Statement on Systemic Racism

Poor Peoples Campaign MCC - Metropolitan Community Churches Reclaiming Connection

We are faced with violence today from many fronts including, the economy, political leaders, and from the police. This violence represents a system that is far too comfortable with the suffering and deaths of black, brown, and poor people.

We stand with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in calling for an end to systemic racism and a comprehensive reconstruction of our society.


St. John’s MCC joins the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Our movement must push for political and economic transformation to end police violence and all violence against black, brown, and poor people. In honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others who have been brutally murdered, We call for an end to systemic racism and a comprehensive reconstruction of our society.

We lift up those who are taking action and the relentless work of frontline movements and impacted communities that have been organizing against police brutality, mass incarceration and all forms of violence against black, brown and poor people. We are committed to ending the violence of systemic racism, poverty, militarism, climate crisis and a distorted moral narrative that denies, excuses, and justifies violence against us. We demand that our politicians address the full extent of this political and economic violence — not only the police violence — that we have been suffering from for generations.
We need sweeping change. The long train of abuses demand it. Too many deaths demand it. And the protests demand it.

Somebody’s been hurting our people for far too long. And we won’t be silent anymore.

What is Systemic Racism?

Systemic racism is more than an individual act of hatred. It is state-sanctioned violence that dehumanizes black and brown people. Whether through police brutality, mass incarceration, denial of democratic rights, health inequalities, or generations of dispossession, systemic racism has denied the humanity of black and brown people since the very founding of this country. It has taken the lives of millions of people and criminalized those who assert our humanity.

The recent killings...

The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and others have prompted hundreds of thousands of people to take action together. Generations of injustice are coming to bear on our streets today. Out of this pain, we are also seeing a new and unsettling force rising up to disrupt a system that is killing our people, smothering our communities and disregarding our basic needs in a global pandemic.

The truth is that while our government was totally unprepared for this pandemic and is taking months to deliberate over whether black, brown, and poor lives are deserving of housing, health care, and economic security, it is fully prepared to quickly mobilize to wage war against us. Over the past decades, the U.S. military’s budget has increased to over $738 billion, taking up more and more of our federal resources, while funding for basic needs like education, housing, food security, and water has declined. Military spending is 30 times greater than the federal public school budget, 14 times greater than the federal housing budget, and 81 times greater than the EPA budget. Our federal government also spends $100 billion every year on policing and another $80 billion on incarceration. Through the 1033 program, local and state law enforcement agencies have received over 450,000 items, worth $1 billion — rifles, tanks, military aircraft, and more — of military equipment from the Department of Defense. Some local law enforcement agencies have received tens of millions of dollars of weaponry.

This is why police are equipped like soldiers and essential workers are wearing garbage bags. This is why our national guard is deployed within hours to multiple cities to protect property, but we still don’t have protection against a virus that has killed over 100,000 people, including approximately 60,000 people of color. In fact, while hundreds of millions of dollars have been sent to federal, state, and local law enforcement to address heightened needs during the pandemic, 20 million people still have not received their stimulus checks, 30 million people remain uninsured, 40 million people are unemployed, 50 million people will face hunger in the weeks ahead, and 60 million people do not have living wages.

All of this has a disproportionate effect on black and brown people, who face higher rates of unemployment, poverty, infection and death. George Floyd had lost his job and survived the coronavirus before he was suffocated on the ground by the police. Breonna Taylor was an emergency medical technician on the front lines of this pandemic, saving the lives of others before her own life was taken.

We have been facing the pandemic of systemic racism for too long. We have the right to protect our ourselves and our communities from a system that is killing us.

Our Demands

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival makes the following demands on our federal government to end systemic racism and all related injustices:

1. There must be consequences for abuses of police power, and justice for families and communities who have been harmed and terrorized by police violence must be a matter of law. We demand federal legislation that makes officers accountable and liable for abuses of their power through apprehension, investigation, prosecution, conviction and incarceration.

This means...
  • Any officer who abuses the power to kill will be prosecuted for murder.
  • Any officer who stands by and does nothing against the excessive use of force will be prosecuted as an accessory to the crime.
  • A city that hires officers who abuse their powers against a community will pay damages to the victims’ families.

2. Defund and demilitarize the police. End mass incarceration and stop criminalizing the poor.

This means...
  • End the 1033 program that sends military equipment to local and state law enforcement and end all programs that provide military training for local and state police.
  • Ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against people who are unarmed and of no danger to anyone but themselves.
  • Require police training in de-escalation and non-lethal techniques.
  • End cash bail, predatory fines and fees on the poor. When state and local governments are in fiscal crisis, they rely on cash bail, fines, fees and filling jail beds to raise revenues. This puts the burden of proof on poor people to prove their innocence, rather than assuming their innocence until proven guilty.
  • Instead of criminalizing the poor to raise state and local revenues, raise taxes on the corporations and the wealthy and direct federal resources to state and local governments for unarmed, civilian public health, mental health, EMT and social services emergency responders.
  • Stop locking people up for non-violent crimes and misdemeanors by replacing prison sentencing with community service and substance abuse treatment.
  • End the easy access to firearms that has contributed to the increased militarization and weaponization of our communities.
  • Decrease funding in federal, state and local budgets for the military, policing and incarceration, including ending the use of any resources for new prisons, jails and unnecessary police equipment, and direct that money toward the real security of our communities: quality public schools, universal health care and decent jobs with living wages.

3. Establish real security by taking care of our health needs in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond and address the poverty and disinvestment in our communities that brought us to this point.

This means...
  • Ensure universal health care for all. Poor, black and brown people, including undocumented people and native communities, are facing higher rates of infection and death with fewer resources and infrastructures. We demand free and/or affordable testing, treatment and hospital care for all. Everybody must have access to health care during a pandemic, without fear of the costs, incarceration, deportation or detention.
  • Reopen hospitals. Hospitals in black, brown and poor communities that have been closed during this pandemic and the last ten years must be reopened.
  • Expand Medicaid. Our government must expand Medicaid in every state.
  • Essential protections for essential workers. Black, brown and poor people are disproportionately represented among the workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis, including in health care, childcare, elder care, grocery and big box stores, janitorial and cleaning services, public transit, fast food and other sectors of the economy. All workers must have paid family leave, paid sick leave, hazard pay, PPE, living wages and the right to form and join unions.
  • A permanent, guaranteed and adequate annual income/universal income. This includes rapid, direct payments to all low-wage, temporary, laid off and unemployed workers for the duration of this crisis and a universal income that provides economic security to us all. It also includes an income for care providers whose work is critical to our health and economy.
  • Secure access to social welfare and unemployment. Given the over-representation of people of color and the poor in hospitality, retail and other service jobs, social welfare programs like SNAP, housing assistance and unemployment insurance must be fully funded and expanded to meet the needs at hand.
  • Guarantee housing, water and utilities for all. Even during a pandemic, poor, black and brown people are being evicted and losing access to water and utilities. All evictions must stop immediately, including encampment sweeps and the towing of vehicles of unhoused communities. Tax foreclosures and rent hikes must also end. Federal resources must be directed to open and prepare vacant and habitable buildings to house and provide adequate care for all people who are homeless. All water and utility shut offs must also be ended and late-payment charges must be waived. Services that have been turned off must be turned back on. We demand a national affordability plan for water and utilities to secure universal access to these basic needs and federal resources for expanded water, sanitation and utilities infrastructure.
  • Debt relief: The racial wealth gap must not be worsened because of debts that have been accumulated through this pandemic. Mortgages, rents, water, utilities and student debt that cannot be paid must be canceled.
  • Fiscal support: As the pandemic triggers a deep economic crisis, there must be an infusion of federal resources to state and local governments to prevent cuts to critical health care, education and other programs. Federal support must be conditioned on prohibiting any increases in state and local police and incarceration budgets, ending all evictions, expanding Medicaid and stopping all water and utility shut offs.
  • The right to vote: Instead of tolerating voter suppression, which specifically targets black, brown and poor people, our votes must be encouraged and supported. This requires dedicated resources to expand voting rights in our communities in November 2020 and beyond.
  • Lifting military sanctions and ending endless wars: The militarism that is brutalizing our communities at home is exacted with impunity against poor people of color around the world. We must end all wars. We must lift all economic sanctions, which are keeping life-saving medication, food and other resources from millions of people in a global pandemic.

4. Working with frontline movements and impacted communities, establish a National Truth Commission on the violence of systemic racism. The “Truth Commission” model of truth-telling draws on the history of grassroots and community-based responses to state-sanctioned terror in this country and around the world. We demand that frontline and impacted families and communities’ experiences and insights direct federal policy on these injustices.

This means...
  • A National Truth Commission that is organized around grassroots and community-based forums to lift up the stories of suffering from impacted families and communities and their solutions on how we right these injustices. Their cries of pain must turn into the power to transform and reconstruct our society.

These demands are part of the Moral Agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and reflect our policy priorities. They were first released in April 2018, have been delivered to Congress and state houses and read aloud in mass meetings, hearings, marches and bus tours in more than 40 states. Lawmakers and legislators — Republican, Democrat and independents — have been put on notice that the Poor People’s Campaign is holding them to account to this agenda.

We will not stop until we can all breathe.