faith in action

Intern Profile: Cody Wisswasser on Racial and Economic Inequality

Intern Cody Wiswasser is excited to be working with Church and Society in Washington, D.C., on issues of race and economic inequality.

I am Cody Wiswasser and am originally from Daleville, Indiana, a small town outside of Muncie. Daleville was a factory town until the Great Recession.

Few factories remain in Daleville today. After the Great Recession wages fell and stagnated.

Today, Ball State University and the associated hospital, Ball Memorial, provide most of the jobs in Daleville.

Workers who were once employed in the factories in town now travel an hour and a half north to work in Fort Wayne or travel around the state working construction, both unionized and not.

I am studying for my Masters of Divinity, focusing on Hebrew Scripture and language at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago.

I hope this internship, which fulfills one of my degree requirements, also helps me to live out the prophetic call of Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah and others. I will be working with Jessie Smith, the senior executive director of research, planning, and spiritual formation. I plan to focus my work on cross-racial economic solidarity.

Growing up during the Great Recession, I witnessed a failure to recognize the similarity of struggles for employment and the ability to earn a living wage by white folk, black folk, and brown folk; native-born citizens, documented immigrants, and undocumented immigrants; and blue-collar and white-collar workers.

White supremacy has bred racial divisions which weakened solidarity. My step-father was deported. Rather than recognize another worker aiming to provide for their family, others in my community met his work and dreams with racial slurs.

I came to Church and Society with a dream of helping white working people to meet their neighbors of color with a helping hand rather than a kick to the head; with a dream of native-born citizens advocating for rights for their immigrant neighbors, documented and undocumented; with a dream of white-collar workers supporting their blue-collar siblings in the fight for higher wages in the face of exploitative wealth.

These are the dreams of Isaiah and Amos. When I worked with homeless and precariously housed persons with The Night Ministry in Chicago, Illinois, I saw more of the same economic struggles for housing, food and health care caused by misfortune, a broken criminal justice system, and inter-generational poverty perpetuated by racism.

I am here to bring the experiences related to me by my siblings on the streets, on the factory floor, on the serving floor, behind the bar, behind bars, and behind counters. I bring my study of the Bible and theological training to provide insight and support with my co-workers. I hope to receive the same blessing of learning from others’ gifts and talents and to better learn ways of organizing and effecting change in the world.

Being in Washington, D.C., in the heart of national policy-making, presents a unique opportunity to fulfill these goals. To take advantage of the knowledge of our excellent staff here at Church and Society fills me with joy and makes me giddy. I look forward to bringing this joy and hope for a more just tomorrow back to Garrett-Evangelical and Indiana.