At its June meeting, the Board of Trustees of First Unitarian Church passed a “Church Policy on the New Jim Crow: Racism and Incarceration.”
It was the first time in recent memory that the Board has taken action in support of a social justice movement. The policy puts the church on record in support of the growing movement to address mass incarceration of people of color, especially young males. It calls on church members to:
- Condemn the pattern of inadequate school discipline policies based on race;
- Condemn targeting people of color in our society, negating their inherent worth and dignity through patterns in our law enforcement systems, criminal justice systems, and structures;
- Condemn the continuing practice of institutional racism and disproportionate incarceration in our society, and witness for racial fairness.
- Expand individual and community knowledge and awareness of the many manifestations of the “New Jim Crow;”
- Petition local, state, and federal representatives to end institutional racism in all its forms and practices;
- Form Unitarian Universalist, interfaith, and community partnerships for organizing, advocacy, and demonstrating to end institutional racism, unjust laws, and disproportionate incarceration of people of color.
The statement asserts that the “school-to-prison pipeline, racial profiling in the enforcement of the War on Drugs, and other systemic and structural racial bias in police and criminal justice systems” are “moral catastrophes.” The policy proposal was brought to the board of trustees by Rev. Paula Maiarano, a member of First Unitarian Church who serves as co-leader of Delaware’s Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow.
Rise in United States incarceration rate, 1920 to 2013. (wikimedia Commons)
“We use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. . . . As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
—Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, at the UU General Assembly, 2012