The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of God’s unfailing love.
Psalm 33:5 (NIV)
Whether we like to believe or acknowledge it, those of us who are white have participated (willingly or even unwittingly) in systems that perpetuate the cycle of poverty for our non-white neighbors. Perhaps none can so directly trace our participation than those who are descended from white veterans of World War II.
While there are numerous ways black veterans were prevented from receiving the benefits of the GI Bill (you can learn more here), none was so instrumental in helping to create the wealth gap between white and black that exists today as the VA home loan program. The VA guaranteed the loans, but did not administer them, so any institution who chose to refuse loans to Black people was free to do so.
According to historian Ira Katznelson in the book When Affirmative Action Was White, in 1947, only two of the more than 3,200 VA-guaranteed home loans in 13 Mississippi cities went to Black borrowers. In New York and the northern New Jersey suburbs, fewer than 100 of the 67,000 mortgages insured by the GI bill supported home purchases by non-white people.
If the house your white grandfather bought in 1950 Levittown (Long Island or Pennsylvania) for $4,500 under the GI bill is worth $400,000 today, your family wealth is going to be greater than your friend whose Black grandfather couldn’t even get a loan at the time.
No matter how progressive, inclusive and anti-racist you think you are, if you look like me, you are benefiting from racist systems designed to benefit us. May we not let denial, guilt or lack of understanding keep us from working to dismantle these systems.
Action: Educate yourself (and others) about the unjust and unbalanced systems that have caused the racial disparity in generational wealth. Knowing they exist is imperative to reversing their effects.
Prayer: God of justice, help us put aside our pride and any preconceived notions we may be harboring when it comes to systems of oppression. May we be open to learning, growing and changing to help bring about your Kin-dom here on earth. Amen.
Anne Russ is an ordained pastor with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She has a heart for small church ministry, Christian camping and the power of the Web to spread the Good News of the Gospel. Anne is a fiercely supportive theater mom, a loud laugher and a lover of good stories. She is a displaced Southerner living in New York who pastors through her online platform, DoubtingBeliever.com.
This year’s Path of Peace reflections are designed to help participants explore peacemaking efforts addressing some of the major issues of our time. The theme for the 29 days of the 2022 A Season of Peace is Led Forth in Peace: Critical Areas of Engagement for Peacemakers. With these daily reflections, we are invited to reflect upon ways to practice peace by engaging the following critical areas:
- Climate change
- The intersection of poverty and racism