Due to cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, activist movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe, and tragedies like last year’s massacre of nine black Christians by a white supremacist in a South Carolina church, conversations about race are once again in the national spotlight.
As a pastor whose church has moved to broaden its ethnic diversity, and as a Hispanic man whose heart breaks over systemic injustice, I’m pleased to see so much attention devoted to healing some of our country’s deepest wounds. Thus, I was excited to learn that Jim Wallis, the founding editor of Sojourners magazine, has weighed in with America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Brazos).
For many reasons, the book offers a welcome contribution. First, it’s an excellent resource for getting “up to speed” on contemporary race relations in the United States. Wallis provides a solid overview of troubling social realities like mass incarceration, the “school-to-prison” pipeline, racialized policing, immigration, and America’s shifting demographic makeup.
Second, it highlights systemic injustice, connecting the dots between historical legacies and present-day realities. There are powerful, indicting statistics on dysfunctions in our criminal justice system, public schools, immigration policies, and other influential spheres. Wallis rightly wants us to see such injustices not as mere “political problems” but as rooted in sin—implying the need for deeper repentance and change.
Third, Wallis walks the talk. He has been on the front lines for decades, listening to and pleading on behalf of minority voices, living in rough neighborhoods, ...