“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These are the words we celebrate today on our Independence Day, but are we truly living up to their meaning?

As the worldwide death toll from the coronavirus pandemic approaches 500,000 and the United States nears 125,000, it has become increasingly apparent that there is great racial disparity in these tragic numbers. People of color have lost their lives at a disproportionately higher rate than white people. In the US, the burden of this disease has fallen the hardest on Black people.

In the US, Black people are dying from the coronavirus at more than twice the rate of white people. There are multiple factors that contribute to this disparity. People of color have a higher rate of underlying health conditions like heart and lung disease, and diabetes than the general population. Many have less access to quality health care than their white counterparts, frequently due to lack of adequate medical insurance. Often, people of color work in low paying, front line service jobs requiring continuous exposure to the virus.

This disparity in death rates between people of color and white people is an outgrowth of the structural racism ingrained in American society since before the country’s foundation. The recent deaths of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others before them are making white America increasingly aware that what Black Americans have been saying for centuries is true. The United States was founded on the principle of exploitation of people of color; its white population prospered by enslaving people from Africa and established a social, political and economic system that has made it exceedingly difficult for people of color to prosper. This is structural racism.

A Faith That Does Justice, along with many other interfaith groups and people of good will, demand change. The manifestations in our streets continue to say, Black Lives Matter. Yet, we are well aware it will take the voices and political pressure of many people, particularly white people, to demand legislation from our political leaders to ensure that all God’s people, and especially people of color, are able to realize their God-given human rights and dignity. We ask you to walk with us and the oppressed in seeking change to structural racism. We encourage you to write to your federal and state legislators demanding fundamental change by offering Black people and others of color equal access to opportunities afforded to white people such as health care, education, and employment and freedom of undeserved fear of law enforcement officers.

We also ask you to vote your conscience this coming November. May our votes help bring about needed change in this country so that all God’s people, and especially those who suffer the effects of racism, can finally experience what the General Congress of the United States of America declared on July 4, 1776: all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.