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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

America and Justice

America continues to struggle in areas of racial and economic justice. Housing appraisals in the mid-20th century north deemed African-American neighborhoods “ineligible for [Federal Housing Administration] backing”. Whites were driven out of neighborhoods where African-Americans lived with the claim “that the more blacks who moved in, the more the value of their homes would decline”. After procuring whites’ houses at low rates, speculators would “sell them to blacks on contract” which “combined all the responsibilities of homeownership with all the disadvantages of renting—while offering the benefits of neither” at high prices. These practices continue to have an effect on communities to the present day. One of the key Chicago neighborhoods for such practices, North Lawndale, is 92% black, has an infant mortality rate twice the national average, 43% of people live below the poverty line, and 45% are on food stamps [1].

Eviction practices also perpetuate poverty conditions throughout the nation. Currently, low-income families pay 50-70% of their income on housing, “leaving inadequate sums for items as basic as medicine and food”. “Evictions make kids change schools and cost adults their jobs. They undermine neighborhoods, force desperate families into worse housing, and leave lasting emotional scars.” Middle and upper-class individuals receive subsidized housing through mortgage interest deductions and various tax breaks while those most in need receive nothing. “Only one of four low-income households that qualify for assistance gets it” [2].

God outlined a basic principle of justice for ancient Israel: "If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set that person free. And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today" [3]. God expected Israel to provide for former slaves and to start them out on their new life of freedom. America is called to recognize its treatment of African-Americans and the poor and to set right its actions. As a society, Americans ought to remedy the damage the society has inflicted on minorities for centuries, beginning with the Church whose theology has contributed to such oppression.

[1] Coates, Ta-Nehisi. "The Case for Reparations." The Atlantic. June 22, 2014. Accessed December 01, 2018.

[2] DeParle, Jason. "Kicked Out in America!" The New York Review of Books. February 28, 2016. Accessed December 01, 2018.

[3] Deuteronomy 15:12-15 NRSV

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