Who can say we’ve actually left Egypt?
April 22, 1968 was the original launch date for the Poor People’s Campaign. As we approach the beginning of Passover, on April 22, 2016, the very basic demands of 1968 have yet to materialize. Can your seder, or your Passover week, include some moments to reflect on how far we’ve (not) come in the last 50 years and consider how we might do better?
Here is a link to King’s remarks in the Campaign press release, a month before his assassination.
Here are some sources on the Campaign itself, which drew thousands to Washington, and included Resurrection City, erected on the National Mall in May:
- Black Past: Poor People’s Campaign
- Before Occupy, There was Resurrection City
- WETA story on Resurrection City
A New Telling
In the 48 years since the Poor People’s Campaign, too little has changed, on the one hand. See, e.g: The Unfinished March and The Unfinished March: an Overview.
On the other hand, we have seen decades of generational poverty and violence and other oppressive conditions disproportionately affecting communities of color. And one thing which has changed in recent decades is the further development of Whiteness Studies, exploring the facts and impact of systemic racism.
Is there is room in your Passover and Omer practice for THAT maggid, for recalling — and telling the young or uninformed — how it is that Whiteness developed in this country and what it has meant? Follow #WhitenessHistoryMonth on Twitter, and see more below, for some bits to include.
Who can say we’ve actually left? “Wherever you live, it is probably Egypt,” Michael Walzer wrote.
…Do you live in a place in which some people are more equal than others? In America, the unemployment rate for African-Americans is nearly twice as high as it is for whites. Black people are five times as likely to be incarcerated as whites. Infant mortality in the black community is twice as high as it is among whites. America is a golden land, absolutely, and for Jews, it has been an ark of refuge. But it has not yet fulfilled its promise….
[Updated, additional statistics**]
…aren’t we still commanded to bring everyone out of Egypt?
—New American Haggadah (Boston: Little, Brown, 2012)
Some generally related resources:
American Jewish World Service
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
More coming soon. Please share your ideas and sources.
I believe the “Seeing White” album, with some #WhitenessHistoryMonth contributions is visible to all. (If not, I’ll work on other options.)
**Newer, and additional, statistics
Unemployment still nearly twice as high for black Americans as for whites (NPR), as noted in New American Haggadah. In fact, Black Americans with college degrees have higher unemployment that White Americans without a high school diploma (EPI).
Infant mortality among black families is still twice that found in white families, while Native Americans experience an infant mortality rate 150% that of white Americans. (CDC)
Black people in the U.S. are now SIX times more likely to be incarcerated as white people (NAACP), up from five times when New American Haggadah was published. The Sentencing Project finds similar disparity for Hispanic Americans. In addition, here is the growing disparity for U.S. school children:
For black children born in 1978, by the time they reached the age of 14, 14% had experienced a parent’s incarceration. For children born twelve years later, the rate rose to one quarter of black children witnessing a parent’s incarceration. The rate rose for white children as well – from 1% of white children born in 1978 having an incarcerated parent by the time they reached age 14 to 3% of white children born in 1990 experiencing a parent’s incarceration.
— Education Town Hall