Academy Workshop – Feb 2024

“The Fragmented Gateway: Policing, the Black Church, and the Road to Racial Justice in America”
with Matt Denney, SNF Agora Postdoctoral Fellow

Why has policing formed the leading site of recent movements for racial justice, and why have we seen so little change in racial inequality despite such widespread mobilization? Denney explores these questions through the experience of the Black Church in America. Drawing on ethnographic research, focus group interviews with Black faith leaders, and a national survey, this project provides a theory for understanding the response of the Black church to police violence and racial inequality: the fragmented gateway to collective repentance.

In this framework, racial violence compels mobilization around policing and serves as a gateway through which Black faith communities call for collective repentance, which includes acknowledging histories of racial sins, stopping injustice, and seeking repair from the harms done. Black faith leaders have worked toward this goal with a variety of tactics, including trying to change policing from the inside, seeking legislative reforms, organizing protest movements, and leading task forces to reimagine policing. This work has contributed to unprecedented change. But these efforts have also become fragmented due to external resistance to broader racial justice, internal debates about defunding the police, and religious-political cross pressures.

Join us in the SNF Agora Institute conference room (N325F) in the Wyman Park Building on the JHU Homewood Campus or via Zoom at

This event is limited to JHU faculty, fellows, students, and staff.