Category Archives: Racism

Advent 2021: The Struggle for Racial Justice

Advent 2021: The Struggle for Racial Justice

Joan Neal
November 27, 2021

The 1st Sunday of Advent symbolizes Hope with the “Prophet’s Candle” reminding us of the prophetic ministries, especially Isaiah, that foretold of Jesus’ birth. In this year’s Advent reflection series from NETWORK, Joan Neal, our Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer, reflects on the implications that the coming of Jesus at Christmas has for racial justice in our world today:

God is with Us in the Struggle for Racial Justice

Advent is a time when so many Christians prepare to welcome Jesus at Christmas. But what does that mean lived out in the U.S. today? And what demands does it make of us who believe? Remember, Jesus was a person of color and member of a religious and ethnic group that lived in the shadow of the most powerful empire in the history of the world up to that time.

“He knew what it was to be oppressed in this system,” says writer, activist, and NETWORK board member Leslye Colvin. “He knew the history of his people and how his people had been in bondage, and all the ups and down of their journey.”

From the moment he is born, Jesus is a target of state powers that seek his violent and unjust death. They ultimately succeeded, abetted by religious leaders of the time, in publicly putting him to death in his 30s. There are still people who are unjustly targeted today. Despite making up only 13% of the population, Black people comprise 38% of the U.S. prison population and over a third of defendants executed in the U.S. in the last 45 years. Among unarmed victims, police kill three times as many Black people as white people. Also, Black and other people of color face persistent and pernicious efforts to exclude our voices from the political process through restrictive new voting laws that 17 states have enacted in just the past year. Unjust racial targeting is alive and well today.

In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus urges us, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent.” These words resonate, not just with Black people and other people of color, but with the struggle of all who hunger and thirst for racial justice. None of us can afford to turn a blind eye or to ignore the growing racism and racial violence in our country. We have seen the cost of falling asleep will be catastrophic for the entire country.

Advent calls us all, especially people of faith, to stay awake! To be willing, as Jesus was, to see and confront morally unfair structures and to stand for justice no matter the cost. To truly make a place for Jesus in our hearts and our country, we must realize and embrace our common humanity and God-given dignity. We must summon the strength to live in solidarity rather than in separation. Trusting that God is always with us, we must be prophets and practitioners of this change today.

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Running from the past is no way to dismantle racism

Running from the past is no way to dismantle racism

Julia Morris
November 23, 2021

Did you know that the Catholic Church was one of the largest slave holders in North America? Me neither.

I have spent over a decade in the church and in countless hours of schooling, Mass, and service projects no one mentioned this to me once. I went to Catholic school for 12 years, 5th grade through college, but it was not until my post-grad Catholic year of service that I learned that the Catholic Church played a role in American slavery.

The private Catholic education system did not just forget to teach me and countless other, predominantly white students about this history. The Catholic Church is and was, running from an uncomfortable past.

The church’s history runs parallel, overlapping, and intertwined with white supremacy United States. The Catholic Church was a major player in the transatlantic slave trade, and the effects of white supremacy are still felt today, as researcher Robert P. Jones reports that white Christians who regularly attend church on Sundays are more likely to hold racial bias.

While the church did not teach me about racism, it did teach me about sins of omission, or leaving out parts of the truth to manipulate your listener. Leaving out parts of our history is lying. If the public education system in the United States was to do the same, it would not only be immoral but contribute to the increasing distrust our citizens have towards our own institutions.

What kind of effects could excluding teaching students about racism have on the American public? Take a look at Catholic politicians.

President Biden was Catholic educated yet he upholds Title 42. A Trump era immigration policy instated under the guise of containing the spread of COVID, which former CDC officials reveal they found no evidence that it would have any control to slow the spread of COVID were “forced to do it”, by the Trump administration. Biden’s choice to uphold Title 42 shows his either lack of care for or his inability to see the policy’s xenophobia.

Senator Joe Manchin is Catholic, in spite of foundational Catholic teachings that uphold the family and caring for children, he still pushed for work requirements for the Child Tax Credit that would benefit 400,000 children in West Virginia. Work requirements are a well-known dog whistle aimed at demonizing Black and Brown folks living in poverty.

Lets face it: This is a lose, lose, lose situation. Pandering to racists doesn’t help advance good policy. Refusing to reconcile is hurting the church’s numbers. People of color, as usual, are paying the price with food insecurity, facing bigotry, and their lives.

If the Catholic Church is actually serious when it says that racism is an intrinsic evil, then Catholic educators, politicians, and voters are going to need to start acting like it. So take it from me and the 87% of Americans who want this to be taught in schools -– not teaching about racism helps no one.

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