One of the emphasis of Matthew 25 Project is to dismantle structural racism. Society over the centuries has put in place structures, laws, unwritten rules that allow for racism to continue and divide despite our saying we are not “racists”. Structural Racism is not primarily about individuals’ prejudice but rather about the system that allows, some just by the color of the skin, to have advantages over others.
The Presbytery Mission Agency (PMA) asserts that structural racism can show up in many ways including:
- Housing discrimination that was codified after World War II with “red lining” and continues today by limits to where people of color can live and by making it difficult to be homeowners.
- Laws and Policies that deny people of color access to quality education, employment and adequate health care.
- Food insecurity or apartheid by having “food deserts”, areas that do not have access to quality or affordable food.
- Mass incarceration and a criminal justice system that targets people of color with lengthier sentences, inadequate access to attorneys and bail laws that favor rich over poor.
- Environmental racism when the dumping of hazardous waste, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of access to clean water that results in a range of serious health problems in communities of color who already are limited on access to good health care.
The protest this week were about the death of George Floyd and others who have died too soon because of our inability to address structural and individual racism. People were willing to risk becoming ill with COVID 19 in order that they be heard and to say “NO MORE”.
The riots and fires are not to be condoned. Yet protest need to continue in many different forms because we cannot continue to allow God’s people to be divided and harmed. We cannot be silent.
The Presbytery of Newton for the last 7 years has been moving forward with conversations about racism, white privilege and the structural systems that keep people divided and oppressed. We will continue to work towards the place God is calling us to be as faith communities.
We have a page on our website that has resources about Racism and dismantling structural racism. Resources and information will be added on egularly. The Presbytery Coordinating Team will have a discussion at their next meeting on possible and tangible steps for our presbytery to be engaged in this necessary work. We will be encouraging and engaging congregations to accept the invitation to be a Matthew 25 Congregation and to work together on ways we can be vital congregations, dismantle structural racism and eradicate systemic poverty.
The PMA contends that deeply ingrained racist systems and structures in our communities and presbytery takes sensitivity, determination and stamina. Before faith communities can confront the harsh realities of racism, it is helpful to have a good foundation.
The PMA recommends before faith communities start their work that they engage in a 21-Day Racial Justice Challenge. The challenge invites us to do something every day to raise our self awareness about the harmfulness of racism and encourage action in response to that awareness. The PC(USA) has joined several nonprofits, organizations and school systems in adapting the challenge for use in our congregations.
Each day there is a different challenge such as reading, a video or a question for reflection. The Presbytery Staff has all agreed to take on the 21 Day Challenge for Justice starting Monday, June 8. You can find the challenge at the PMA webpage and starting Monday it will be on our webpage and each day on our Facebook page.
This isn’t the answer to Structural Racism, but it is a small step that we can take. This conversation will continue in the Presbytery just as it has over the last years.
The 2016 General Assembly policy “Facing Racism: A Vision of the intercultural Community” states:
Racism is a lie about our fellow human beings, for it says that some are less than others. It is also a lie about God, for it falsely claims that God favors parts of creation over the entirety of creation. Because of our biblical understanding of who God is and what God intends for humanity, the PC(USA) must stand against, speak against and work against racism. Anti-racist effort is not optional for Christians. It is an essential aspect of Christian discipleship, without which we fail to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.