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People Of Faith Must Work For Justice | Opinion (March 3, 2021)

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8
“O you who believe, be just, witnesses for G-d, even if it be against yourselves or parents and nearest kin. One may be right or poor, but G-d is the patron of both.”
The Women: 135
Justice is a concept central to our faith traditions and is found in our nation’s DNA. Our forbearers carved the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law” onto the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Pledge of Allegiance ends with the words “and justice for all.”
Courthouses around the nation are adorned with Lady Justice, a blindfolded figure, balancing the scales to symbolize the impartial, equitable and proportional administration of justice.
Generations of Americans still use the phrase “justice is blind” as a reference to that ideal. But let us hope Lady Justice (and we as a community) are not blind to a criminal legal system that can be unjust and that she does not shield her eyes from the harmful effects of the racial disparities that we find throughout that system.
In its Feb. 7 editorial, the Free Press highlighted the effort by a group of Washtenaw County residents to document patterns of racial disparities in charging and sentencing decisions using data from their county court’s website. The data revealed by the group, Citizens for Racial Equity in Washtenaw (CREW), details disparities that many have experienced but had never been documented in a way that the public could see and understand. It reveals a pattern of racial disparities that has plagued us nationally and, importantly, it raises questions that deserve answers.
The good news is that CREW’s efforts have helped to transform the conversation in Washtenaw County from “we don’t know for certain there are racial disparities” to “we know there are racial disparities now what do we do about them?”
Systemic racial bias is part of our common heritage. Its influence is felt everywhere from the individual level to institutional policies such that the only way we can overcome its pernicious influence is by confronting it when and where we find it.
As religious leaders in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, we believe in the power of people to do good and to seek justice. We wholeheartedly support the Free Press’ call for each county to engage the community in a study of all pieces of each county’s criminal justice in order to identify and address racial disparities in such areas as arrests, charging, and sentencing.
While undertaking a transparent data-driven effort may shed light on uncomfortable truths for all to see, it is exactly the reset we need now to restore our faith in the nation’s promise of equal justice under law.
Signed by:
Rabbi Alana Alpert, Detroit Jews for Justice
Rev. Dr. Steve Bland, Jr., President, Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity
Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, Islamic House of Wisdom
Imam Mustapha Elturk, Islamic Organization of North America
Bishop Donald Kreiss, Southeast Michigan Synod, ELCA
Rabbi Daniel Schwartz, President, Michigan Board of Rabbis
Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow, Metropolitan Community Church Detroit
Fr. Norman P. Thomas, Sacred Heart & St. Elizabeth Churches Detroit
Imam Dawud Walid, Council on American-Islamic Relations — Michigan