Category Archives: Racism

The Moment is Now: Pass H.R.40

The Moment is Now: Pass H.R.40

Mary Novak
July 16, 2021

On July 13 2021, I joined faith leaders to call on Congress to pass H.R.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, before the August recess. What a Spirit-Filled gathering with the incomparable Nkechi Taifa, Founder of The Taifa Group; Laura James, Program Coordinator for Grassroots Organizing; Yolanda Savage-Narva Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director, Union for Reform Judaism; Diane Randall, General Secretary of Friends Committee on National Legislation; Jarrett Smith, Government Relations Fellow, NETWORK Lobby; Bishop Eugene Sutton, Episcopal Church, Maryland Diocese; Victoria Strang, Policy Advocate with Faith Communities, Human Rights Watch; Reverend Timothy Tutt, Senior Minister, Westmoreland Congregational UCC; and Jim Winker President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches.

What is not named cannot be healed. It is time to name our country’s sickness. Using the frame of the  Catholic tradition — it is time to name our original sin of slavery and move towards repair, reparations. That moment is now.

For the first time, we are talking about reparations in the national conversation. States, local authorities, and religious orders are all moving on reparations. We have been waiting 32 years for this moment. We cannot wait another day or another week. We are  calling on House leadership to bring H.R.40 to the floor. The moment is now.

It is no coincidence the momentum for movement on reparations follows that terrifying day of January 6th. We not only survived that shameful day, but are seeing for what it was: evidence of our need for collective salvation. The moment is now.

We know there is resistance to move towards healing from our collective soul sickness. Resistance comes because healing can be hard and oftentimes painful. We must overcome that resistance because the freedom on the other side is calling us. The moment is now.

My friends:

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul

That balm can begin now, so let’s do this; let us get this Commission going and pass H.R.40. If not, my friends, we must call on President Biden to make it happen by any means necessary. The moment is now.

Watch the Faith for H.R.40 Press Conference to learn more. Watch on Facebook or YouTube.

Stay engaged and find more ways to take action to advance policies that build our systems and structures anew at www.networklobby.org/ActNow.

Juneteenth 2021 Events List

Juneteenth 2021 Events List

Caraline Feairheller
June 17, 2021

On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, six months after Congress passed the 13th Amendment and more than two full years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the first proclamation; Union General 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 continues to be an act of resistance and resilience in the face of racial oppression that shamefully continues today.

This Juneteenth we must pause and acknowledge the immense gap between the freedom promised in 1865 and the freedom delivered. The events listed below are opportunities to engage with the history and celebration of Juneteenth as well as recognize the work that can and still must be done:

[Virtual] 4 Generations of Black Civil Rights Leaders | June 17 at 8:00 PM Eastern

Hosted by the Center for Common Ground. This event will feature four Black Civil Rights Activists from Georgia and Virginia who are working to ensure that Black voters are able to vote. The event guests are Dr. William Ferguson “Fergie” Reid, Cliff Albirght, Andrea Miller, and Evan Malborough.

[Virtual] A Global Conversation on Reparations | June 18 at 1:30 PM Eastern

Hosted by the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University School of Law. Presented in honor of Juneteenth, this program examines reparations from a global perspective, with advocates from the United States, the Caribbean, the UK and Europe discussing the challenges and progress in achieving reparations. In addition, the webinar will share information about international advocacy for reparations, and discuss where and how this work fits within the context of the International Decade for People of African Descent.

[Virtual] Live with Carnegie Hall: Juneteenth Celebration | June 19 at 7:30 PM Eastern

Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr. leads this celebration—along with Tamara Tunie, and special guests Wayne Brady, Martin Luther King III, and Annette Gordon-Reed—to recognize the importance of this historic day and to acknowledge the long road still ahead. In addition to music, dance, and commentary, the evening also recognizes contributions made by prominent African Americans today: Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; Robert F. Smith, businessman and chairman of Carnegie Hall’s Board of Trustees; and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

[In-Person and Virtual] Juneteenth Now 2021: Get Us Free | June 19 at 5:00 PM Eastern and June 20 at 3:30 PM Eastern

Hosted by the Middle Church and the Riverside Church. This Black-led celebration and fundraiser, is produced by Charles Randolph-Wright and Shanta Thake. Join in-person, or stream virtually, for an evening showcasing a rare LIVE performance by Stephanie Mills who will debut her new single, “Let’s Do the Right Thing.” This ticketed event will be hosted by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis and Rev. Michael Livingston with more talented performing artists including Loretta Devine; Kamilah Forbes; Martha Redbone; Tituss Burgess; Celisse Henderson; Kaliswa Brewster, an ensemble of Riverside Church & Middle Church choirs, spoken word, dance and jazz! Come in-person or watch from home to celebrate a stunning night of fierce resilience. Proceeds from the event will continue to power Black wellness programming at both institutions, as well as support in Middle rising from its devastating fire in 2020.

[Virtual] Night of a Thousand Conversations | June 19 at 8:00 PM Eastern

Hosted by the Grassroots Reparations Campaign More than ever, our nation needs to understand that #reparations are much more than a check.  True repair healing, education and culture shifting, compensation, restitution and guarantees to stop the harm that began with slavery and continues through various forms of discrimination. The Grassroots Reparations Campaign invites you to participate in a Night of a Thousand Conversations. On June 19th, known as Juneteenth, we honor and observe those last to receive the news of emancipation from slavery. Our hope is that between June 19 and August 21 (#ReparationSunday) to reflect on African chattel slavery, its legacy and its impact on your community and find your path to building a culture of repair.

Virtual Lobby Day: Dismantling Racism in Our Criminal Legal System

Virtual Lobby Day: Dismantling Racism in Our Criminal Legal System

Caraline Feairheller
June 1, 2021

On May 12, 2021, more than 120 justice-seekers from across the country went on 50 lobby visits to urge their Representatives to co-sponsor and vote YES on the EQUAL Act (H.R.1693). Thanks to you, our community of activists, the EQUAL Act now has ten new cosponsors – moving us closer to a criminal legal system that provides fair and equal justice under law!

For decades, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses has contributed to our country’s shameful legacy of systemic racism and mass incarceration despite being two forms of the same substance. As Executive Director of New Hour for Women and Children Serena Ligouri said at the Lobby Day Kick-Off Rally, “It is by no mistake, in fact it is intentional that racism has continue to perpetuate disproportionate sentencing in the carceral system. It is no longer okay to let our legislators stand back and perpetuate this in our communities.” As we celebrate our advocates for educating our elected officials on the importance of the EQUAL Act, we know there is much more work to do.Mary J. Novak emphasizes how “being sentenced in today’s U.S. criminal legal system is essentially a life sentence if you consider the severe consequences economically, the disruptions in family life, the limited future access to employment, housing, voting, the stigma, the trauma to both the person incarcerated and that person’s family.” In order to build anew, Congress must pass legislation that lifts bans on housing assistance and other social safety net programs for those who have been released from incarceration.

Every person is made in the image and likeness of God and deserves respect, dignity, and equal justice under law. We must support each other in these challenging times and continue working to pass policies like the EQUAL Act and George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This will help dismantle systemic racism, eliminate the wealth and income gap, improve the wellbeing of our communities, and allow all people to thrive.

Stay engaged and find more ways to take action to advance policies that build our systems and structures anew at www.networklobby.org/ActNow.

A Year After George Floyd’s Murder, Still Working for Policy Change

A Year After George Floyd’s Murder, Still Working for Policy Change

Caraline Feairheller
May 25, 2021

On the one-year anniversary since George Floyd’s death at the hands of Derek Chauvin, it remains clear that the criminal legal system will not self-correct. The racism embedded in the system continues to terrorize Black and brown communities across the nation. We cannot tolerate the loss of another life to police violence. In order to build anew, we must affirm that every person is made in the image of God and entitled to dignity and equal justice under law. This is a sacred responsibility. As Pope Francis reminds us, “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Since passing the House in the 117th Congress on March 3, 2021, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R.1280) has seen no action in the Senate. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a crucial step in facilitating greater police accountability and towards dismantling the white supremacy in policing by ending long-held practices that allow law enforcement to murder Black people with impunity. The legislation:

  • Ends qualified immunity for law enforcement
  • Establish a national standard on use of force
  • Bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level
  • Mandates data collection on encounters with law enforcement
  • Restricts police access to military-grade equipment
  • Improves federal laws to prosecute excessive force

Congress has a moral and civic duty to protect Black lives. NETWORK calls on the Senate to pass H.R.1280, The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act immediately.

Opportunities to remember George Floyd and act for racial justice:

  1. Call your Senators at 888-496-3502 and ask them to pass H.R.1280 the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
  2. Join the Sisters of Mercy in prayer at 2:00 PM Eastern.
    Register here.
  3. Mark the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death with prayer with Catholics 4 the Common Good – GA at 8:00 PM Eastern. Register here.
  4. Watch the George Floyd Memorial Foundation’s panel discussion From Protest to Policy.
  5. Follow the George Floyd Memorial Foundation to stay informed of their work on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
  6. Participate in the George Floyd Memorial Foundation’s Virtual Day of Action.

NETWORK Joins Faith Leaders Calling on Congress to Pass H.R.40

NETWORK Joins Faith Leaders Calling on Congress to Pass H.R.40

Jarrett Smith
May 4, 2021

At the end of April, NETWORK Lobby joined a sign-on letter to Congressional Leadership along with 180 faith-based organizations, faith leaders, and advocates to urge Congress to support the passage of H.R.40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act. H.R.40 is the only bill that will lead to concrete proposals for repairing the damage that the United States government has inflicted on Black people and its passage will allow us to take steps towards dismantling white supremacy and steps towards repair so that we can build anew together.

Catholic Social Teaching is clear: racism is a sin. Our faith teaches us to reject the immoral system of white supremacy and to work for truth-telling and repair. We can no longer deny the sins of the past and its ongoing implications Black people experience every day. NETWORK urges Congress to support and pass H.R.40.

Read the full sign-on letter sent to Congressional Leadership.

Read Jarrett Smith’s blog on passing H.R.40.

Read the statement on H.R.40 from NETWORK’s Executive Director, Mary Novak.

Congress Must Pass H.R.40

Congress Must Pass H.R.40

Jarrett Smith
April 20, 2021

Luke 19:8-10

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

On Wednesday, April 14 history was made in our country when the H.R.40 Bill – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposal for African Americans Act received a favorable vote at the House Judiciary Committee markup. This is the first time a House committee has considered the bill for recommendation to the House floor since it was first introduced in 1989 by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

Reparations is a matter of racial and social justice. The case for reparations is 400 hundred years in the making when the first enslaved Africans were sold in Virginia in 1619. The questioning of the humanity of Africans  throughout the world as Africans and their descendants are always treated and portrayed as if they are inferior to human beings or not even being human by the hundreds of years spent dehumanizing them, and treating them as though they were property to be bought and sold.

Now is the time for reparations. Congress must act and pass H.R.40. NETWORK applauds Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), the bill sponsor, for her part in bringing this bill forward and successfully getting it out of the Judiciary Committee. Currently, the bill has 180 co-sponsors. We need your help getting the remaining 38 other members of Congress to support H.R.40.

H.R.40 allows us to take the first steps towards dismantling systemic racism, cultivating a more inclusive community, and rooting our economy in solidarity so that we can Build Anew together.

This is a historic and rare opportunity to advance a federal policy that seeks to address and rectify the sinful effects of slavery in the United States. Therefore, NETWORK calls on Congress to pass H.R.40 now. It is time for the most in-need to receive recompense as many times as necessary for there to be justice.

Read the statement on H.R.40 from NETWORK’s Executive Director, Mary Novak.

The Racist Filibuster Must Go for Us to Build Anew

The Racist Filibuster Must Go for Us to Build Anew

Sister Simone Campbell
March 25, 2021

The Senate filibuster — currently 60-vote threshold to close debate on a bill and move to a vote — is a relic of the Jim Crow-era that has blocked democracy reform, civil rights protections, and health care expansion for far too long. Since its inception in 1806, the filibuster has been weaponized against people of color to block bipartisan legislation that addresses structural racism and inequality in the United States. Catholic Sisters and NETWORK advocates do not accept antiquated traditions steeped in a racist past to prevent progress and will mobilize across the country to end the racist filibuster.

Constitutionally, bills require a simple majority to pass — just 51 votes in the Senate.  However, the filibuster is a procedural tool which allows senators to block legislation from receiving a vote at all if there are 41 of them that oppose the bill. For centuries, elected officials in the minority have used the filibuster to stop common good, anti-racist legislation from passing and becoming law. In the 19th Century, white Southern Senators used the filibuster to kill Reconstruction and the earliest civil rights bills in order to maintain white supremacy. In the 20th Century, anti-lynching legislation which was widely popular among Congress and the United States people was consistently blocked by a small minority in the Senate. The use of the anti-democratic filibuster as a tool of white supremacy had direct consequences: racist lynching mobs killed an estimated 4,400 Black Americans throughout our nation’s history. To this day, Congress has failed to pass federal anti-lynching legislation. In the Civil Rights Era, Senators employed the filibuster to prevent desegregation and voting rights legislation from becoming law.

The racist application of the filibuster is a clear legacy of the rule, and it continues today. Senators are exploiting the power of the filibuster to block critical legislation meant to dismantle systemic racism and known injustices in the 117th Congress.  The For the People Act, the Justice in Policing Act, the Equality Act, the PRO Act, are all bills that deserve a vote and stand a real chance of passing but for the filibuster rule.  The filibuster is not protecting voters in the minority party; it protects politicians set on preserving the status quo. We cannot allow an arbitrary Senate rule with no grounding in the Constitution to block legislation that enjoys widespread bipartisan support by voters across the country.

The Senate has a moral duty to use this opportunity to end the filibuster.

Add your name to join the Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK calling for the elimination of the Senate filibuster.

Racism and the Church: A Black History Month Community Conversation

Racism and the Church: A Black History Month Community Conversation

Audrey Carroll
February 25, 2021

On February 18, NETWORK hosted a community conversation in honor of Black History Month. At the event, NETWORK members discussed racism in the Church and our role in naming it and ending it. Board member Leslye Colvin shared her reflection on racism in the Catholic Church. Watch the conversation below, and read more reflections from Leslye on her blog Leslye’s Labyrinth

Black History Month: Honoring those who Resisted Voter Suppression

Black History Month: Honoring those who Resisted Voter Suppression

India-Grace Kellogg 
February 22, 2021

During this year’s Black History Month after a contentious election, we honor the Black women and men who organized and advanced Black voting power and political representation and recognize the ways white supremacy has shaped the U.S. political system to minimize Black votes and voices.

Following the 2020 election, which hinged on record-breaking voter turnout – especially Black voter turnout – in Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, multiple sitting Members of Congress refused to certify the Electoral College vote. President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Georgia were overtly racist, and even after the violent mob attack on the Capitol, when the vote to certify was held in the early hours of January 7, 2021, eight Republican Senators and over 100 Representatives held firm with former President Trump.

This challenge to Black voters’ power echoed our nation’s last challenge to the Electoral College in 1876 during the election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes.

1876: A Backlash to Black Political Participation during Reconstruction

Prior to 1876, there had been a surge of mobilization within the Black community. During the first two years of Reconstruction after the Civil War, Black people throughout the South organized Equal Rights Leagues and held state and local conventions to demand suffrage and equity. Congress granted Black men the status and rights of citizenship in the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and state constitutional conventions held in formerly Confederate states between 1867-69 were the first time that Black and white Americans participated in political life together. 265 African-American men were elected delegates to these conventions that re-wrote state constitutions, almost half in South Carolina and Louisiana.

Initially, under the protection of the 15th Amendment and because of the overwhelming majority of Black citizens in the South, Black voters had strong voting power during Reconstruction. In Congress, 16 Black men served during Reconstruction and more than 600 Black state legislators were elected, with hundreds more holding local offices across the South. The first Black men to serve in Congress were Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina. (It was nearly a century from their elections in 1870 until voters elected Representative Shirley Chisholm the first Black woman in Congress in 1968.)

Challenging the Electoral College Results

The outcome of 1876 election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes was unclear from the beginning. When the electoral vote was received by Congress, Tilden held 184 votes and Hayes held 165 votes. However, claims of fraud, intimidation, and violence that had been used to invalidate votes in the South, and Oregon delivered two sets of conflicting electoral votes to Congress.

These conflicting results presented an opportunity for Southern Democrats who had lost power in the South after the Civil War. They wanted to restore their control of governments in the South and to remove the last of the federal troops whose purpose had diminished to protecting governments in small areas surrounding state houses in the capitals of New Orleans and Columbia. An agreement was reached for Hayes to pull out the remaining federal troops in the South in return for a pledge to uphold the civil and voting rights of Black and white Republicans. As a result, filibusters were ruled out of order and Southern Democrats forced through the vote, declaring Hayes the winner with 185 electoral votes two days before he was inaugurated.

White Supremacy Curtails Reconstruction

The Supreme Court had already begun to limit the scope of the Reconstruction laws and Constitutional Amendments, beginning with the Slaughterhouse Cases which limited protection of the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment of the United State Constitution. However, with the removal of federal troops following President Hayes’s inauguration, white political leaders in the South began suppressing Black votes as the pledge to protect voting rights was quickly abandoned. While the Reconstruction Amendments remained in the Constitution, a new web of laws and requirements made voting nearly impossible for Black citizens. Under new gerrymandered election districts which reduced Black voting power, the Jim Crow era swept the South, creating a framework of voter suppression that has continued to evolve in face of reforms.

White political leaders in Southern states put in place literacy tests, poll taxes, moral character tests, and grandfather clauses targeting Black voters. Black voters who could pass these barriers then faced the threat of violence or property or job loss in retribution for attempting to vote. Additionally, the disenfranchisement of felons blocked many black voters. Black people were often arrested in the South on false charges or for vague crimes, such as “crimes of moral turpitude”, and sent through a criminal justice system that profited from black prisoners’ free labor when they were incarcerated. The over-criminalization of the Black community meant that the disenfranchisement of felons disproportionately affected Black voters in the South. These strategies reversed much of the progress that had been gained since the Civil War, with Black voting power reduced to less than 1% and the upward trend of Black men elected to office from southern states quickly ended.

Continued Voter Suppression

While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed the landscape of voting in the South for Black voters especially, voter disenfranchisement still continues throughout the U.S. With Black Americans still overrepresented in the prison population, bans on voting due to criminal history continue to impact Black communities more than any other. Since Shelby County v. Holder, struck down the requirements of federal oversight, many states have passed additional voting requirements that are only subject to litigation after the fact. State across the country have begun to redistrict, require stricter voter identification, shut down polling locations, and limit early voting. While on their face these changes may seem to be aimed at reducing voter fraud, the reality is that these new restrictionsdisproportionately disenfranchise voters of color and minority communities.

The rhetoric surrounding voting, amplified by former President Trump, has disguised the true effect of the changes to voting requirements. Government-issued photo ID requirements effect minorities more than white voters, as minorities are less likely to have the needed forms of identification. Despite the argument that voting roll purges prevent voter fraud, the real impact of these purges is that many valid votes cannot be cast because voters were unaware that they had been removed from the voter rolls. Polling location closures, overwhelmingly in communities of color, result in longer wait times or travel time. This makes voting much more difficult and in some cases impossible due to lack of transportation or working hourly jobs. The conversation surrounding voter fraud and the barriers that are put in place to “fix” this so-called fraud have strong ties to the compromise of 1876 which marked the beginning of the Jim Crow era.

But the fight to achieve true voting rights and equity remains strong and in the last two elections there has been a resurgence of energy to fight voter suppression. While a major struggle in 1876 was the end of Reconstruction in the South, the 2020 election was a demonstration of the power of Black people successfully organizing against the racial inequality still existent today. The result of the Jim Crow laws put into place after Federal troops were withdrawn still haunt our nation and dog communities of color with their pervasive legacies and new iterations. Despite this, representation of black communities has grown steadily over the past 20 years. In fact, the most recent Congress, was the most diverse Congress ever to be elected to office.

Black Voting Rights Advocates Continue Leading the Movement

This progress would not have been possible without Black organizers’ efforts to mobilize voters. Black-led movements to equip and encourage voters, especially in swing states, were spurred on by the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black communities and the nation-wide protests against police brutality. During the 2020 Nuns on the Bus tour, we met Black organizers like Rev. Tawanda Davis of Soul 2 Soul Sisters in Denver and the staff of BLOC by Bloc in Milwaukee who led successful voter turnout initiatives in key states.

While this was a national movement, the 2020 Senate run-off election in Georgia was one of the most historic. This success mainly came from the efforts of Stacey Abrams. Abrams founded Fair Fight to ensure all eligible Georgia voters could vote after her historic 2018 run for Georgia Governor ended with clear mismanagement of the election by now-Governor Kemp’s Secretary of State office. Stacey Abrams with other organizers worked to mobilize the vote and were met by Black voters in Georgia as trusted voices. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock’s successful campaign makes him Georgia’s first Black Senator. This and other elections prove that the power that was seen in the Black vote during Reconstruction is just as strong, but still has not been fully released from the remnants of the Jim Crow laws that sprung up after the 1876 compromise.

Introduced and sponsored by Black members of Congress, the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act present an opportunity to correct injustices in our voting system. With the swearing in of the first woman of color as Vice President, Vice President Kamala Harris, our nation may have come a long way since the end of Reconstruction, but we must remember that the work is not done.

Black Immigrants are People Too

Black Immigrants are People Too

Joan Neal
February 9, 2021

Black Lives Matter and that includes the lives of Black immigrants. In the United States, the narrative around immigration usually focuses on Latinx people coming across the southern border from Mexico and Central America, but Black immigrants from these countries, from the Caribbean, and from Africa comprise a significant and growing part of the story of our immigration story. Black History Month provides an important opportunity to learn about stories and struggles of Black immigrants.

There has long been a large population of Black immigrants in this country since the sixteenth-century slave trade began. This should not be surprising to Americans. According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. Of the 10.7 million who survived the Middle Passage, 388,000 disembarked in North America. The rest ended up in the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Over time, many of the descendants of those enslaved persons migrated to the United States seeking asylum, family reunification, work, or higher education. Today, about 50% of all Black immigrants come from the Caribbean region, around 4% from South America, and nearly 45% from the African continent, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa.

Moreover, Black people are a growing segment of the immigrant population in the U.S. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, in 1980 there were 816,000 Black immigrants. By 2000, the number of Black immigrants in the country had risen 71% to 2.4 million. Six years later in 2016, that number had increased to 4.2 million, meaning nearly 10% of all Black people living in the U.S. were foreign born . Such rapid growth in the Black immigrant population is expected to continue, especially in large metropolitan areas. According to the Census Bureau, by 2060 16.5% of all Black people in the U.S. will be immigrants.

But these statistics are not the whole story. With few exceptions, the lived experience of Black immigrants very much mirrors the experience of U.S.-born Black people. Black immigrants encounter anti-Black discrimination and racial prejudice because of the color of their skin. Similar to U.S.-born Black people, they are often subject to the same risks of poverty, lack of access to quality health care or affordable housing, over-policing, and increasing incarceration.

More than other immigrant groups, undocumented Black foreign-born people find themselves caught in the prison to deportation pipeline. In fact, Black immigrants account for a disproportionate number of criminal-based deportations. Guilt or innocence aside, 76% of Black immigrants are deported on criminal grounds compared to 45% of all immigrants. Like the prevailing experience of U.S.-born Black people, there is no other explanation for these statistics than that it is because they are Black. When they arrive in the U.S., Black immigrants are no longer Ghanaian, South African, Jamaican, Haitian, or Nicaraguan. They are simply Black, and in this society, their lives do not matter.

Anti-Black racism has been present in this country since its founding. Despite the fact that Black people were forcibly brought here, when it came time to answer the question ‘who belongs in this nation’, the country’s overwhelming answer was only white people. History and our founding documents show that anyone who was not considered white was not meant to be a citizen. This was quickly incorporated into the immigration system where it persists even today. Despite the words that are etched on the Statue of Liberty –“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”, the United States continues to demonstrate it is unwelcoming to Black people, citizen or not.

Whatever it was about the murder of George Floyd last year that opened America’s eyes, indeed the eyes of the world, about the enduring persistence of systemic racism, the fact is that there is no going back from that realization. As a people, we must deal with it. The fundamental question before the United States, indeed before the world since anti-Black racism is global, is what is to be done about it?

This moment in our history invites us to finally address the issue of pervasive, instututionalized anti-Black racism. It calls us to transform our society, our laws, our systems, including the immigration system, to ensure that all lives matter equally. No exceptions. Time will tell if we are up to the challenge.

Sources:

Trans-Atlantic Database, https://archive.slavevoyages.org, David Eltis, David Richardson, ed.

U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey, March 2016

US Immigrant Population Projected to Rise Even as Share Falls Among Hispanics and Asians, Anna Brown, Pew Research Center, 03/09/2015; “Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 1850-2000” and 2014 population projections, U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook and Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, 2000