Communities

The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed Bishop of West Texas

The first bishop elected to the Episcopal Diocese of Texas was a slave owner who pushed for loyalty to the Confederacy during the Civil War. The first church in the diocese, Christ Episcopal Church in Matagorda, was built by slaves. Now, Texas Episcopalians are addressing the church's history of racism and slavery by dedicating $13 million to help heal the communities injured by it.

Funding from the Missionary Vision for Racial Justice initiative will go toward "racial reconciliation projects and scholarships" at historically black colleges, seminaries, and organizations in Texas. Some will also help underwrite work by the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that created a lynching memorial in Alabama.

Bishop C. Andrew Doyle, the head of the Texas diocese, met with 38 representatives of historic black churches, inviting them to collaborate on what the church can do to work toward racial justice.

Though the Episcopal Church is one of the least racially diverse in the nation—90% of its members are white and only 4% are black— church leaders have publicly advocated for racial justice, including testifying before Congress in favor of the idea of reparations for slavery in 2019.

Reverend Michael Curry, the first African American to be elected as the denomination's top bishop in the U.S., wrote in a letter that the initiative "to be honest, took my breath away" when he first heard about it.

Doyle told the Houston Chronicle that some people may take issue with the $13 million initiative because of its focus on the past, but said that we can't build a just and equal future without reconciling historical injustices.

"When we believe that God is big enough to mend the broken, we should not be afraid of naming truths that are part of our history…All of our futures are tied to our past. There isn't one future that is somehow disconnected from the story that got us here, and we must be willing to see the connectedness of the past to see how it shapes our future.

There is still a lot of institutional racism and a good measure of change is still needed."

Doyle has pointed out that this initiative is just one step in the process of racial healing. Let's hope more churches and organizations take similar steps to acknowledge and atone for the sins of the past in ways that will open the way for a more just and equitable future.

Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
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When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

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