Pastor Jerry’s Statement on the Racial Tensions in Our Country
July 9, 2020
Noblesville First UMC has been a leader in the community of Noblesville in many ways through the years. Several of our members offer vital leadership in community organizations and nonprofit enterprises that assist the most vulnerable among us. In recent years we have worked with other congregations to expand the Noblesville Martin Luther King, Jr celebration and helped to found Family Promise Ministry of Hamilton County. We have partnered with Janus Developmental Services for Special Needs Adults and hosted English Language Learners to assist the integration of immigrants into the U.S. Our Social Justice Advocacy Team has pushed for immigration reform and stood in support of public education in Indiana. We’ve also hosted an Indy SURJ White Ally Training event, hosted social & environmental justice-focused film screenings, and participated in the Youth Matter Peace March.
At the end of May, we were shocked by the blatant disregard of human life in the death of George Floyd. This incident, along with many others, caused us to reach out to Bethel AME of Noblesville. We became a part of a conversation with the Noblesville Diversity Coalition, the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce, the Noblesville Public Safety Director and Noblesville Schools to organize a Peaceful Protest to proclaim that black lives matter. This event was well-attended with approximately 1,500 in attendance.
Since that time, community conversations have continued, book clubs have been organized. Currently, our Noblesville Church Staff is reading the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. We believe this needs to be an ongoing conversation which begins with an awareness of the systemic racism that is deeply woven into our society and even within ourselves. We cannot change a system without first changing ourselves.
The evidence for Systemic Racism is overwhelming. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 may have legally ended slavery but it did not bring an end to racism. African Americans were prevented from participating in the Homestead Act of 1863 which meant Black people became the only race in American to start out with zero capital. Having nothing to build or generate wealth, the majority of freedmen had little chance of breaking the cycles of poverty created by slavery and perpetuated by government policy. Jim Crows laws segregated public schools, public places and public transportation and deeply ingrained racial perceptions among whites. The rise of the KKK in northern states reinforced the separation of the races. Today 75% of whites in America cannot claim one African American in their circle of friends.
Systemic racism is harder to recognize today but it persists in the inequities which have not been overcome. Black people with a college degree are two times as likely to be unemployed as all other graduates. Job applicants with white-sounding names get called back about 50% more often than applicants with black-sounding names, even when they have identical resumes. Black students overall are three times more likely to be suspended than white students even when their infractions are similar. Once Black children are in the criminal system, they are eighteen times more likely than white children to be tried as an adult. Black drivers are 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over by the police.*
We’ve come to understand racism is a white problem, and it will not be eliminated until we discover the inherent racism within ourselves and the institutions we benefit from. We may not feel hatred for other races as individuals but we benefit from the advantages of living in a dominant white culture every day. We fail to see the challenges Black people have to face simply because of the color of their skin.
Consider these statistics if you doubt the reality of white privilege: US Congress: 90% white; US Governors: 96% white; top military advisers: 100% white; people who decide which TV shows we see: 93% white; people who decide which books we read: 90% white; people who decide which news is covered 85% white; people who directed the one hundred top-grossing films of all time, worldwide: 95% white; teachers 82% white; full-time college professors 84% white.**
Our next step as a church staff will be to study the book How to Become an Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi. We are currently looking into the best way to engage our congregation in this conversation and begin making informed decisions that can lead to lasting change. Many will argue the church shouldn’t be entering into politics. We do not see this as a political issue, we believe this is a human issue. All lives will not matter until Black lives matter. Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.”
*Source: 7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism is Real, https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2016/systemic-racism-is-real
**Source: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo p. 31