Racial Justice State Updates

Board votes to center anti-racist lens in all policy work

The LOPPCA Policy Council unanimously affirmed a move to center an anti-racism lens to fuel and undergird our advocacy priorities as an organization. The Board will work in conjunction with the Director to develop protocols and guidance for how this will be implemented and measured.

What is an anti-racist lens?

“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.” 

― Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

An anti-racist approach confronts and dismantles systems and structures which promote racism and white supremacy. Such an approach is necessary because anti-blackness and white supremacy are embedded in our history, our present, and the pull of the status quo. Racism is devastating, harmful, and at times lethal to people of color, and it is harmful to our common life together as beloved community.

How does ANTI-RACISM apply to policY-making?

“Americans have long been trained to see the deficiencies of people rather than policy. It’s a pretty easy mistake to make: People are in our faces. Policies are distant. We are particularly poor at seeing the policies lurking behind the struggles of people.” 

― Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

White supremacy was historically created by and continues to be promoted through policymaking, whether explicitly in segregated beaches along California’s coast, or implicitly through access to state programs such as clean vehicle rebates and tax credits. We must ask: Who is in power? Who wrote the policy? Who benefits? Who doesn’t? Who suffers? How does this help build a beloved community? Who is missing at the decision-making table?

An anti-racist approach centers voices, experiences, solutions, and realities of Black people, Indigenous people, and all people of color. It also promotes the redistribution of power at every level of society: CEOs, federal lawmakers, city councils, school boards, etc. As a church, the ELCA is reckoning with its own alliances to white supremacy and committing to anti-racist practices. Our advocacy work in California allows us to support and amplify policies by and for people of color within our Lutheran tradition and within our state.

2020-21 LEVN Volunteer

The Board also voted to participate as a placement for a local young adult discernment organization, Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network (LEVN). LEVN is located in Davis, CA and provides spiritual formation, vocational discernment, housing, and meaningful work at a non-profit placement site.

LEVN was founded in 2012 on tenets of intentional Christian community, simple living, service of others, solidarity with the poor, promoting justice, spiritual awareness, and vocational discernment. LEVN strives to provide a just and equitable internship opportunity by providing housing, healthcare, and a stipend for and other essentials.

LEVNers, as they are colloquially named, must have a bachelors degree OR 3 years of professional experience OR an equitable combination of college coursework and professional experience. Staff work with volunteers to attain student loan forbearance if needed. LEVNers receive $1000 reentry fund following completion of the program.

The LEVN volunteer at LOPPCA will work remotely doing communications, social media, and administrative duties as assigned to support advocacy in the Capitol and engagement in our churches.

Racial Justice

When I Broke by Regina Banks

You remember the story of Jonah and the whale, right? God commands Jonah to preach repentance to his foes in the city of Nineveh. But Jonah wasn’t down with being God’s little messenger. Not about that. Not to them. So, he booked passage on the first ship heading anywhere but there. The Bible tells us plainly that Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

That worked out about as well as you would expect and after many storms and tribulations Jonah found himself in the belly of a whale; saved from certain drowning by a God with a plan. In the belly of the whale, the reality of the task being asked of him became clear to Jonah. In the belly of the whale, the enormity of the force sending him to Nineveh became clear.

When I announced my intention to go to law school my mother’s family became suspiciously excited. As I went through the application process I talked with them about this school or that. A couple of days would pass, then worked casually into the next conversation somehow would be the stats for that law school’s Criminal Law department. They weren’t subtle. But I of course they thought criminal law. My grandfather was the first Black Genesee County (MI) deputy in the 1950’s. He studied law then finished his career as a magistrate. His only daughter (my mother) was a probation officer briefly. 3 of his 4 sons are, to this day, sworn law enforcement officers. One of them even married a state trooper! Adding a prosecutor to the family would complete the set.

But my distaste for criminal advocacy was years old by then. I was a precocious (read: nosey) kid. I would listen to adult conversations and easily decipher their unimaginative codes. I heard the stories of unnecessarily brutal arrests, cases that went up on scant evidence, hanging judges, and “facilities” (jails and prisons) unfit for humanity. My relatives believed, and still believe, that change can come from within the system and at the very least the system was a little less antiblack during their shifts. But I had no interest in being in the criminal law space. And honestly, I had passively accepted the culture’s prevailing attitudes about crime and criminals. Some neighborhoods simply do require a stronger police presence. I too looked over my shoulder at ATMs for “super-predators.” I took Criminal Law and Evidence because they were required then filled my schedule with Federal Labor and Employment Law, and Alternative Dispute Resolution. I was going to work a standard 9-5 resolving employment contract disputes via forced arbitration clauses (and get filthy rich doing it!) I kept maps of all the exciting places my jet-set lifestyle was going to afford me. Nineveh was not on the itinerary.

After many storms and trials I learned that my skills and talents lay with legislative and executive advocacy. I learned the basics then studied and honed it as the science and the art that it is. I advocated for domestic violence survivors and employees unfairly paid. I advocated for the fair treatment of our immigrant siblings. I advocated for the poor, the unhoused, the mentally ill. I’ve traveled abroad waving the banner for ecological justice and climate change abatement. And then the children. Always the children. I even found time to advocate for more green space in my own neighborhood. Everything and anything except anything that touched on crime or policing. Sure #BlackLivesMatter. But I don’t have to be the spokeswoman for it.

Then I spent I my three days in the belly of the whale. To be more precise the month of October 2019 broke me. It excised whatever small trace of “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear from the police” remaining in my spirit. Early that month my favorite human, my nephew Xavier, turned 8 years old. He got a new video game that he just loved. He wanted to play it with me. All. The. Time. Sometimes late into the night. We did that. He’s unreasonably scared of spiders. It’s one of those truly annoying things I love about him. I’m constantly called on to go 2 or 3 rooms away and kill the spider that he defiantly heard and is certainly on its way to come and get us. Sometimes he hears them outside. When I’m in a particularly generous mood I go and hunt for his imaginary spiders outside our front door.

Published on ELCA Racial Justice Blog

The Bible tells us plainly that Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

Stop right now and Google the name Atatiana Jefferson. 

When the news of her death reached the nation something in me broke wide open. It wasn’t just the fact of her death. It’s that her death made headlines for less than one news cycle. I was angry and heartbroken and incensed and grieved and irate and perplexed and exhausted and dying inside. I’m not certain when I was swallowed by the whale. But I was for sure in the belly of the beast; driving along the beautiful California coast from Sacramento to Monterey to offer a keynote address at the synod professional leaders conference– blind through tears. I don’t remember, and it doesn’t really matter what I actually said to the Lord in my car that afternoon. “In my distress I called to the Lord, and the Lord answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and the Lord listened to my cry.”

Through the sacrifice of one beautiful black life, I fortified a voice that advocates for Black bodies.

I’m not yet in Nineveh. I am only now beginning to understand the reality of the task set before me. Through my television screen filled with visions of cities all over the world rallying and rising and rioting I am just now learning the enormity of the source sending me. I am stumbling and fumbling and walking slowly and being led by the Spirit and those who have been on the road longer. I’ve been practicing what I will say when I arrive. I’ve begun saying small snippets in places I would have never dared before. I’ve rallied more. I’ve organized more. Staff meetings are different with me around now (thank you for making space for this, Amy Reumann.) I’ve begun saying in larger and larger spaces that the system we’ve built around crime and punishment requires repentance. I’ve been inviting others into the conversation. But we have not yet arrived in Ninevah. There’s still room for you on the road.

It wasn’t just the fact of her death. It’s that her death made headlines for less than one news cycle.

Regina Q. Banks lives in Sacramento, CA where she proudly serves as the Director of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy- California. She is very active in her community, dedicating most of her free time to organizing public advocacy to support a host of social and political causes. She is a lifetime member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (a public service organization) and, when permitted, shares her life with an ill-tempered chihuahua named Ender Jay.