John Raines

Adjunct and former full professor
Temple Association of University Professionals
Philadelphia, PA

Fighting injustice with hope

John Raines

John Raines is a hopeful man.

That is why he organized fellow seminarians to demonstrate 24-7 until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 moved past filibuster. It’s why he led a boycott on First National City Bank when it defended apartheid in South Africa. Raines was a Freedom Rider, riding the bus with his black and white brothers and sisters to integrate the South. He taught in the Freedom Schools of Mississippi, so that black children could return to classrooms.

He risked his life registering black people to vote in tiny Newton, Ga. And he did it again when he broke into FBI offices in 1971 to steal documents exposing the federal government for surveillance of peace and racial justice groups. The documents led to major changes in the way the FBI operates, changes designed to protect people from being persecuted by their own government.

Raines did all these things because he hoped he could make a difference.

That’s why he is a union member as well—first as a full, senior, tenured religion professor and, since retirement, as an adjunct—Raines is a member of the Temple Association of University Professionals at Temple University in Philadelphia. Despite what he calls “abysmal” injustice in higher education, he says, “Because we have the union, we have a place to take our hopes.”

TAUP is using labor laws to organize against the exploitation of adjunct faculty, who are notoriously paid less to work more and under unacceptable conditions, he says. It is exploitation, says Raines, matched only by the exploitation of students who cannot attend college without going into debilitating debt. And it all loops back to social justice.

Raines draws a bright line between socio-economic status and racial justice, and has written extensively about the effects of de-industrialization on both. “You can’t understand what’s going on racially in this country without understanding what’s going on with class relationships and oppression,” he says. He is convinced that the Occupy Wall Street movement is “anything but dead” and suggests it is merely hibernating: “A bear sleeping with one eye open.” Globally, Raines is committed to fighting religious intolerance, and his scholarship explores the connection between Islamophobia and oppression of a global underclass.

Raines has always been comfortable speaking out against injustice, and from his platform as a professor and a union member, he says, “I’ve never felt at all alone or exposed.”

And, he remains hopeful. “I’m convinced that we’re on the edge of a new counterculture, that it’s just below the horizon,” he says. “I see it in my students at Temple. They’re furious at the way in which they’re going to graduate as indentured servants. The average loan indebtedness is $28,000 for Temple students.” Their sense of economic injustice over student loans broadens, he says, until they are ready to tackle injustice across the country and the world. 

Much as he has done himself.