The Call to Californians: Act to End Racial Injustice
By Rabbi Paul Kipnes
When the call came to drop everything and fly cross-country to highlight the racial injustice that still exists in America, nearly 200 Reform rabbis answered. We put personal and work lives on hold to retrace the steps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery and beyond.
Now we rabbis ask all Californians to drop everything for 5 minutes between August 24th and 28th to contact your state senators to eradicate racial injustice. Suggested talking points and email/phone contact information are at http://action.rac.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=21143.
Will you answer the call and make your call?
I and other Reform Rabbis each carried the Torah scroll on part of the NAACP’s 40-day Journey for Justice. We responded to Jewish tradition: “A person should use his/her face, hands, and feet only to honor the Creator” (Tosefta Brachot 4:1).
Walking with my daughter Rachel, I opened myself to the experiences of fellow marchers; with my eyes and ears, I looked and listened. I learned from them about the dangerous reality of being a person of color in America. It horrified me.
While in God’s eyes we are all b’tzelem Elohim (equally in God’s image) on the inside, so many Americans are mistreated on the basis of their skin color on the outside. Yet without hard proof, I realize, many Americans will still doubt this truth.
Seeking a Clearer Picture
I urge my fellow Californians to support two state fair policing bills. AB 953 (racial and identity profiling) require police officers to report basic information about all stops they make. AB 71 (police use of force) requires police officers to report on any use of force resulting in death or serious bodily injury.
The police departments of Oakland and San Jose and the CA Highway Patrol already collect and report this data voluntarily. The San Diego police department discovered that Blacks were searched three times as much twice as much as white were searched. However, the Blacks and Hispanics searched were found less likely to have engaged in criminal activity.
Reform CA’s B’yachad (“In It Together”) Campaign supports AB 953 and AB 71 because as Jews we cannot live with dignity when other Californians, particularly people of color, are not afforded the same dignity.
Rabbi Paul Kipnes is spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA.