As the calendar somehow flips from May to June, we all find ourselves at a particular inflection point in history. In the midst of a pandemic that has taken well over 100,000 American lives, we’re now experiencing the physical manifestation of four hundred years of pain and oppression in our city streets. Our history cries out from the pavement under George Floyd’s body. And from megaphones. And from the communities that are marching together across the US. More urgent than the threat of COVID-19, people have come out to demand their full share of humanity.
Jubilee Home stands with all those demanding their voices be heard. Voices wondering aloud why we spend much more as a nation on military, police, and incarceration than schools, healthcare, food, and economic opportunities. Voices refusing to settle for anything less than being acknowledged and granted access to everything they deserve as American citizens. Prophets lifting their voices to call out our injustices, and push us towards redemptive change as a people. May their cries be the groans of labor, begetting a new reality about who gets to be a full participant in the American project. May their chants bring contrition, repentance, and reparations from those of us who have lived in our privilege for too long.
At Jubilee Home we’re acutely aware of the disparities of race in this nation, and in our community. The justice system conceived from white supremacy in our nation was created to be inherently biased and until it is transformed on a fundamental level, we expect to continue to serve predominantly young men of color, even though over half of our county’s population identifies as white. So far in 2020, 82% of people accessing our services have been people of color. This is not because communities of color in Durham are in more need of services, or people of color in Durham are more prone to criminality, but because people of color are more likely to be arrested and subjected to incarceration in Durham. Michelle Alexander has shown in her seminal work The New Jim Crow that crime rates are relatively steady across demographics. But arrest rates are not. It’s not that 82% of the crime in Durham is perpetrated by men of color, it is that the men sent to jail and prison in our community (and thus in need of reentry services) are predominantly men of color. Jubilee Home exists, not because young men of color are deficient and need us, but because the systems that impact them are unjust. We are trying to counter act those systems.
This week as the prophets cry out in the streets, we stand with them and implore our supporters to hear their voices and their message. We all have to ask ourselves what our role is in supporting and dismantling racist structures. We all have to ask ourselves what personal work do we each need to do to love our neighbors more fully. We all have to ask ourselves ‘what now?’ Do we ignore the prophets and return to the status quo or do we heed their words, and get to work?