A big march and conference event on racism headed to Washington April 4, and its success will depend on whether conservatives can do the right thing, according to a story in the Washington Post.
“Dozens of Christian denominations are using the April 4 anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to gather – including at a large rally on the Mall – and demand that Christians directly confront their own racism and that within the American church,” Michelle Boorstein of the Post wrote in a story headlined, “To honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, Christian groups plan to confront racism. But what that means is unclear.”
“Does it center on truth-telling – an admission of racism as a reality and a sign and a deepening of interracial relationships? Or should it be about marshaling power to change policies involving criminal justice, educational inequity and other issues? Some black faith leaders won’t even use the world ‘reconciliation’ because they think that over the decades, it has kept the focus on the small, interpersonal level rather than systemic change.”
Boorstein then relays a quote that shows what side the Post comes down on in this discussion.
“I can tell you, the second you tell me, ‘Come participate in racial reconciliation,’ I’m rolling my eyes,” she quotes Rev. Jonathan Walton, minister at Harvard University’s Memorial Church, as saying. “I don’t need you to hug me and tell me you’re sorry. I need you to raise your voice against predatory lending within communities of color.”
Online lending is a sore spot with the political left, even though many of its working-class supporters depend on it. In 2016, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau solicited comments from recipients of online loans in advance of regulations it was planning. Some 12,000 people responded, and 98 percent of them approved of the industry and said their experiences with it were positive.
Boorstein says organizers of the Washington event, called “Act Now! United to End Racism,” do not want to the pigeonholed as left-leaning political actors, even though all the religious organizations that have announced support for it – the National Council of Churches, a network of 38 mostly progressive denominations; “several major African American Christian umbrella groups,” the largest American Jewish denomination, the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal group, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a decidedly left-wing organization – come from the left.
They worry that the pro-abortion stance taking during the 2017 Women’s March on Washington would turn away prospective allies in this march. But the progressive agenda in general is what seems to be promoted by organizers.
Boorstein quoted Wendy Thomas, a Memphis journalist who founded the nonprofit reporting project MLK50.com, which deals with economic justice and King’s legacy. Thomas said she is displeased with both white and black churches in Memphis because they do not take up the struggle as she sees fit.
“Most white Southern faith leaders and many black ones were not supportive of King at the time of his death – and many are silent now,” Boorstein wrote, summarizing Thomas’ comments. “Most white churches in the city where he was killed don’t take up racism at all, she said. With some exceptions, black pastors still hammer away on the importance of improving one’s own mind-set rather than tackling institutional change as a way to ease racial inequity, she said.
‘There is still this focus on ‘you need to pull up your pants’ – like that’s what’s wrong with society,’” Thomas told Boorstein.
The author concludes with her view of what has to happen for the march to succeed – and it’s that conservatives come prepared to be converted to progressivism.
“The Washington rally has its list of policy prescriptions and could lose rally-goers if too many speakers focus on conservative societal solutions such as government deregulation or budget-cutting,” Boorstein wrote. “Progressives such as Walton, of Harvard, are looking for racism to be tied directly to sexism, homophobia and class.
“Are we going to be able to have an intersectional message … where injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?” Walton asked.