ+ people identify themselves as such in the workplace, they often face unequal treatment, disrespect, and even losing their jobs. When LGBTQ+ people identify themselves as such when applying for housing, they risk being homeless. When LGBTQ+ people seek medical care, they are often turned away because of who they are or who they love. This must come to an end now.

The legal protections offered by The Equality Act are especially pertinent now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. LGBTQ+ people are afraid to take paid leave if they or a loved one is sick because they are afraid of workplace discrimination. A survey by the Human Rights Campaign found that 27% of LGBTQ+ people of color and 16% of LGBTQ+ white people say they are afraid to request time off to care for a loved one because it might disclose their LGBTQ identity. LGBTQ+ people of color are disproportionately affected by this because they fear losing their job for taking paid leave 44% of the time compared to 37% of their white counterparts. Passing the Equality Act would create better access to paid leave for LGBTQ+ people.

At the Faith for Equality Rally before the House vote last year, Sister Simone said, “Love and welcome are at the center of what we care about as people of faith.” This statement still echoes today, when the Equality Act still has yet to be voted on in the Senate. We urge Senate leadership to swiftly vote on the bill with love and welcome in their hearts. To honor the legacy of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera leaders of the Stonewall Uprising and the LGBTQ+ movement, it is time to make the Equality Act law.

The Senate JUSTICE Act Fails to Live Up to the Moment

The Senate JUSTICE Act Fails to Live Up to the Moment

Joan Neal
June 22, 2020

On May 25, 2020 when George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis policeman, the nation and indeed the world, saw with their own eyes the police brutality suffered by the Black community on a regular basis. For 23 days now, people have been protesting in the streets of cities and towns against that same cruel and inhumane treatment from the people who are sworn to ‘serve and protect’ all communities. The disconnect is not only visible, it is deadly.

These protesters are shouting to high heaven that Black Lives Matter. They are demanding justice and equal protection from the law as well as under the law. They are declaring that the kind of police brutality that is standard operating procedure in communities of color all over the nation must stop — NOW! The public outcry against the kind of over-policing and state sponsored violence against Black people in the U.S. shows no signs of diminishing until justice is done.

Now it is time for Congress to act. Now is the time for lawmakers to pass meaningful police reform legislation that protects Black communities from the systemic threats of over-policing, police brutality, misconduct and harassment. The House of Representatives has taken that responsibility seriously and are proceeding toward passage of a sweeping reform package in The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. It is not a perfect bill but it includes meaningful changes to the way police departments operate at the State and local levels. Read NETWORK’s letter to Congress in support of H.R. 7120.

On the other hand, the bill just introduced in the Senate by Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), falls woefully short of what is needed to respond appropriately and decisively at this moment in our country. The JUSTICE Act proposes data bases and studies as a response to the continuing loss of life in the Black community at the hands of police and law enforcement. It offers suggestions that police refrain from using deadly force, choke-holds and other such death-dealing physical restraints instead of prohibiting them. It provides $8 billion dollars in new funding as an incentive for police departments when such funding is already available through other mechanisms. It fails to revoke qualified immunity and prohibit the use of no-knock warrants. It provides no mechanisms to hold police accountable when they break the law nor does it eliminate transfers of military equipment from the Federal government to State and local police departments. The JUSTICE Act is fundamentally flawed and the Senate should go back to the drawing board.

NETWORK joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a letter urging Senators to vote NO on a motion to proceed with the JUSTICE Act. Read the letter in full here. 

The current moment offers this country an historic opportunity to make transformational change in the way we envision and ensure public safety for everyone. We need a fundamental change in policing culture, one that recognizes the dignity of every human person and holds law enforcement accountable for their actions. We need an end to the adversarial rather than service relationship with Black people. And we need increased investments in under-resourced communities that provide the same opportunities to thrive that other communities already enjoy. Now is the time. We urge Congress to swiftly rectify the legacy of white supremacy and racism in public safety. The people have issued a clarion call to action and Congress must respond.

Black Lives Matter and Juneteenth

Black Lives Matter and Juneteenth

Laura Peralta-Schulte
June 19, 2020

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved Black people of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. Since then, Juneteenth has been a day of celebration in the Black community and grown to become the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States.

This Juneteenth we must pause and acknowledge the immense gap between the freedom promised in 1865 and the freedom delivered. The Emancipation Proclamation formally ended slavery in the Confederate States, and later the 13th Amendment ended slavery across the United States, but white enslavers and white Union victors established new rules that intentionally limited the freedom of Black people and families for decades after that.

The new reality still allowed white former enslavers to set wage and work conditions. White structures restricted employment opportunities for Black people while creating new forms of powers to control “idleness” – an excuse police used to arrest Black people, imprison them, and force them to work for little or no wages. Newly “freed” Black people and families faced violence and terror as they attempted to leave their former enslavers. Firsthand historical accounts of formerly enslaved people recall multiple insistences of lynching and shootings. The system of slavery adapted into new systems of white control over Black people.

Still, Black families celebrated. Their joy and celebration was and continues to be an act of resistance and resilience in the face of racial oppression.

The Civil Rights movement of the 20th century and the continued fight for Black liberation against state-sanctioned oppression in this century are the continuation of century-old attempts to right the wrongs based in the United States’ original sin, the enslavement of Black people.

The forces of white supremacy and white racism are so powerful and so pervasive that we see day in and day out examples of blatant disregard for Black lives at the hands of the State police agents as well as white vigilantes seeking to assert dominance over Black lives. We see disregard for Black people’s health in hospitals, leading to higher rates of illness and death. We see disregard for Black workers who experience higher rates of unemployment and lower wages than white workers. The system was never set up to provide equity for Black Americans. We must work for radical change based in Black liberation for the good of our whole nation.

My heart breaks every day recognizing how my own behavior has contributed to Black oppression. It is long past time for white people to acknowledge how we contribute to this long-standing system, benefit from it, and have responsibility to tear it down. “All lives matter” is a slogan for those who refuse to acknowledge the unique and life-altering privileges being white provides. The privilege to have doctors take your health concerns seriously. The privilege of being able to walk by police officers without triggering their fear and a potential attack.

The Black Lives Matter movement is a holy movement calling us to affirm the life and dignity of Black people. In his life and in his death, Jesus was a member of an oppressed community, not the powerful. We cannot claim to follow the life and message of Jesus and remain silent in the face of racism today. Like the delay in emancipation for people who were enslaved in Texas in 1865, the pain and suffering of Black people in the United States has been going on far too long today.

We solemnly say the names of those we’ve lost to violence and systemic racism. We watch as our brother George Floyd died with a knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 second as he cried in vain for the breathe of life and for his dead mother. We won’t be silent anymore.

Hope grows as resistance grows. The streets across the U.S. and around the world have become alive with prophetic witness. This is church in the street, proclaiming the sacred truth, “No one is truly free until we all are free” To the Black community on this day of remembrance, I commit to working with you restructure our society to ensure equity for the Black community. To the white people marching in the streets and in virtual spaces, I see justice in your eyes. To the white Sisters and Brothers clinging to the false God of white supremacy or white silence, I call you to true discipleship.

Malcom X said, “I believe that there will be ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation.”

This Juneteenth, let us acknowledge the sinful history of slavery in our country, mourn the people harmed and killed by white violence and inhumanity, and honor the resilience of the Black community. This Juneteenth let us recommit ourselves to use our hearts, minds, and souls in the service of racial justice, a justice far too long delayed.

White People Must Listen to the Prophetic Call for Justice

White People Must Listen to the Prophetic Call for Justice

Sr. Emily TeKolste, SP
June 16, 2020

The mayor of my hometown recently announced an intent to sue Minneapolis for the recovery of police costs in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the resulting nation-wide protests. He backed off of this intent within a day, but this announcement reveals the deep ignorance of many white people — especially white people who live in areas built on the white flight of the 1950s and 1960s — of what’s really behind the ongoing Movement for Black Lives.

Instead of throwing blame or even settling for arrests of the officers responsible for the police brutality that inspired the protests, white people are called to go further. We must look deeply at our systems and at our own hearts to see more clearly the structural and historical racism in our society and the ways we are socialized into a white supremacist culture. We must change the system that creates and fosters a willingness to sacrifice Black lives and dreams.

The city I grew up in had a reputation for ticketing people for “Driving While Black.” I can still remember having only three of the Black students in my class of 500 at the local public junior high school. Perhaps even more significantly, the city drained the taxbase from Indianapolis, leaving the city’s public amenities worse off because the wealthiest people moved to the suburbs, while still benefiting from living in proximity to the city.

The truth that many of us need to reckon with is that these protests are not just about the killing of George Floyd and Brionna Taylor. They are not just about the killing of Michael Brown or Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland or any of the countless others who have been murdered at the hands of the police or vigilante citizens. They are about that, and more.

The protests we’ve witnessed over the past weeks and over many, many years are about a systemic imbalance of power that certainly didn’t start with the police and demand a resolution which must go far beyond the prevention of police brutality.

The protests are about systemic racism that exists beyond intent or individual action. This systemic racism shows itself through the disproportionately high impact of COVID-19 in Black communities, which are overrepresented as workers in essential frontline industries, as inmates in crowded prisons, and as residents of underinvested neighborhoods with inadequate access to health care.

Systemic racism shows itself through the ongoing racial wealth gap. White U.S. residents have a median family wealth over eight times that of their Black and Hispanic counterparts. This is the result of white people building and then passing down wealth withheld from Black families through slavery, sharecropping, redlining, unequal access to benefits of the G.I. Bill, and more.

The racial wealth gap can also be connected to more obvious manifestations of racism, including the Tulsa Black Wall Street Massacre in Oklahoma. In 1921, a white mob attacked a flourishing Black business district along Greenwood Avenue, destroying the wealth that Black residents had built up in spite of the obstacles they faced.

Systemic racism shows itself through the city’s treatment of residents in Flint, Michigan, a predominantly Black community, who were ignored as they voiced concerns regarding the contamination of their water supply. The delayed and inadequate response by local government officials undermined the health of approximately 8,000 children exposed to lead poisoning between April 2014 and August 2016.

Systemic racism shows itself through decisions to impose unaffordable fines for minor offenses, particularly on Black people, in order to provide revenue for the city’s government in Ferguson, Missouri.

In a world where racism is systemic, it’s not enough to be a nice person. It’s not enough to donate to the “right” causes or oppose only the obvious white supremacy of our nation’s current Presidential administration. Amy Cooper, who was caught on video putting a Black man’s life in danger by falsifying an accusation against him and calling the police, checked those boxes.

Amy Cooper’s behavior toward Christian Cooper emphasizes that white privilege and white supremacy manifest themselves everywhere. In her use of dog-whistle claims, she made clear that her freedom to break the rules trumped his freedom to ask her to follow them. As Fr. Bryan Massingale says, “She assumed that a black man had no right to tell her what to do. She assumed that the police officers would agree.”

It may be tempting to look to the damaged buildings and broken glass as a reason to discredit the concerns of the Black community, but we must resist that temptation. Concern about the destruction of property must never surpass concern about human life. Especially for people of faith who profess the dignity of all human life.

As Catholics, we look closely at the life of Jesus, and Jesus upended society. In a story told in all four Gospels, he even drove those doing business out of the Temple. According to Gospel of John,

“In the Temple, he found people selling cattle, sheep, and pigeons, while moneychangers sat at their counters. Making a whip out of cords, Jesus drove them all out of the Temple—even the cattle and sheep—and overturned the tables of the moneychangers, scattering their coins.” (John 2:14-16).

When injustice is in our midst, we too must drive it out.

We white people must dig into the work of racial justice. As we do this, it is important for us to listen to people of color, especially Black people, and be sure they are compensated for their time and work in educating us. There are numerous resources available. NETWORK’s Recommit to Racial Justice guide lists many, many additional resources to continue your learning, as does our Resource Library.

As the Jewish Talmud reminds us, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Emily TeKolste is a Sister of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, and a grassroots organizer for NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. She lived in Carmel, IN, until 2014. She has contributed writing to Global Sisters Report.

Police and Black Lives Matter protestor

We Call for Justice in Policing: Standards and Accountability

We Call for Justice in Policing

Necessary Standards and Accountability

Tralonne Shorter
June 11, 2020

Our nation is at a pivotal moment to redress systemic racism and the various ways it manifests as state-sanctioned violence, over-criminalization, and policing of Black people and communities. On Monday June 8, 2020, House and Senate Democrats unveiled a new policing reform bill in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. The bill, the Justice in Policing Act, now has over 220 cosponsors.

NETWORK joins advocacy partners, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in encouraging all Members of Congress to support this legislation that would lay the groundwork for criminal justice reform by setting a standard for policing and safety and hold officers accountable for misconduct and excessive use of force. NETWORK sent the following letter to all Members of Congress in support of this critical legislation, as well as the accompanying leave behind document.

Download the letter as a PDF.
Download the Justice in Policing Act leave behind.

Read the letter:

 

June 11, 2020

Dear Members of Congress,

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice is pleased to express strong support for the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (H.R. 7120) introduced by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Kamala Harris. We applaud our elected representatives for taking quick, bold action in response to the abhorrent and pernicious use of police force against Black adults and children. Now is the time for Congress to act and take a firm stance against the systemic racism embedded in police departments across the nation and within the criminal justice system. We implore you to pass this bill to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tony McDade, Tamir Rice, and the countless Black lives lost at the hands of police violence and in the name of keeping communities safe.

The Justice in Policing Act takes a monumental step toward dismantling the chokehold of white supremacy in policing by ending long-held practices that allow law enforcement officers to murder or maim Black people with impunity. These egregious acts of state-sanctioned violence terrorize Black communities across the nation, sowing deeper mistrust, and assailing communities that need investments in meaningful social and economic reform, not more dollars in militarizing the police force. For the United States to be great, we must root out all patterns and practices that destroy Black lives. This moment in history lays bare the reality that Black communities are traditionally under-resourced in education, health, housing, political representation, banking, and other federal and state programs that are necessary for people to thrive.

The Justice in Policing Act opens a route to reestablish trust in law enforcement and facilitate greater police accountability. This will enable the police to faithfully protect the communities they are meant to serve. The bill would ban chokeholds and support implicit bias training and community policing. As the House prepares to debate this bill, and negotiations with the Senate ensue, we urge you to include and adhere to the following principles in any legislation addressing police brutality and accountability:

    1. Require a federal standard that use of force be reserved for only when necessary as a last resort after exhausting reasonable options, and incentivize states to implement this standard; require the use of de-escalation techniques, and the duty to intervene; ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against individuals who only verbally confront officers, or against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves; and require all officers to accurately report all uses of force;
    2. Prohibit all maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, including neck holds, chokeholds, and similar excessive force, deeming the use of such force a federal civil rights violation;
    3. Prohibit racial profiling, and require robust data collection on police-community encounters and law enforcement activities. Data should capture all demographic categories and be disaggregated;
    4. Eliminate federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement;
    5. Prohibit the use of no-knock warrants, especially for drug searches;
    6. Change the 18 U.S.C. Sec. 242 mens rea requirement from willfulness to recklessness, permitting prosecutors to successfully hold law enforcement accountable for the deprivation of civil rights and civil liberties;
    7. Develop a national public database that would cover all police agencies in the United States and its territories, similar to the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training’s National Decertification Index,11 which would compile the names of officers who have had their licenses revoked due to misconduct, including but not limited to domestic violence, sexual violence, assault and harassment, criminal offense against minors, excessive use of force, violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242; perjury, falsifying a police report or planting and destroying evidence, and deadly physical assault; as well as terminations and complaints against the officers; and
    8. End the qualified immunity doctrine that prevents police from being held legally accountable when they break the law. To overcome the defense of qualified immunity, require that a victim must show that law enforcement violated “clearly established” law by pointing to a case arising in the same context and involving the same conduct.

A new day has dawned across the globe as millions march in protest, amid a pandemic, for an end to police assault of Black people and families. The time is long overdue for enacting policing reforms that hold law enforcement accountable and equally responsible for protecting and serving everyone in society. Failure to act now would be an abdication of your moral and civic duty and a blatant disregard for the humanity of Black lives.

Sincerely,

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Prioritizing People over Partisanship Is the Faithful Response

Prioritizing People over Partisanship Is the Faithful Response

On May 22, 2020 I published a reflection in Global Sisters Report about the vows of religious life and their significance during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the vow of obedience. As I continued to reflect in the following days, I considered how my reflection about obedience could be re-oriented toward a different narrative not of my choosing.

The unfortunate demands made by the President Trump before Memorial Day weekend pushed for houses of worship across the nation to reopen their buildings. While his ultimatum was directed at States, the pressure it puts on faith leaders and their communities to begin congregating in the middle of a pandemic is very real.

As a woman religious, I know the importance of religious services and joy of coming together in person with a community of believers. These are central in the lives of many people of faith, myself included, and it is very difficult to go without them. But we aren’t making this sacrifice without cause. We are doing this because lives are at risk if we gather again too soon, without the proper protections in place.  As Rev. Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the board of the Conference of National Black Churches, said: “We are out of the buildings because our people are important.”

Our unfortunate reality offers a case study of what prophetic obedience might look like. Because of President Trump’s pressure, faith leaders are even harder-pressed to defend their authority as they discern the risks, benefits and precautions of opening houses of worship and exposing their flocks to the virus. Congregants’ personal choices about how and when to resume in-person gatherings also became more complicated and contentious.

In these days of uncertainty and ineffectual national leadership, people of faith cannot afford to relinquish our own judgement. Decisions like these cannot be made based on ideology or a particular political agenda but should be centered on love of neighbor, with a special concern for the most vulnerable.

Faith leaders can model the thoughtful, nuanced discernment that prophetic obedience calls for at this unique time. The path forward will require leaders and congregants to do the hard work of listening, exercising patience, and carefully considering the real risks.

Pastor Dave Simpson of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Frederick, Maryland put it well:

An open letter to the President:

You have declared that churches are to be reopened.
My church has never been closed.
Perhaps you are unclear about the meaning of “church.” A church is not a building. The church is the people of God called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that not even the gates of hell can prevail against the church. This virus has certainly not stopped the church from being what we have been called to be – the Body of Christ for the sake of the world. The people of God who are Good Shepherd Lutheran Church have continued to care for each other and reach out to the community and beyond.
Perhaps you are unclear about the meaning of “worship.” Worship is not only – or even especially – what happens in a church building on Sunday mornings. Worship defines us as followers of Jesus Christ. We strive to worship the God who creates and saves us with everything that we do and everything that we are. We worship our God when we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Our building may be closed, but we are still the church and we have not stopped worshiping. God has blessed us with new and enhanced ways to be church together as even technology has been sanctified (set apart for God’s use) for accomplishing the mission that has been laid before us.
Our building will be open again – when the time is right. It will be open again when we can gather in a way that does not put our members or our neighbors at unnecessary risk, especially those who are most vulnerable. Our building will open when we have a plan that manages the risk and we have the resources to put that plan into action.
When our building opens, it will be to glorify God, not to make any secular or political point or to advance any agenda, nor will it be to assert our “rights.”
Until then, we will go on being church. We will go on worshiping online and, more importantly, in our community and in the world.
We are the church.
We are, and will remain, open.

Originally published on Pastor Dave’s Facebook account.

The Forgotten Ones

The Forgotten Ones

Maria Gomez and Bibi Hidalgo
June 5, 2020

The majority of eligible Americans have now received stimulus checks through the CARES Act, except for the excluded workers — the forgotten ones — who we depend on in many facets of our lives. These forgotten — but essential — workers pick the ripe fruits we eat; they cook the warm meals at our favorite take-out restaurants; and they sanitize checkout devices at grocery stores late into the night so that we will be less afraid of COVID-19 when we shop. Regardless of their legal status, they disinfect our surroundings and feed us.

As one of the 1,400 Community Health Centers across the country that serves families below the poverty line, Mary’s Center in the Washington, D.C. region is on the frontlines of this crisis. We have seen the health and job insecurity that our nation now confronts through the eyes of the 60,000 adults and children we have served annually since 1988. Each day the people who reach out to us are seeking life-saving medicines, health care, shelter, food and income. Our telemedicine team ensures that line cooks and sanitation workers have access to hypertension and asthma medications. Our counselors talk with them when they experience emotional hardships. Thousands of people — 54,000 to be exact — had a total of 270,000 visits to our five centers in 2018 and that number is now growing significantly.

Across the U.S., community health centers serve 29 million people, which is close to 10 percent of the population. No hospital system in the U.S. serves a number that size. Yet as it stands today, millions of low-wage workers and their families are in danger of collapse, unless we can work together as a whole society — philanthropy and big business, local and state government, families and communities — to ensure everyone overcomes the COVID-19 crisis and that we build a more resilient society.

In the absence of a unifying government, we need to do this ourselves.

We can accomplish this by having federally qualified community health centers in major cities partner with business executives and philanthropies to create a national plan that will stem this crisis and help rebuild the country. Last week Congress passed another stimulus measure providing small businesses loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. It remains to be seen whether any of the small and micro-businesses in our community that hire our clients gain access to the program. Up until now that hasn’t been the case. In the meantime, their workers are facing the despair of day-to-day survival.

National nonprofits, foundations and government bodies are having urgent calls daily to determine how they can provide relief to community organizations in addition to any stimulus operating support. If the 2008 financial crisis is any lesson though, it is time we flip the script and have community organizations lead the national conversation about what is sorely needed.

Ten million families still lost their homes despite the 2.7 million families who benefited from mortgage modifications supported by the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Programwhich took a top-down approach to problem-solving. By the time resources arrived to community organizations providing housing counseling to Latinx and African-American families who had been misled by lenders to take out subprime mortgages, it amounted to table crumbs that did not leverage local knowledge of how to build trust, engage and serve the most economically vulnerable.

Community Health Centers across the nation are eager to collaborate with the private sector and state and local governments to find solutions. We can help large corporations track the patterns we see on the ground with the pandemic and the resources that are needed to rebuild communities and ultimately a robust economy. Pharmaceutical companies can ensure that frontline community health centers across the United States have a steady supply of diabetes, asthma and life-saving medications available. Health care distributors can ensure we have medical supplies, such as masks, bandages and thermometers.

Together with major grocery chains and wholesale companies, we can ensure that low-wage workers who did not receive a stimulus check have provisions to feed their families. By working together, we can create a stabilization supply-chain to feed, clothe and shelter the forgotten ones. The ones who are ultimately indispensable to you, me and all of us as a nation.

Maria Gomez is president and CEO of Mary’s Center, a Washington D.C. region Community Health Center, and Presidential Citizen Awardee @MarysCenter.

Bibi Hidalgo is co-founder of Future Partners LLC and served as an economic policy appointee in the Obama White House and U.S. Treasury @BibiHidalgo.

Originally published at TheHill.com.