Racial justice cannot be separated from economic justice.
Our American history has had too many instances of social groups being denied economic opportunities, or worse, being promised prosperity only to be deceived for the economic gain of others. The sordid history extends from redlining, to banks and insurance companies denying economic opportunities to certain geographical areas that had “undesirable racial concentrations,” to predatory, high-interest subprime mortgaging. These secret deals have handed over too many neighborhoods and cities to the bondage of economic disparity.
In the past years, we have seen more books and articles dedicated to exploring the history of systematic, economic oppression along racial lines. Books like Not In My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila have helped me better understand the social construction of the neighborhoods I walk and drive through as a resident of Baltimore City. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s article, “The Case for Reparations” weaves together this heinous history of wealth stalling and depletion and connects it to those living today. Like Isaiah, those who care about justice must become advocates and “speak to the weary” and set our “faces like flint.” Though our cities have been and still are places of deceit and treachery, we must face it head on, call it what it is, and put events into motion that will bring true transformation. We have been betrayed and have been the betrayers, but God is compassionate with our errors and offers us answers. But are we willing to look?
- When have you asked the question, “Why?” when faced with economic disparity in your neighborhood, community, or city?
- How have you actively played a role in helping to bring justice to the landscape of your neighborhood, community, or city?
Justin T. White serves as Ignatian ministries associate at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.