Racial Justice

A Social Justice Primer for Teens and Parents

The Broader Issue

Racial Justice refers to the enforcement of attitudes, actions, policies, and practices that produce equal treatment, opportunities, access, and power for people of all colors. There is significant overlap between Economic Justice and Racial Justice, as centuries of oppression have created a system that correlates low socioeconomic status with race, and many policies that de- or under- fund programs to support low income communities are, in fact, disproportionally affecting communities of color.

While the original form of slavery was formally abolished with the 13th Amendment in 1865, and the Civil Rights Movement of the mid 20th century made some significant strides, People of Color (often referred to in writing as POC) are still systematically oppressed. According to the ACLU, “black students are suspended and expelled from school three times more often than white students are” and “the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Latino households.” The tough on crime policies have disproportionately affected African Americans, and compounded by the rise of the private prison industry and the general trend of mass incarceration in America, African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of Caucasians.

Advocating for real, lasting change requires a comprehensive approach to understanding and addressing the ways that United States history and policy, on national, organizational, and societal levels, has institutionalized the disenfranchisement of People of Color.

The Reform Movement Position

The Reform Jewish Movement is a longtime ally of the Civil Rights Movement. Today, we stand in solidarity with the 20% of the Jewish community who identify as People of Color, and we believe that we are all made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and therefore will not stand idly by as certain members of society are oppressed. NFTY has launched a Racial Justice Campaign, coordinated with the Religious Action Center’s focus on racial justice work, as part of the legacy of Reform Movement positions that elevate racial equality, including criminal justice reform, voting rights, hate crimes, school vouchers, affordable healthcare, gun violence prevention, and more.

Guiding Questions

  1. What does it mean to reflect, relate, and reform around racial justice in society?
  2. Was it easy to identify what breaks your heart about racial injustice? Why or why not?
  3. What are the next steps that you want to take in making a change in the systemic racism that exists in our community/country?

Taking Action & Learning More

Raising awareness is the first step, but in order to affect real change, ongoing, tangible action needs to be taken. Your family, and your teen, may consider some of the following options to take their learning to the next level:

  • Visit the Religious Action Center’s Urgency of Now website for immediate legislative action items, such as advocating your position to members of Congress.
  • Consider spending part of a summer on a URJ Mitzvah Corps program that explores racial justice:
    • Civil Rights – Travel the Deep South to hear stories of survival and resilience, and explore the complexities of racial inequality through the “New Jim Crow,” the criminal justice system, and beyond.
    • New Orleans – Explore how the infrastructure and design of the city varies by socioeconomic status, and how New Orleans prepares for, and responds to, natural disasters differently in each community.
  • Teen Community Organizing Toolkit  (URL pending)
  • Join the teen campaign for Racial Justice