April V. Taylor
Rev. Jim Wallis, who is a Christian writer and political activist and also founded Sojourners, marched with fellow clergy during Ferguson October’s Moral Monday protest. After being arrested alongside Dr. Cornel West, Carl Dix and more than forty others, Wallis did an interview with HuffPost Live in which he discussed the role white Christians must play in helping to dismantle the “racialized police system” that exists in the United States.
In the interview, Wallis points out that his teenage son does not have to live in fear of being killed by police and that as a parent, the does not have to have “the talk” with his son about how to survive excessive police violence. Regarding the talk that Black parents must have with their children, Wallis states, “Every black family, every black parent I know, has the talk with their son and even their daughters about how to behave when you’re in the presence of a white police officer with a gun or a white man with a gun because these new self-defense laws are licenses to kill. No white parents have the talk. They almost don’t have a clue it’s going on.”
Wallis goes on to point out that joining the movement against police violence and racialized policing is a duty of white Christians seeking to uphold their commitment to their faith. Specifically, he states, “We say we’re Christians, but you know, white Christians, we act more like white people than Christians. If we acted more Christian, black parents wouldn’t be so afraid for their kids.” Wallis gets even more direct in calling out white Christians for their failure to uphold their faith stating, “A lot of white people say they’re not racist and they’re against racism intellectually, but they’re not aware of how the criminal justice system is a racially implemented system.” Recent studies by Propublica and Standford University have shown that even white people who are aware of harsh sentencing laws and inequality within the criminal justice system do not feel enraged enough to make changes when they are reminded that it is people of color who are most affected by those racialized policies.
Wallis wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post following his arrest in Ferguson in which he discussed his personal motivations and why white Christians are an integral part of ending racialized policing. He states, “I went to Ferguson as a faith leader but, in particular, as a white faith leader. Because the great disparity between how differently young black lives are treated in our criminal justice system than young white lives is a fundamental injustice that must not only be left to black faith leaders to raise up. Repentance must begin in the white Christian community for tolerating this offense to our black brothers and sisters and, ultimately, this offense to God.”
In a simple and poignant statement, Wallis sums up his convictions and plea to white Christians by stating, “You can’t say you’re not a racist if you accept and support systems that clearly are.” Watch the full interview here.