Racism has been described as America's original sin. It is an injustice woven into the fabric of American society, politics, and culture long before the Constitution was written. It has evolved over time. Racism today looks different than it did 50 years ago, but its effects are still devastating.
This chapter of Works of Love is focused on understanding what racism is and how we can begin to form a Christian response. Every American has some understanding of racism — some conception of what they think it is, at least, and what its effects are. There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings out there. So, first we need to get clear on what racism looks like in America today.
The resources below are meant to help guide prayerful reflection on this issue. St. Ignatius Loyola teaches that we should seek spiritual freedom, where we are aware of our biases and strive not to be mastered by them. If ever there were an issue that demanded consideration from a place of spiritual freedom, racism in America is it.
Ultimately, the invitation is to conversion and action, continually going deeper in our love for God and for our neighbors. This means realizing biases each of us hold, recognizing our participation in a society that excludes on the basis of race, and then pursuing justice with greater love.
(Note: "Works of Love" is edited by Henry Frank, Director of Communications, and Joe Williams, Communications Associate, both of whom identify as white men. If you have questions or comments about the Works of Love campaign, please feel free to contact Henry at email@example.com. Thanks for praying with us!)
|Wake me up Lord, so that the evil of racism|
finds no home within me.
Keep watch over my heart Lord,
and remove from me any barriers to your grace,
that may oppress and offend my brothers and sisters.
Fill my spirit Lord, so that I may
give services of justice and peace.
Clear my mind Lord, and use it for your glory.
And finally, remind us Lord that you said,
"blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God."
This prayer comes from "A Prayer Service for Racial Healing in Our Land" (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).
Racism as Soul Sickness: Interview with Bryan Massingale
The Jesuit Post interviewed Fr. Bryan Massingale as part of the 2017 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, hosted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network. Fr. Massingale challenges people to see racism not just as a political and social problem, but also as a spiritual one.
"I have recently begun thinking about racism as a soul sickness. We can talk about racism as a political issue, as a sociological phenomenon, but for me, as a faith-based scholar and activist, I understand racism as a soul sickness. It’s that profound warping of the human spirit that enables us to create communities that favor one racial group, white people, over darker skinned people."
Click here for the full article from The Jesuit Post.
Black Theology and a Legacy of Oppression
by M. Shawn Copeland
"11 a.m. on Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in Christian America."
M. Shawn Copeland, professor emerita of systematic theology at Boston College, discusses the complex relationship between racism and Christianity in America, the complicity of American Christians, the development of black theology, and how "elegant racism" continues to oppress communities of color.
Click here to read Professor Copeland's article (America Media).
Pastoral Letter to the People of God in El Paso
by Bishop Mark Joseph Seitz
Following a racially motivate mass shooting this summer in his community, Bishop Seitz of El Paso, Texas, wrote a letter addressed to the people of God. In it, he discusses the racial violence that was perpetrated against his community, the white supremacist language and sentiment that permeates US society and politics, the history of racism along the US border with Mexico, and the need for all of us to examine our hearts. He appeals to Our Lady of Guadalupe, who reminds marginalized people that they matter, that God is with them.
"This may be hard. I know it will be difficult at times for me. Words like racism and white supremacy make us uncomfortable and anxious and I don’t use these labels lightly. We live in a brutally unforgiving culture where these words are tossed about like weapons. But perhaps we are also aware that these conversations may require changes to the way we think and live. Challenging racism and white supremacy, whether in our hearts or in society, is a Christian imperative and the cost of not facing these issues head on, weighs much more heavily on those who live the reality of discrimination."
Click here to read Bishop Seitz's letter. (And if you don't have time to read the entire letter today, read this short article about it from Commonweal)
Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
"In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of 'race,' a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
'Between the World and Me' is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son."
This book is available here.
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
by Robin DiAngelo
"Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and 'allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to bad people' (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively."
This book is available here.
There are many good resources out there to learn more about the history of racism in America, the policies that brought us to where we are today, and how racism continues to be a systemic problem in American society. Below are some additional resources for further learning and reflection. Ultimately, the hope is that deeper reflection and prayer leads to conversion of heart and action in pursuit of justice. This is a lifelong process, in which all of us are still growing.
|PRAY AND REFLECT|
Take some time to pray and reflect. This prayer resource from the Sisters of Mercy helps us consider four patterns of racism, pray for those suffering from injustice, ask for forgiveness for the ways we are complicit or have failed to act, and then resolve to work harder.
|PRAYERS OF HOPE: DEFEND DACA|
Racism affects nearly every aspect of American society and politics, including current debates about immigration policy.
"The future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is in the hands of the United States Supreme Court. As the November 12, 2019 hearing date approaches, join the Ignatian and broader Catholic network in Prayers of Hope—as we unite to defend the dignity of DACA recipients through prayer and action."
Take action with the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
|SUPPORT STUDENTS OF COLOR ON CAMPUS|
The Ignatian Solidarity Network posted an article offering some suggestions on ways Jesuit school communities can do a better job making students of color feel safe and included.
Click here to learn more.
By Maddie Murphy (Ignatian Solidarity Network)
Think about the God of the oppressed, the true and loving God
Allow yourself to remain present in all reflection—in the moments you are proud of your actions, but especially in the moments where you are not. Do not shy away from examples of your need and capacity for growth and love.
In reflecting on how you utilized your privilege today, what are your feelings?
Pray for the courage, insight, humility, and self-awareness to continue to grow as a white ally for racial justice.
Make conscious, practical, and intentional action plans to use your power to help dismantle racism.