SDG #10: Reducing Inequality, Dismantling Racial Injustice

By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. –SDG Goal #10

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals highlight the unmet needs of our time, and the steps to take in achieving them. In Minnesota and in the United States as a whole, I am greatly motivated to reduce inequality (Goal #10).

Over the course of 19 days Black Lives Matter has peacefully occupied the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis in response to the November 19th shooting of Jamar Clark (whom witnesses say was handcuffed when fatally shot). The encampment ended yesterday morning when the police cleared protestors from the site. Nearly twelve hours later, a march to City Hall later further asserted the protestors’ request for the release of the police tapes without a grand jury.

On their Facebook page Black Lives Matter posted the following:

Over 300 of us took over City Hall 12 hours after a military style raid by over 100 police bulldozed the ‪#‎4thPrecinctShutDown, destroying the physical community we built together and arresting 8. Thank you to the thousands who have stood with us through an armed white supremacist terror attack, mace, batons, less lethal bullets, and freezing temperatures in the past 19 days since Jamar Clark was murdered by Minneapolis Police. Our work is not over, it has just begun.

The Minneapolis protests, vigils and occupations amongst many currently happening in our country are a blaring example of the social exclusion of black people in America. The lack of unfettered access to social power and resources are a product of an inherently racist design of systemic injustice, and is largely being acted out in our criminal justice system.

Michelle Alexander, author of the riveting book The New Jim Crow, wrote:

In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. 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.

To support the Black Lives Matter community the Justice Office offered direct action items such as firewood, 20151204_103940_resizedfood, and hand warmers for the protesters during the encampment. The Justice Office and Ritual and Liturgy Services offered a Prayer Vigil in Our Lady of The Presentation Chapel on Thursday and Friday December 3rd and 4th.  Elea Ingman, SJW, Justice Program Assistant made cards especially for the vigil, which will now be available in the ad center. We invite everyone to stop by to write a message of encouragement, a prayer, and/or a statement of support.

Please join us as we stand in solidarity with our Black Lives Matter family.

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This post was written by Megan Bender, Justice Associate

Justicia y Paz: Marching with CTUL to #ReclaimOurCity for the Rights of Workers

This morning I woke up at 4:30am, dressed (for the first time this year) in flannel jeans and long underwear, grabbed a mason jar of tea, and headed out into the chill morning air in the company of two of my housemates. Despite the cold and the early hour, we were bright-eyed and excited. Though we all work for non-profit organizations, it is sometimes hard to see what impact we are making. This morning, we were going to work for more palpable change; marching in solidarity with workers fighting for their rights.

Four St. Joseph Workers marched to Macy's in Downtown Minneapolis, joining students and workers.
Four St. Joseph Workers marched to Macy’s in Downtown Minneapolis, joining students and workers.

We were invited to the #ReclaimOurCity: March for Working Families through local organization CTUL. CTUL stands for Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, “The Center of Workers United in Struggle.” Today, they joined in a movement spanning 270 cities across the country, in which fast food employees, retail workers, and retail cleaners are going on strike to protest their lack of a livable wage.

The march this morning was a diverse mix of students, workers, allies, and CTUL staff. Included also were representatives from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, raising the cry that “Black Workers matter”. At the start of the march, under the neon of McDonalds and SuperAmerica, we were blessed by the performance of three Aztec dancers. Call and response chants were shouted in English and Spanish. I’m surprised I have any voice left—I was so busy giving it in service to the protest, I didn’t care whether I got it back. The music that blasted from the back of the truck leading the protest was interspersed between stories from people who lived, daily, with the injustices we were fighting against.

Police lights turn the protesters blue as they pause to listen to the stories of fellow workers.
Police lights turn the protesters blue as they gather to listen to the stories of fellow workers.

Why is this important? Because today’s march was not—and is not—  about a group of people whining over low pay. This is about hundreds of people who work long and hard to provide us with little luxuries, fast food and clean stores, while they struggle with decisions of paying rent or feeding their families. This is about hundreds of people who sacrifice their health rather than miss a day of work— and the necessary paycheck that it brings. This is about the dignity of the human person, as described in Catholic Social Teaching and in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (check out number 8). Quite simply, it is about wrong…and rights.

God bless all those who were brave enough to stand up for those rights today; may your work truly bring justice.

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