Something Much Greater At Stake

michelle-alexanderAn announcement from Michelle Alexander on social media (September 16, 2016):

I am taking a long break from social media, but tonight I want to thank the Heinz Foundation which offered me today a large monetary award (along with several amazing individuals). See…/announcing-the-21st-heinz-awards-honor….

I am enormously grateful for this award and look forward to sharing it with organizations and advocates who are committed to courageous and creative work for racial justice. My book, The New Jim Crow, would never have had a national impact if it wasn’t for the many, many people who not only read the book, but decided to take action by handing it to others, teaching it in classrooms, organizing study circles, holding forums or town halls, going into prisons, providing support to people returning home, and engaging in protest and direct action — in short, doing something meaningful rather than simply letting the book sit on a shelf. So this award belongs to all of you who not only read the book, but gave it a life of its own. I am creating a fund for the purpose of donating this money and book royalties, and I hope to help support great work that is being done all over the country for many years to come.

But I will also be taking my work in some new directions. This week I officially joined Union Theological Seminary in NYC as a Visiting Professor. I have known for some time that I need to stretch myself, move beyond what I know and out of my comfort zones. As a lawyer, it comes naturally for me to speak only when I’ve done all my research, know all the facts, and can make my case. Law, policy and advocacy have been my world for more than 20 years, and my singular passion for 10 of those years has been finding ways to awaken people to the racial dimensions of mass incarceration and help them see it for the human rights nightmare that it is.

And yet I now feel compelled to change course. I am walking away from the law. I’ve resigned my position as a law professor at Ohio State University, and I’ve decided to teach and study at a seminary. Why?

There is no easy answer to this question, and there are times I worry that I have completely lost my mind. Who am I to teach or study at a seminary? I was not raised in a church. And I have generally found more questions than answers in my own religious or spiritual pursuits. But I also know there is something much greater at stake in justice work than we often acknowledge. Solving the crises we face isn’t simply a matter of having the right facts, graphs, policy analyses, or funding. And I no longer believe we can “win” justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout. Yes, we absolutely must do that work, but none of it — not even working for some form of political revolution — will ever be enough on its own. Without a moral or spiritual awakening, we will remain forever trapped in political games fueled by fear, greed and the hunger for power. American history teaches how these games predictably play out within our borders: Time and again, race gets used as the Trump Card, a reliable means of dividing, controlling and misleading the players so a few can win the game.

This is not simply a legal problem, or a political problem, or a policy problem. At its core, America’s journey from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration raises profound moral and spiritual questions about who we are, individually and collectively, who we aim to become, and what we are willing to do now.

I have found that these questions are generally not asked or answered in law schools or policy roundtables. So I am going to a place that takes very seriously the moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of justice work: Union Theological Seminary. Union has a proud history of deep commitment to social justice, and I am happy to call it home for awhile.



49 thoughts on “Something Much Greater At Stake

  1. Cherie Booker

    WONDERFUL! I am no one of consequence, just someone who has been affected by mass incarceration and have been so, so grateful for your work around that issue. I just want to affirm your decision. You are absolutely correct that our journey in and with the USA is at its core a spiritual one and the injustice that defines this country’s identity both at home and abroad will not become justice through legal and political means alone; we must find our spiritual identity, our divine reality and begin to live from there rather than from fear. So I say to you, “fear not”! There is a sense in which you are losing your mind, but oh, what you are heading toward gaining your mind is incapable of conceiving let alone containing. Know that Grace has been, is and will continue to be your constant companion. As a matter of fact, you are Grace!
    With love and gratitude,


    1. Rose Rigney

      Wow i love your response Cherie..i believe her work will not only speak into USA but also the same problems here in Australia that we face as people of Colour..the 1st Nation people and the issues of Justice are increasing…il sure there is a World policy amongst Western culture re people of colour…and yes I agree it is Spiritual..”principalities and powers” but as those also created in the image of God we must live and believe His words and live accordingly…not by Mans best efforts….Divine Justice…Amen USA…

      1. Evon Maywell

        I love, these postings.
        We, all, are of much consequence. Prayers, for Australia, and all, here, in America.
        Love, and Respect, YvonneM.

    2. Om

      With only the deepest respect I say, “Brava!”, for following your heart to that which beckons the next revelation of your soul’s unfolding. And while you are in NYC, be sure to pay a visit to Templo Guaracy (in Queens, NY) so that you can bear witness to the beautiful & mighty spiritual practice of many of your African ancestors. Axé dear Sister!

  2. Lot Johnson

    Follow God’s guidance wherever it leads. You will be surprised by the ways that God will use you. Blessings upon you from an old, white, southern woman who applauds your work.

  3. R. Leckey Harrison

    I love this. I will say the spiritual revolution you seek to solve these problems, will not happen until we heal our trauma in our bodies. I have good reasons for saying so, which go beyond the scope of this comment box. It also seems I have a book to read.

  4. Sister I think they are bribing you and you’re running away. What morals or ethics do you think you’ll find at Union, no more than you found justice at Harvard. Your book proves you know that. You can hide for a while but sooner or later you will have to face the fact that the system of white supremacy/racism must be replaced with a system of justice.

  5. Sojourn a while in seminary. Immerse your soul. Learn what you need to. Give, as we know from your past writing and action, that you will. I hope the sojourn will be “just long enough” and then you will go back to educating lawyers and public policy-makers to ask the deep and significant questions – WHO are we and who are we becoming? WHY are we here? WHAT can we do to make life better and more meaningful with/for everyone? HOW are we going to do that? However long you stay at Union and whatever life calls on you to do, may it be fulfilling and continue to make a difference. Blessings.

  6. Pingback: Something Much Greater At Stake – christopherrashadg

    1. The white man owns no religion. All religions that were and are practiced by man were developed by people of color. Over the centuries religion has been twisyed and used to manipulate, discriminate, subjugate and oppress others – especially people of color. That has nothing to do with spirituality, which begs you to explore a deeper meaningful relationship with The Creator and His creation. That goes beyond “religion”. I think Michelle is exploring the latter.

      1. Minister Kwame Asante ( THE AFRIKAN VILLAGE OF NYC)


  7. Karmen

    Thank you for your service to mankind and may all the blessing of wisdom, protection, courage and understanding go with you wherever to endeavor to be in your work and life.
    Peace & Love, always!

  8. Felicia Jones

    Mrs. Alexander, how wonderful for you. I think a lot of us have these same questions rolling around in our heads, I pray you find the answers and share them in a book. God Bless you in your new endeavors.

  9. Jeanne Pupke

    This is a daring step on your behalf and represents a commitment to something greater than yourself, as surely OSU would have been more beneficial to you personally. Yet I believe your action sends a message to many, myself included, of your willingness to put the common good before personal gain. It is also a testimony to the power of joining your efforts with a committed group, working to change the world from outside flawed but dominant systems. I am grateful.

    Your readers remain your students, and will gain more from the free voice you can raise at one of our society’s most prophetic communities. May it enrich your life, that of the Union community, the many who wish to confront the many oppressive traits of our legal and incarceration systems. May it bring you peace.

  10. Anthony Hall

    All do respect you won’t find the answers you seek in a Christian Seminary. Christianity is part of the problem in the African American Community. If you worship a White Jesus you basically are spiritually enslaved. We need to rethink our entire concept of what Religion is and how it should be used in the African American Community. Racism White Supremacy would have very little effectiveness in the African American Community were it not for Christianity. They’ve used it to conquer us and the sad thing is most of us don’t even see it… Christianity as we know and as it has been taught for 2000+ years it is NOT African. We need to come back to our African Selves if we are ever going to be Free….

  11. Renee





  12. Just what we need and at a time when we need it most! We are so blessed to have this radiant light with us in New York City to challenge and awake us to a deeper spiritual activism.

    Welcome to New York Michelle!

  13. Auspicious time for this move, Michelle. Lots of indigenous prophecy pointing to this time, as the shifting of humanity to a higher consciousness. Will not succeed if the moral and spiritual leadership co-supporting and holding space for this time are not diverse and do not come from diverse perspectives. It is time to reconstitute the sacred hoop of humanity, and that hoop is colorful and beautiful. Thankful you are listening to ancestors and spirit. They are calling many of us at this time…

    In peace and gratitude, Brenda Salgado

  14. John Crew

    Congrats, Michelle. This looks like — as always with you — a very thoughtful next step. As for you thinking you may have “lost your mind,” that’s usually a sign you’re on to something, right? That’s one of your special gifts — pursuing things that initially seem a little crazy but that, in fact, end up helping us see and try to do something about the craziness in the world.

  15. It is amazing to me the folks on here thinking they can tell this awesomely intelligent WOMAN how to live her life. That crap is hilarious and pathetic! Michelle,sistah I am so happy to hear about your new journey. I don’t have to tell you that the best is yet to come! Best wishes!

  16. All the best to you as you seek truth, justice and spiritual growth. May this journey unveil all you need to know to attain the heights. Someone stated above that you are being bought off and you are hidng. I don’t believe that is your intent but if you inadvertantly find yourself in a situation where you feel you are called upon to compromise your integrity, just know that you can always change direction again. Help is always just above your head. Light and love to you.

  17. Tcgrad

    God Bless you! Only God knows the how and when. I pray that you are enlightened and also that you consider/study (if you haven’t already) African spirituality. Thank you for your bravery and for being a voice for so many!!!

  18. Lowell Noble

    Michelle, I heard you speak at Luther College and I have read The New Jim Crow four times.
    As a sociologist and a Christian, I endorse your decision to go to seminary. Through the American church has failed again and again, I am convinced that the Bible itself has the needed answers. For example, the OT has 555 references to oppression and its synonyms. In my retirement, I have a blog which addresses these issues biblically, historically and sociologically. Google “Lowell Noble’s Writings.”

  19. Omowale Morgan

    I think we all can agree that there’s no prescribed method or designed path for us to attain the wisdom and enlightening we seed. That being said, I can only applaud you for following the yearnings of your heart. May the work you’ve already given to us be greatly magnified and I pray that the guidance and clarity is bestowed on you in abundance.

  20. Pingback: Something Much Greater At Stake – Radical Discipleship by Michelle Alexander – Straight Talk Support Group

  21. It is the black horse that carries the scales of justice, in time my people will take up the task to bring true peace and justice to every corner of the earth. Redemption is what you seek, understanding of God’s plan, remember every soul ever born yet remains and we are well appointed about the throne! God is found in service, seek him in the faces of those in need, The hour is at hand!

  22. God has a way of finding us when we are not even looking for him. HE has called you as a disciple of Christ to worship, praise, understanding, suffer, find truthfulness, and most of all love. God is the only one that can truly set us free from the bondage that is older than slavery, but has been written before we even existed. Through this journey, we call life, we think we are traveling in the right direction, but realize He who seeks us is calling us into a more powerful journey than we can ever imagine. God Bless you and your journey.

  23. Pingback: Mission and that Special Sauce | Host and Guest

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