A message from J Ron Byler, MCC U.S. Executive Director, and Ann Graber Hershberger, MCC U.S. Associate Executive Director.
In 2015, MCC issued a statement called “Renewing MCC’s commitment toward ending racism in the U.S.” We’ve returned to it and shared it since then for the heartbreaking reason that violence and racism against people of color in the U.S. continues unabated.
Now we grieve the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This black man’s killing is the most recent high-profile incident of violence, even to death, inflicted on people of color. We mourn “the death-dealing reality of racism in the U.S.” We walk with our MCC family members of color – staff, program partners and supporters – who deal with these realities daily. We pray for “strength, courage and passion to follow our prayers with actions and to accompany Anabaptist churches, including Anabaptist churches of color, and other communities of color in which we work” on a journey into a new creation of “true mutuality and equality.”
We long for the day when “Love and truth will embrace; justice and peace will kiss. Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven." (Psalms 85:11-12, New American Bible, revised edition)
Our prayers and our work continue. May God have mercy.
Renewing MCC’s commitment toward ending racism in the U.S.
Originally released September 28, 2015
For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
The events of the past several years have brutally underscored that systemic racism, far from being overcome, continues to destructively shape us and the country we live in.
Remembering the African-Americans killed by police or civilians the past couple of years reminds us how the lives of people of color are systematically devalued in the U.S.: Sandra Bland; Trayvon Martin; Freddie Gray; Eric Garner; Renisha McBride; Michael Brown; Walter Scott; the parishioners of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., gathered for Bible study; this is only a partial record of African-Americans killed by racist violence.
When we name these names, we proclaim that Black Lives Matter. Our proclamation is a statement of mourning and lament, of protest and confession. We mourn and protest not only these deaths, but the ways in which the lives of people of color, including immigrants and Indigenous peoples, are systematically demeaned and devalued in the U.S., both historically and in the present.
These recent racist killings are part of a long legacy of trauma inflicted on people of color. The mass killing and uprooting of Indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans were integral elements of the emerging identity of the U.S. The traumatic legacy of slavery endures. New forms of exclusion and oppression continue to harm Indigenous peoples and communities of color in the U.S.:
- Mass incarceration has had an overwhelmingly disproportionate impact on African-Americans and other people of color.
- Racist rhetoric has fanned a culture of hatred of immigrants, while immigration policies have discriminated against Latina/o families and communities.
- Indigenous communities in the U.S. continue to bear the social and economic consequences of broken promises, as the U.S. has barely begun to address its foundational violence against Indigenous peoples.
- Discriminatory economic policies have perpetuated white privilege and wealth.
Naming the enduring power of racism in the U.S. is necessary but is not sufficient. Rather than give in to apathy or despair, we are called to:
- Protest against the “principalities and powers” of racism that grip our communities and institutions, and our individual relationships.
- Confess that MCC has often betrayed the Gospel message of our common creation in God’s image by allowing racism to shape our corporate and individual lives.
- Confess that MCC as an organization has been too hesitant to speak boldly against racism in the U.S., which exacts an ongoing physical and spiritual toll on people of color and leads to spiritual and moral decay for white people.
In past decades MCC has issued multiple statements protesting racist policies and practices in the U.S. Yet these statements have not been translated into sustained action. We confess that too often we have been silent in word and deed.
We renew our commitment as an institution to work with Anabaptist churches in the U.S. to end the scourge of racism.
As part of our strategic plan over the next five years, we will:
- Advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and collaborate with Anabaptist churches responding to the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger.
- Advocate against racist policies that have led to mass incarceration and its massively disproportionate impact on communities of color and collaborate with Anabaptist churches responding to the biblical command to visit and care for prisoners.
- Partner with Anabaptist denominations and congregations to explore the devastating impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on Indigenous communities and speak out about how the Anabaptist story in the U.S. has been shaped by white European settlement and by the uprooting of Indigenous peoples.
- Strengthen and expand our efforts in becoming more visibly multicultural and an anti-racist organization in our human resources policies, provide anti-oppression training for all of our boards and staff, and intentionally work to create an institutional culture that is representative of the diverse cultures in MCC’s constituency.
- Build relational accountability with partners in the communities of color in which MCC operates.
We have no illusion that MCC will end racism in the U.S. alone through these actions. But we know that silence and apathy in the face of ongoing racism are not options if we want to be faithful disciples of Jesus and follow his example to release the captives and free the oppressed.
We renew our commitment toward ending racism in the U.S. because we believe that God through Jesus Christ has already defeated the powers of sin and death and that a new creation of true mutuality and equality can break into our lives and our communities. We pray for a swift end to the death-dealing reality of racism in the U.S. and for strength, courage and passion to follow our prayers with actions and to accompany Anabaptist churches, including Anabaptist churches of color, and other communities of color in which we work, on a journey into this new creation.
This MCC U.S. statement was originally crafted by some white staff leaders in the U.S. as part of their commitment to own their complicity in racism both within MCC and the U.S. more broadly. The draft text was then shared with some staff leaders of color for their counsel. The following people were involved in various stages of the drafting process: Zenebe Abebe, Michelle Armster, Ron Byler, Bruce Campbell-Janz, Ruth Keidel Clemens, Jesus Cruz, Ewuare Osayande, Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, Susan Wadel and Alain Epp Weaver.