We, South Coast leaders of faith and leaders for social equality, come together to affirm the heart of our different traditions — we all are made equally in the image of the divine, all life is sacred, and every human being is our neighbor, worthy of love.
Despite this common truth, we as a nation consciously or unconsciously deny that our society is structured in ways that gives privilege to people who are born white and disfavors those who are not.
The pain, anger, and heartbreak manifesting today in the United States of America started 400 years ago when human beings were first stolen from Africa and enslaved for forced labor. Fellow human beings, deprived of all rights, were considered property that could be treated brutally, raped, and disposed of at will by predominantly white owners.
White dominance continued after the Civil War as the North, imposing its own restrictions on newly emancipated people, was complicit with the failure of reconstruction in the South. The whole nation promulgated laws and practices that disenfranchised all African Americans.
Both northern and southern states deliberately created exclusive zoning and red lining, forcibly displacing African American lawful owners. Budgets for education, healthcare, housing, and social services in predominantly black neighborhoods were severely and deliberately curtailed. Suppression of the black vote, especially egregious in the Jim Crow South, was also practiced in the North.
Police forces, derived from posses to chase runaway slaves, were created largely to keep white neighborhoods “safe” from incursion by non-whites. The use of force in enforcement is considered an acceptable norm. The selective application of laws by the criminal justice system promotes mass incarceration of the black community.
We also acknowledge that the violence against people of color harkens to the license white settlers took in the mass slaughter and dislocation of indigenous people while appropriating their lands. The disregard for basic human rights is part of our birthright as a nation.
Many of us do not even acknowledge or understand that we have subliminally accepted the structure of a society that gives privilege to those who are born white. We ignorantly proclaim innocence or reject responsibility — “I am not a racist,” “I am color blind,” “I have black friends,” and “All Lives Matter,” all the while benefiting from easy credit, easy hiring and promotions for work, forgiveness for minor infractions; all that are not afforded to people of color.
Structural injustices need to be dismantled piece by piece. Given the immense challenge of our past and our present, we affirm another core belief of our faith traditions — we are called to work for justice. We see hope in this moment, believing this time to be another turning point in true racial justice. Though the arc is long it bends towards justice.
We express our solidarity with and gratitude to activists and protestors in the South Coast and across our nation. We know that silence is complicity, and we are deeply grateful for your voice and witness.
Some of us have worked many years and some are just awakening, but now awake we vow to not go back to sleep. We are committed to work together for racial and social justice. Our specific commitments vary depending on our racial and institutional positions, yet we know that it requires listening and truth-telling, humility and urgency, sincerity and resolve.
We commit to honest, open, and challenging conversation, while we continue doing our homework, educating ourselves about the many ways that white favoritism and structural racism are woven into the history and fabric of our nation and our lives.
We will work with our faith communities and social networks to explicitly engage in public education and dialogue around the issues of white privilege, anti-blackness, and structural racism. Our work for social justice is inseparably tied to our faith traditions. Speaking in one voice against hatred and ignorance, our interfaith and inter-organizational cooperation is strong.
We call on others in our community, especially those in positions of leadership and law enforcement, to intentionally and critically review how we, as institutions and individuals, continue to perpetuate racism and white privilege in our laws and our practices.
Beyond examining our hearts and our relationships, our laws must also be revisited. We commit to being informed about, involved in, and acting on public policy and legislation that will address systemic issues.
As the headlines shift focus, we vow together to continue our focus on this sacred internal and external work. We call on all in our communities to look inward, confess those things that we have done, or have not done. We pledge to come to the table and collaborate together in the long, hard work of anti-racism and social justice.
Reverend Darryl D. Malden, Pastor, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Fall River
The Rev. Christopher R. Morck, Grace Episcopal Church, New Bedford
Rev David Lupo, sscc, Pastor, St. Mary’s Church, Fairhaven
Reverend MaryAnn Purtill, Ordained Minister of The United Church of Christ, Southern New England Conference
The Rev. Melissa Howell, Curate, Grace Episcopal Church, New Bedford
The Rev. Dr. Virginia H. Child, United Church of Christ Pastor
Sister Marianna Sylvester, RSM, parishioner, Our Lady of the Assumption Church, New Bedford
Rabbi Raphael Kanter. Tifereth Israel Congregation, New Bedford
Rev. Jordinn Nelson Long, Lead minister, Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven
Deborah Zane, Pastoral Associate, Catholic Collaborative of Central Fall River
Karen Andersen, Minister, First Unitarian in New Bedford
Rev. Jim Hornsby, Rector Emeritus, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Fall River
The Rev Jack H Haney, Grace Episcopal Church, New Bedford
Reverend Paul H. Wheeler, Trinity Lutheran Church, Fairhaven
The Reverend Alan R. Hesse, Christ Church Swansea
Rev. David A. Lima, Executive Minister, Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford
The Rev. Emily J. Kellar, United Church of Christ
Fr. Philip C. Jacobs, OGS (Retired)
New Bedford Human Relations Commission
United Interfaith Action of Southeastern MA
The Rev. Susan H. Lee, Ph.D., Rector, and the Vestry, St Luke’s Episcopal Church, Fall River
The Rev. M Lise Hildebrandt, Interim Priest, and the Vestry, Church of the Holy Spirit, Fall River
Very Rev. Thomas Washburn, CATHOLIC COMMUNITY OF CENTRAL FALL RIVER, Rector: Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, Pastor: Good Shepherd Parish and Saint Stanislaus Parish
Martin Bentz, Outreach Coordinator, Islamic Society of Southeastern Massachusetts
Cantor Nathaniel Schudrich, Tifereth Israel Congregation, New Bedford
Westport Monthly Meeting of Friends
Rev. Donald S. Mier, retired
The NAACP, New Bedford Branch
Rev. David P. Reid ss.cc. Parochial Administrator, Our Lady of the Assumption, New Bedford
Rev. Bette McClure, United Church of Christ Minister
Rev. Paul Langston-Daley, Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven
Gail Fortes, Executive Director, YWCA Southeastern MA
Rev. Dr. Amy Lignitz Harken, Minister, DOC/UCC
Cantor Shoshana Brown, Temple Beth El, Fall River
Rabbi Mark Elber, Temple Beth El, Fall River
Dax Crocker, South Coast Lead Organizer, Episcopal City Mission
Maria A. Rosario, Executive Director, NorthStar Learning Center, New Bedford
Deena Kinsky, Clerk, Mattapoisett Friends Meeting
The Reverend Charles Cloy, Pastor, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, New Bedford
Rev. Scott A. Ciosek, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Dartmouth
Union Baptist Church, New Bedford
Rev. David A. Buehler, O.S.M .
Rev. John Centeio
Helena DaSilva Hughes, Executive Director, Immigrants Assistance Center
Rev. Steven Rodrigues, Senior Pastor, His Mercy Church, New Bedford
*List of signatories corrected from previous versions (8/9/20)
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