Category Archives: Racism

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.”

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.

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

How To Organize During a Pandemic

How To Organize During a Pandemic

Alex Burnett
May 27, 2020

Recently, journalists have written extensively about the anti-lockdown protests gripping our nation. During the past month, The New York Times published at least 15 stories about anti-lockdown protesters, highlighting their propensity to carry assault weapons, flaunt social distancing, display Confederate flags, and secure funding from prominent conservative donors. This reporting is crucially important, especially since many of these demonstrators espouse white supremacist rhetoric and actively participate in neo-Nazi organizations, like The Proud Boys.

Despite its significance, this reporting can eclipse stories about progressive activists who are struggling for a socially just COVID-19 response. Workers in at least 7 states organized strikes involving more than 1,000 people in March and April, but the media largely ignored their historic organizing and instead focused primarily on the anti-lockdown crowd.

In this blog post, I want to highlight some progressive activists—specifically, The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) and National Nurses United (NNU). Both NNU and PPC are building grassroots support for a COVID-19 response that advances racial and economic justice, while recognizing we cannot “return to normal” if this pandemic abides. By demanding immediate COVID-19 relief alongside permanent systemic change, PPC and NNU are demonstrating how other justice-seekers can effectively organize during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Poor People’s Campaign: Working Towards a “New Normal”

A national coalition led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, The Poor People’s Campaign quickly recognized why coronavirus hit the U.S. remarkably hard. The PPC condemned the federal government’s reckless and uncoordinated response,” but maintained, “The current emergency…results from a deeper and much longer-term crisis”—the “evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism,” described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in May 1967. To fully address the COVID-19 crisis, the PPC argued that the U.S. must eliminate racism, poverty, and our environmentally destructive wartime economy.

Approximately 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Poor People’s March on Washington, Dr. Barber revived Dr. King’s efforts at building a mass, multiracial movement of working-class people intent on transforming American society. Since 2017, the PPC organized 43 state committees, comprised of low-income people and faith leaders, lobbied federal and state policymakers around their Moral Agenda, and coordinated civil disobedience nationwide. With support from dozens of social justice organizations, including NETWORK, the PPC is now turning their attention to the COVID-19 crisis, hoping to bring the kind of pressure that many lawmakers haven’t felt since the 1960’s civil rights revolution.

To accomplish this ambitious goal, the PPC is working closely with local organizers, explained Adam Barnes, who coordinates the PPC’s faith partnerships and The Rights & Religions Program at The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice. Since January, the PPC mobilized its members to support local responses to the COVID-19 crisis—including rent strikes, mutual aid networks, workplace walkouts, and anti-hospital closure demonstrations. These expressions of “non-cooperation,” Barnes emphasized, are faithful responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Since half the U.S. population lived in poverty before coronavirus eliminated a single job, the PPC believes these actions are urgent.

Crucially, the PPC’s local organizing amplifies their national advocacy. On April 3rd, the PPC sharply criticized COVID-19 relief legislation for funneling trillions of federal dollars into investment banks without guaranteeing healthcare, income, and housing for all Americans. To bolster their message, the PPC organized a National Week of Action, scheduled for May 21st (5/21). On May 21st, justice-seekers can call or email Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask them to support the PPC’s Moral Agenda and COVID-19 demands, which would provide immediate COVID-19 relief and reduce racial and economic inequality. Additionally, as part of this week of action, religious communities can host special services amplifying the PPC’s message and mourning the 250,000 people killed by poverty each year. Click here to learn more about the May 21st week of action.

Much of this activism is building towards the PPC’s Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington. NETWORK is proud to join the Poor People’s Campaign as a mobilizing partner for the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering, on June 20, 2020. At this historic event, which PPC organizers hope will be the largest digital gathering of low-income people in U.S. history, PPC speakers will denounce what “normal” looked like before the pandemic—140 million people living in poverty, an irredeemably racist criminal justice system, widespread voter suppression in communities of color, and unsanitary deportation camps, which separate immigrant families. After offering solutions to these “normal” problems and the COVID-19 crisis, PPC speakers will help participants develop plans for building grassroots power in their communities. To RSVP for the PPC’s June 20th event, click here.

“We’ve seen how broken our system really is,” Adam Barnes told me. “I can guarantee you that the people in power are going to push for us to ‘return to normal,’ but this is a chance for us to do things differently.” Adam is right. By supporting innovative groups, like NNU and the PPC, we can struggle for a solution to this crisis that pushes us towards something better than “normal.” Hopefully, it will resemble justice.

National Nurses United & The Long Struggle for Health Justice

The largest labor union of registered nurses (RNs) in the United States, National Nurses United responded to COVID-19 months before it dominated headlines. On January 30, 2020, NNU sent a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), which demanded better COVID-19 protections for healthcare workers. By mid-March, the union had lobbied most federal health agencies, spoken with dozens of Members of Congress, and organized a national day of action, in which thousands of nurses demanded more personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus testing. Crucially, NNU emphasized that our nation’s broken healthcare system was not prepared for a pandemic requiring mass testing and hospitalization. According to a March 2020 NNU analysis covering 48 states, over 70% of hospitals did not have sufficient PPE or a plan for treating COVID-19 patients.

Over the next 2 months, NNU continued pressuring policymakers and employers to prioritize people over profit in their coronavirus response. Besides demanding the Cook County Department of Corrections release incarcerated people from jails and prisons, NNU continually stressed that COVID-19 disproportionately harms low-income people of color. With these stakes in mind, nearly 100,000 NNU nurses organized May Day actions across 13 states, during which they called on the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) to better protect healthcare workers and their patients. Most recently, NNU brought the heat to the White House, where nurses coordinated a vigil-protest honoring 88 recently deceased nurses.

NNU’s flurry of activity offers a model for progressives interested in organizing during the coronavirus lockdown. By combining digital actions, vigils, and confrontational protests, NNU created many avenues for participation, leading to remarkably high levels of turnout. Additionally, NNU did not limit their demands to one branch of government or a single negligent employer. Through pressuring federal and state policymakers alongside the private sector, NNU demonstrated that our entire healthcare system bears responsibility for the harm wrought by coronavirus. A longtime advocate for safe staffing levels and patient protections, NNU was ideally positioned to make this clear.

To learn about upcoming NNU actions, visit their website.

DACA Decision Looms during the COVID-19 Pandemic

DACA Decision Looms during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Giovana Oaxaca
May 14, 2020

The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision over whether the President acted unlawfully in 2017 in abruptly terminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) hangs over our nation against the backdrop of an unprecedented global pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic introduces a host of new variables to consider, like the devastation of death to COVID-19, job losses, and ensuing economic, housing, and food insecurity being felt across the nation. Financial hardship is already more likely to strike those with limited access to paid sick leave, health care, and safety net programs like low-income people; immigrants; people of color; LGBTQ communities; and incarcerated and detained people. However, since the start of the outbreak, more than 40% of Latinx, and nearly a half of Black adults have said they won’t be able to pay some of their bills, compared to about a third of all Americans.

Yet, in the midst of a pandemic, the Supreme Court is still expected to issue a decision which could lead to a loss of work permits and protections from deportation for an estimated 650,000 DACA recipients living in the United States. The economic and social wellbeing of millions would fall precipitously as 650,000 DACA recipients reckon with the loss of their status and jobs during this time of uncertainty. About 254,000 U.S.-born children have at least one parent who holds DACA and in total, 1.5 million people live with a DACA recipient. Some DACA recipients, like Luz Chavez Gonzalez, have had to step up as sole providers for their families during widespread lay-offs — both of Luz’s parents, and her two siblings have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The pandemic spotlights Latinx families vulnerability to economic insecurity during emergencies.

Impact of COVID-19 on DACA Recipients and their Families

Nationwide, immigrant are overrepresented in nearly every industry supplying essential jobs and services. An estimated six million immigrant workers, including more than 200,000 DACA recipients, are working to keep U.S supermarkets stocked and residents healthy. Many states extended broad authority for many businesses considered essential to keep operating, but few have done enough to enforce state and federal workplace protections. As a result, thousands are getting sick on the job. Farmworkers, workers in the meat packing industry, and domestic workers who are immigrants have been some of the hardest hit. More and more evidence has emerged that Latinx COVID-19 health disparities stem from systemic inequities. Latinx people are more likely to have low-paying service jobs that require them to work through the pandemic; have limited access to health care; live in close quarters; and as a result, are less likely to call out of work or seek treatment when they fall ill.

This is, in no small part, the consequence of systematic and ongoing efforts to deny workplace protections and services to low-income and people of color based on immigration status. The implementation of the Trump administration’s public charge rule that went into effect on February 24, 2020 is a case in point. Researchers found that the rule would lead to a decline in the health and financial stability because of immigrant families’ fears over how their use of public benefits would affect their adjustment of status petitions. Now, the very worst possible outcomes of excluding immigrants from federal programs are playing out at the worst time.

Despite the pressing need for greater COVID-19 medical attention, immigrants were mostly left out of Congress’ COVID-19 relief packages. Immigrants were also left out of the CARES Act economic impact payments due to language prohibiting payments for households with ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) filers, a detail not gone unnoticed. An Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy analysis found that 4.3 million adults and 3.5 million children were denied this benefit through the ITIN exclusion. Future payments should remedy this exclusion.

For all these destabilizing factors raised, a SCOTUS decision on DACA in favor of the Trump administration would be catastrophic not just for DACA recipients, but the families they provide for and the broader immigrant community in the U.S.

DACA Recipients Urge Sensitivity

On March 27, plaintiffs from one of the three DACA cases up for consideration, Wolf, et al., v. Batalla Vidal, et al, appealed to the Supreme Court that Justices consider the full breadth of consequences stemming from a decision during the pandemic. They also flagged Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Matthew Albence’s alarming threats of imminent deportation: “If they get ordered removed, and DACA is done away with by the Supreme Court, we can actually effectuate those removal orders.” The Supreme Court accepted this filing by plaintiffs and it was entered into the official record in a small victory for DACA recipients.

In the lead up to a decision, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by immigrant’s rights activist also produced more evidence of a credible fear of DACA recipient’s information being used in immigration enforcement. Namely, the FOIA uncovered edited congressional testimony and a trail of emails showing that ICE had been dishonest about its unobstructed access to DACA information, like addresses and last known filing date. Thus, even as it appears that the country is entering in a protracted recession, DACA recipients now also have to navigate around this landmine decision with possible deportation attached.

Where applicable, DACA recipients are still encouraged to submit renewals. Catholic Legal Immigration Network  (CLINIC) has a stepped up to provide up to date information for DACA recipients needing to renew. Inquiries about whether to renew should always be made to legal practitioners. CLINIC’s legal resources are available here.

Act in Solidarity with Immigrant Communities

This administration has been very blunt about its prejudice against the poor, brown, and Black immigrants, therefore, it very unlikely it will do right by recognizing the contributions of immigrants during the pandemic. It falls our elected representatives to support COVID-19 relief for immigrants and protect DACA recipients through legislation.

The Supreme Court decision could come at any time between now and the end of June. Please sign our petition asking the Senate to pass legislation protecting Dreamers: #Faith4DACA petition. Help us show that justice-seekers support DACA recipients in this time of hardship for them and for the country that we share.

For A Better COVID-19 Relief Plan, Let’s #FundFamilies

For A Better COVID-19 Relief Plan, Let’s #FundFamilies

Ness Perry 
May 12, 2020

On Thursday, May 7, 2020, NETWORK Lobby and our partners Moms Rising, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus, and The Coalition on Human Needs gathered virtually for a tweet storm encouraging Congress to #FundFamilies. This digital action aimed to ask for increased, consistent cash assistance for families and an expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Social media is key to putting pressure on Members of Congress while in-person lobbying and hill visits are no longer an option.

NETWORK participated in the #FundFamilies tweetstorm because our faith teaches us to care for people at the margins in our country. Our economic recovery package should support those who need it the most, which is why we call on Congress to provide cash payments to every adult until the pandemic is over. This should be given to households that did not receive prior support from the CARES Act. This includes low- or no-income families that do not file tax returns, and families with ITINs including mixed-immigration status households.

Families need direct aid, as well as credits in the coming tax season. We know that the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit works, therefore we must expand it to provide aid for more families. The Child Tax Credit leaves behind more than 1/3 of children in families who earn too little to get the full credit — including 1/2 of Black and Latinx children. In order to mend the racial wealth and income gap, we must call on Congress to provide relief for all families, especially families of color.

Here are some highlights from the event:

https://twitter.com/RepBarbaraLee/status/1258442973332869124

COVID-19 Illustrates and Amplifies Racism

COVID-19 Illustrates and Amplifies Racism

Alex Burnett and Colleen Ross
April 24, 2020

NETWORK’s advocacy is rooted in ensuring all have what they need to live healthy, dignified lives. COVID-19 is a new, global challenge to this mission. Both the health dangers as well as the economic ramifications of COVID-19 are very real threats to human life, but these threats do not affect everyone living in the United States the same way.

Due to centuries of systemic injustice, people of color in the United States are experiencing additional hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our federal government’s response must take this into account and prioritize assistance for communities of color in ongoing legislation.

Higher Rates of Infection and Death for People of Color

Across Washington, D.C. and every state that has collected coronavirus data by race and ethnicity, people of color are suffering and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than white people.

For the Black community especially, the number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 and died as a result of COVID-19 is vastly disproportional. Majority black counties have three times the rate of infections and nearly six times the rate of deaths as majority white counties, according to analysis done by the Washington Post. Data collected from the states by Mother Jones further illustrates the disparity for the Black community:

  • In Wisconsin, Black people represent 6% of the population and nearly 40% of COVID-19 fatalities
  • In Louisiana, Black people make up 32% of the state’s population but almost 60% of fatalities
  • In Kansas, 6% of the population is Black and yet Black people account for more than 30% of COVID-19 deaths

These higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death for the Black community are a direct reflection of the systemic racism present in our nation’s healthcare, housing, workforce, and society. Centuries of denying Black people access to quality health care, as well as other social determinants of health, have led to more Black people having chronic illnesses or underlying health conditions that lead to negative COVID-19 outcomes. COVID-19 is putting a spotlight on the deeply embedded racial inequities that impact health and well-being in the United States with or without a pandemic.

Workers of Color: Increased Risk, Cuts, and Unemployment

While many white professionals can work remotely during this crisis, a disproportionate number of people of color continue working public-facing, “essential” jobs. The Labor Department reported 30% of white workers and 37% of Asian American workers could work from home in 2017 and 2018, while 20% of Black workers and only 16% of Latinx workers could do so.

Despite anti-discrimination legislation, the U.S. labor market remains highly racially segregated, with more people of color in low-wage positions in health care, food service, childcare, public transportation, and shipping. Because these industries sustain the U.S. economy, “stay-at home” orders haven’t applied to their largely Black and brown workforces, meaning “essential” workers of color face heightened danger. According to a March 2020 report from the Economic Policy Institute, 80.3% of Black workers and 83.8% of Latinx workers cannot practice safe social distancing by working from home.

Within two months, the coronavirus crisis has left thousands of workers of color sick, dead, unemployed, and uninsured. In New York City, Black and Latinx people are dying from COVID-19 at twice the rate of whites, partially because many cannot work remotely. In majority Black cities and on Native American reservations, employers are firing workers of color at skyrocketing rates, leaving thousands without health insurance and income amidst a global pandemic.

Despite these circumstances, workers of color are leading movements for occupational safety and improved benefits. In Rhode Island, frontline healthcare workers, who are largely women of color, have repeatedly rallied for higher hazard pay, better personal protective equipment (PPE), and safer staffing levels. Amazon warehouse workers, who are primarily Black and Latinx, have organized numerous walkouts since the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, demanding safer working conditions. These movements demonstrate that workers of color are actively pressuring lawmakers and employers to mitigate COVID-19’s racist impact. As justice-seekers, we support these efforts and call for elected officials and business leaders to value people over profits.

Greater Economic Losses for People of Color

The COVID-19 virus is both a public health crisis and an economic one, and people of color are disproportionately affected on both counts. NPR found the U.S. March jobs data showed worse rates of unemployment for people of color, with the share of white people who are employed falling by 1.1%, while Black people had a 1.6% drop, Asian Americans 1.7%, and Latinos 2.1%.

Long term economic fallout from this crisis will likely hit communities of color hardest, expanding the already-significant racial wealth and income gap in the U.S. Hispanic, Black, and Native American families lost the most in wealth and income during the Great Recession, with homeownership and wealth never fully rebounding for these communities.

Now, the effects of economic downturn will impact communities of color again, both in the long term as well as the short term. In these uncertain times, families, especially families of color, are struggling to stay housed as well as put food on the tables.

For immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families, the federal government’s response to COVID-19 has left them out. The CARES Act stimulus checks for individuals and families do not accept an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), which prevents up to 20% of Latinx people from receiving this assistance, according to Orson Aguilar, executive director of UnidosUS Action Fund. NETWORK is advocating for Congress to extend this assistance to taxpayers using ITINs, and to include them in future financial assistance.

Both the short and long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic must be taken seriously, and the racial realities must be addressed to prevent further growth of the racial wealth and income gap.

Escalation of Anti-Asian Racism and Prejudice

Following the emergence and spread of the COVID-19 illness, there has also been a rise in anti-Asian racism in direct words and actions. In the United States, racist incidents have been reported across the country. At the same time, President Trump and his administration have deliberately used incorrect, racist terms to refer to the virus. Using incorrect, racist terms instead of the official name for the virus: COVID-19 or the coronavirus, creates undue hardship and diverts attention and energy that needs to go toward protecting all people from illness and additional suffering.

This anti-Asian racism is not new, but a re-emergence of long-standing racism and xenophobia toward Asian Americans, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for centuries. Now, faith leaders and elected officials, as well as actors and athletes have stepped in to renounce this racism and call our nation to a more just, more inclusive way of being during this difficult time. Anti-Asian racism, whether from an average person or from the President, have no place in our response to this global pandemic.

Serious Risks for Incarcerated and Detained Individuals

Because coronavirus spreads through touching, coughing, and sharing close physical space, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on U.S. prisons and detention centers, where Black, Latinx, and Native American people comprise over 60% of the population. In many prisons, including the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, Louisiana, administrators have not released people or implemented social distancing measures, putting incarcerated people at considerable risk of contracting COVID-19. Such inaction, combined with already widespread medical neglect and unsanitary conditions, caused hundreds of incarcerated people across the country to contract and die from coronavirus in March and April.

As of early April, in federal prisons, seven inmates have died of COVID-19, and almost 200 more inmates, as well as 63 staff, have been infected. Migrants detained in San Diego’s Otay Mesa Detention Center feel particularly afraid of dying from coronavirus-related medical negligence, citing lack of testing kits and soap, according to Buzzfeed News.

Disturbed that COVID-19 is exacerbating already unsafe medical conditions, incarcerated people and their allies are organizing for freedom, justice, and safety. In Michigan and Arizona, hundreds of cars rallied outside of prisons, demanding the immediate release of every incarcerated person. In Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California, incarcerated people and detained migrants launched hunger strikes to advocate for their release from medically unsanitary conditions. Thankfully, some of these activists have won victories. After a staffer at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility in Massachusetts possibly contracted COVID-19, Mario Rodas Sr., an incarcerated migrant, worked with the ACLU to secure his release. The ACLU is litigating similar cases in Maryland, California, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Additional Reading:

To learn more about the impact of the coronavirus on communities of color, we recommend the following:

Stop Blaming Black People for Dying of the Coronavirus
By Ibram X. Kendi published in the Atlantic April 14, 2020

4 reasons coronavirus is hitting Black communities so hard
By Eugene Scott, published in the Washington Post April 10, 2020

Latinos disproportionately dying, losing jobs because of the coronavirus: ‘Something has to change’
By Marco della Cava, published in USA Today April 18, 2020

How the coronavirus is surfacing America’s deep-seated anti-Asian biases
By Li Zhou, published in Vox April 21, 2020

The Economic Fallout of the Coronavirus for People of Color
By Connor Maxwell and Danyelle Solomon at the Center for American Progress, April 14, 2020

Mass incarceration could add 100,000 deaths to US coronavirus toll, study finds
By Ed Pilkington, published in the Guardian April 22, 2020

Dreamers Brace for SCOTUS Decision

Dreamers Brace for SCOTUS Decision

Giovana Oaxaca
March 19, 2020

The executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has withstood a number of legal challenges over the years. In a few months, however, the delicate future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients will face yet another test. Let the Senate know that immigrants are welcome in our nation by signing our petition.

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the DACA cases that the Supreme Court considered for review in the fall 2019 term. Although there exist legislative solutions, such as the Dream and Promise Act which passed the House and the Dream Act and SECURE Act (introduced in the Senate), Congress has so far failed to pass meaningful protections for undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action and temporary protected status. This has deferred the DACA matter to court cases, which have put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA in September 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching effects by deciding the fate of the program for the near future.

Watch interfaith leaders pray for the protection of immigrants, refugees, and DACA recipients in the #Faith4DACA vigil.

The stakes have never been higher. In a recent survey, over fifty percent of DACA recipients reported that they fear being detained or deported from the United States at least once a day. An even greater share of DACA recipients surveyed reported that they feared being separated from their children. The Supreme Court’s decision will alter the reality for the millions of DACA recipients living and working in the U.S. If the Supreme Court rules with the Trump Administration, this would leave thousands stranded with few recourses, in the very place they call home.

Brief Overview

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating DACA, a decision that was been met with instant legal pushback. More than ten cases were filed challenging the administration’s decision. After a number of judges issued preliminary injunctions protecting the program, the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.  Late last year, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s petition, agreeing to hear arguments for three cases on November 12th, 2019. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the DACA cases and an array of other high-profile cases are expected in June 2020.

Speculated Outcomes

Legal advocates, allies, and organizations are bracing for the court’s ruling.

  • The court may conclude it may review the administration’s decision. It may then rule that the termination is unlawful or lawful. A ruling stating that the action was unlawful would be good for DACA recipients because it would mean that the administration should not have terminated DACA under its reasoning at the time. The court may rule that the administration’s decision was lawful. This would be bad for DACA recipients because it would mean the administration could begin rolling back the program. It is also possible that the court could find DACA itself unlawful at this time. This would mean that the government could stop accepting renewals of applications.
  • The Supreme Court may decide not to review the administration’s decision to terminate. A ruling along these lines would mean that the administration could commence rolling back the program; it could also mean that a future administration could reinstate it.

High-profile businesseshigher education institutions, former national security officials, and religious organizations have joined a litany of amicus briefs in support of DACA recipients. The plight of Dreamers clearly resonates with the majority of Americans. As it stands, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship. For now, the decision to stay DACA rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.