Sister Simone and Faith Leaders Declare: Black Lives Matter to God
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
June 4, 2020
On Wednesday, June 3, Sister Simone joined faith leaders outside of the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C. to declare that Black Lives Matter and Black lives are sacred to God. Together, the speakers demanded the immediate cessation of racist police abuse of protesters; accountability for the white supremacist killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery; and called our nation to end systematic racism everywhere from the local courthouse to the White House.
Black lives matter to God. People of faith demand that Black lives matter to our government.
Speakers, including Sister Simone :
Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life Action Fund
Rev. Andre Towner, District of Columbia Baptist Convention
Rev. Aundreia Alexander, National Council of Churches
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Rev. Leslie Copeland-Tune, National Council of Churches
Lisa Sharon Harper, Founder and President, Freedom Road
Read Sister Simone Campbell’s remarks:
Good morning, I am Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. And I am so honored to be here this morning and stand with my brothers and sisters for this call to end the racism that has rampaged through our nation for centuries. Rev. Alexander, you noted the beginnings of it in 1619. Here, just across the river, down the river a little in Virginia, we have had those seeds of our original sin as a nation. And we must repent, change, and beg forgiveness.
And so, I want to direct my remarks to my white brothers and sisters who might feel uncomfortable, unsure, slightly timid that they might say something wrong. Let me tell you, the time is now for us as white people to mend our ways. Change our direction. Welcome our brothers and sisters as one. And for those of us in the Christian tradition, to live up to the command to love one another. But it’s not just about the personal relationships. I want to highlight a couple of the structural problems we face as a nation that too often get glossed over because it makes us white folk uncomfortable.
So take a deep breath, we’re grown ups. We can do this. We can do this! And look at the structure that created the economic imbalance in our society.
After the civil war, white plantation owners got reimbursed by our federal government for their loss of labor. That provided the nest egg, the money that helped south to flourish in reconstruction. But did the laborers get reimbursed for their hours and hours and hours of toil? No. And the one promise of 40 acres and mule got quickly withdrawn. “Oh we couldn’t possibly… you know it just really doesn’t work fiscally… We just couldn’t possibly do it.” That is one of the beginnings.
Then we have a whole series of legislation that looks perfectly fine on the face of it, but when it comes to the application, is racist at its core. Post-World War II, we had the fabulous G.I. Bill – it meant all the difference in the world to my family. But then in my study I discovered, Black families were left out. Black military folks weren’t able to apply. If they even were eligible, then they were eligible then they couldn’t get into a college or buy a house because “Oh you know those neighborhoods are dangerous.” That is the structural racism that we’ve got to change. That is the way forward to make it a difference in the United States. Maybe even finally, United. Can’t we come together on this truth of what we hunger for? An economy that supports us all? Its not just us, people of faith that say this – its everyone knows: we all do better when we all do better.
But white folk, we’ve got to change. It’s up to us. We’ve got work to do. We have a challenge ahead of us and I am very proud of my organization – that has a diverse membership – but, well it’s still mostly white. I am very proud that our Board three weeks ago made the determination that in order to address this issue of racism we have to start at the top. And we have committed ourselves to oppose reelection of this president who promotes the most grievous, racial, what we call dogmas in our nation. We have got to stop this at the voting booth.
Now, I want to give you a piece of good news. Yesterday, the people of western Iowa woke up and they voted to nominate not Congressman Steve King who has been in Congress I think its seven or nine terms, no! They voted for a new person because they were tired of his racism. Well, if western Iowa can do that my friends, I have heart for the white folk listening. We can do this. And my African American sisters and brothers, know that our effort to engage the structural racism that you know all too keenly is done in solidarity with you. Being a part of you, supporting you, knowing that your voice has got to lead because you know the deepest pain of it all.
And so, I want to close with a piece of scripture that I hold onto, but think of it in a new way. White folk, you know, we are called to act justly. Let us act justly and end this racism. To act justly to love tenderly. We have got to expand our love so that we include everyone, and walk humbly with our God. I know that it is only with the assistance of the spirit of the Divine that we will be able to make these changes, but my dear friends, with the spirit we can have the courage, the fire of commitment and indeed, the change we seek. Who we elect matters, November 3rd matters, and how we stand together matters. Let us make us one people, finally, for the United States of America.