Tag Archives: social justice

Steps Toward Healing Wounds of Jim Crow

Social justice is an unwelcome term in some circles, calling to mind political opportunism and race baiting. Many other people use the term to describe what Christians should understand (and should have understood for centuries) as properly loving your neighbor. Author and professor Anthony Bradley says maybe we need to lay aside social justice in favor of transitional justice, the kind of measures taken in response a state that has ignored proper judicial measures for a long time.

In fairness, America did attempt to redress issues with voting, housing, employment, and the like. The blind fallacy, however, was the belief that we could change a few federal laws and move on. But we moved on without addressing the need to foster peace and reconciliation between whites and blacks, especially in the South and large urban areas. We moved on without dealing with the post-traumatic stress of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. We moved on without holding people and institutions accountable for massive amounts of person-to-person and structural injustice.

He offers seven principles for America to use in healing the wounds we still feel, urging us not to skip to the application before building the foundation. Here’s #2.

It is quite unbelievable that African Americans were not given formal opportunities to recount, on record, exactly what happened during Jim Crow. A truth commission would allow us to hear the truth about Jim Crow. We need to gather firsthand accounts while we still can. Without getting the truth on record, we run the risk of exaggerations of history on both sides. It would be safe to say, as a result, that the average American under the age of fifty cannot explain the details of what life was like for blacks during Jim Crow. Individual states still have opportunities to establish Jim Crow truth and reconciliation commissions.

And from #3.

Recognizing survivors of Jim Crow as suffering real harm, including economic harm, would have allowed us to contextualize both their trauma and struggles with agency in the years that followed. Instead, America largely chose a “let’s just move on and not talk about the past” approach with a few one-size-fits-all federal legal remedies, which ultimately failed to deliver much of what they promised by the time we reached the 1980s.

Standing with the Oppressed

There is beauty in this land, but I don't always feel it.

The growing pains in the Evangelical church today are in America’s race problem and the issues of social justice. I heard a pastor this year say Jesus’ message was largely one of social justice, and if I hear that term with political ears, I reject it. If I hear “social justice” and think “social gospel” and all the bad theology that has been woven into that, then I can’t help but reject it, but if I understand “social justice” to mean loving one’s neighbor, then I can accept it, maybe not as my primary choice of words, but as an understandable choice.

Believers today need to come to grips with the particulars of loving our neighbors, rejecting the political hostility and individualism that may feel natural to us. How much has personal comfort (ignoring real sacrifice) become our standard for judging God’s will for our lives?

A few days ago, a pastor in my denomination and his daughter were arrested for demonstrating in the St. Louis metro area on the anniversary of the shooting of Mike Brown. I believe he was trying get a petition heard by a federal marshall. They were arrested for obstructing entrances that were already obstructed by official barricades. They talk about it with Jamar Tisby here. This is moving. I encourage you to listen to this.