Editor’s Note: Rev. William Barber will speak at the New Populism Conference on May 22. We share this piece by Rev. Barber that was originally posted at Sojourners. We will waive conference registration fee for people who want to attend starting after 2:30 p.m., to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders (at 4 p.m.), and Rev. William Barber (at 4:30 p.m.) who will close the conference.
I believe that deep within our being is a longing for a moral compass. For those of us who are moved by the cries of our sisters and brothers, we know that, like justice, the acts of caring for the vulnerable, embracing the stranger, healing the sick, protecting workers, welcoming and being fair to all members of the human family, and educating all children should never be relegated to the margins of our social consciousness. These are not just policy issues; these are not issues for some left vs. right debate; these are the centerpieces of our deepest traditions of our faiths, of our values, of our sense of morality and righteousness.
We must remind those who make decisions regarding public policy what the prophet Isaiah said “Woe unto those who legislate evil … Rob the poor of their rights … make children and women their prey.” Isaiah 10: 1-2
Martin Luther King, Jr. said 46 years ago in one of his last sermons that if you ignore the poor, one day the whole system will collapse and implode. The costs are too high if we don’t address systemic racism and poverty. It costs us our soul as a nation. Every time we fail to educate a child on the front side of life, it costs us on the back side — financially and morally.
Every time we deny living wages, leaving whole communities impoverished, it costs us on the back side. Every time we fail to provide health care on the front side of life, it costs us on the back side. Every time we attempt to suppress the right the vote, it tears at the heart of our democracy and the necessary foundations to establish justice.
The greatest myth of our time is the notion that extreme policies harm only a small subset of people, such as people of color. These extreme policies harm us all.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber II is president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and pastor of Greenleaf Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church of Goldsboro, N.C.