Around the Web: Articles on Racial Justice and Reform

Check out these recent articles from around the web on racial justice and reform:

Policing in America is broken and must change. But how? by NY Times: “The killing of George Floyd in police custody shows how far the country has to go; the resulting protests have pushed the Minneapolis City Council to take the previously unthinkable step of pledging to dismantle its Police Department. But what does that mean, and what should other cities do? We brought together five experts and organizers to talk about how to change policing in America in the context of broader concerns about systemic racism and inequality.”

How Black Lives Matter Reached Every Corner of America by NY Times: “Cumulative rage, despair and grief surged like a tidal wave at dawn. Protesters stormed the intersection where Mr. Floyd drew his last breath. Hastily scrawled posters, held steady by clenched fists, rose above the sea of heads. A black man killed — this time in Minneapolis, this one unambiguously captured on video — gave way to collective anguish and demands for action.”

A monumental shift by Christine Emba: “In 50 states and 18 countries, protesters have sparked a long-delayed conversation about structural racism, persistent inequality and the long history of white supremacy that has enabled injustice to persist. Statues and obelisks celebrate the questionable heroes of a racist past, and the protests have spurred reconsiderations of these memorials in Congress and in legislatures around the world. But rather than wait for official decisions to trickle down, protesters have taken action themselves. It’s a monumental shift.”

We Can Fight for Racial Justice While Tolerating Dissent by Stephen L. Carter: “We’re living at a dangerous intellectual moment. In the wake of the coldblooded police slaying of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street corner, people are marching for racial justice, a development that’s all to the good in our broken country. But when those demands turn to restricting the universe of permissible conversation, they cross a democratic line that’s worth defending.”

How can I explain the color of my skin—and racism—to young white students? by Alvan Amadi: “I wanted my students to see what God sees: the beauty of diversity. But I also wanted them to know another truth. The African-American poet and Pulitzer-prize winning author Maya Angelou said it beautifully when she observed that “we are more alike than unalike.” For a long time in the history of the United States, however, race has been used to divide, demean and degrade. This is the great sin of racism.”

What’s missing from the national conversation on race, violence, and lethal force? You. by Gloria Purvis: “We must, as Catholics, assert our moral view at these moments even when they may be difficult and uncomfortable. Indeed Imago Dei must be the cornerstone in our national conversations about race, violence, crime, and lethal force. Otherwise we cannot possibly address, let alone resolve, these societal problems. Without our engagement, the current division and hostilities worsen.”

How we can start systemically reforming the police by Bakari Sellers: “But to heal and create a system of policing where law enforcement officers accused of misconduct are brought to justice, we must leverage our anger and frustration to drive systemic change. For years, law enforcement has too often “stacked the deck” legally by undermining meaningful citizen oversight of police misconduct and limiting our ability to prosecute officers.”

If You Are Pro-Life, You Must Also Be Antiracist by Monique Schlichtman: “To be Pro-Life Literal and not Pro-Life Political, you have to actively fight against (through word, deed, and dare I say—your finances) any systems that have been created to demean, devalue, and destroy life at any stage.”

If racial justice and peace will ever be attained, it must begin in the church by Shannen Dee Williams: “The global protests over the long-standing plague of white supremacy, most recently manifested in the police and vigilante murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, have put our nation and church on the precipice of monumental change or devastating setback.”

The Familial Language of Black Grief by Jemar Tisby: “Police brutality feels like a problem that is both very old and freshly personal every time it happens. We feel the pain and loss of black life as if it were our very own blood that had been brutalized—because it easily could have been.”

Responding to the call to combat racism by Brian Fraga: “For 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the world watched in horror as George Floyd struggled to breathe. His neck pinned by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee, Floyd begged in vain for mercy. Before passing out, the 46-year-old Floyd called out for his “momma.” “That nearly broke me to hear a grown man call out like that in desperation,” said Gloria Purvis, a host of the EWTN radio show Morning Glory.”

I Have Only One Hope for Racial Justice: A God Who Conquered Death by Esau McCaulley: “As the protests press on, then, I pray today and every day that we remember the Resurrection, when the entire cosmos became something different. We have yet to realize the full scope of that change.”

What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger by Esau McCaulley: “When these videos stack one upon another and are added to our personal slights, a deep unsettling anger rises in the soul of a disinherited and beleaguered people.”

Disbelieving black victims is the default position of conservatives. It’s shameful. by Michael Gerson: “One reason the president does not focus on the universality of human dignity in his rhetoric is because he systemically dehumanizes migrants and refugees as rapists, murderers and terrorists. He simply lacks the capacity to talk about our shared humanity. One reason Trump did not repudiate racist protesters in Charlottesville and Lansing, Mich., is because angry racists are his people — a valued part of his political base. In Trump’s eyes, no one who supports him can really be bad. And racists seem grateful to see their views mainstreamed.”

American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go by David French: “It’s hard even to begin to describe all the ramifications of 345 years of legalized oppression and 56 years of contentious change, but we can say two things at once—yes, we have made great strides (and we should acknowledge that fact and remember the men and women who made it possible), but the central and salient consideration of American racial politics shouldn’t center around pride in how far we’ve come, but in humble realization of how much farther we have to go.”

The Black Women Who Paved the Way for This Moment by Keisha Blain: “In cities across the United States, black activists are denouncing state-sanctioned violence and demanding radical changes to American policing. Black women leaders occupy a central role in these movements….But the prominence of black women in these protests is not a sudden development. In taking to the streets in support of their goals, they are building upon a rich tradition of black women’s organizing.”

Will it be different this time? Will we face our racism? by Michael Sean Winters: “These positive trends are the backdrop, also, for the outrage so many young people rightly feel and rightly express after watching the horrific video of the murder of George Floyd. How is it that racism, murderous racism, is still with us and still so systemic?”

Take the Confederate Names Off Our Army Bases by David Petraeus: “The magic of the republic to which many of us dedicated our professional lives is that its definition of equality has repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to broaden. And America’s military has often led social change, especially in the area of racial integration. We do not live in a country to which Braxton Bragg, Henry L. Benning, or Robert E. Lee can serve as an inspiration. Acknowledging this fact is imperative.”

What church leaders can learn from St. Paul about race and diversity by Ferdinand Okorie: “The poisoned relationship between men and women of different skin colors needs the elixir that is the gospel of the siblinghood of God’s children. The church must preach it to be truly a household of God.”

Listening to Robert F. Kennedy by Peter Wehner: “Words are the means by which we convey deep emotions and longings, knowledge and understanding, hopes and fears. We use them to teach, to warn, and to inspire; to promote harmony and provoke; to defend truth and attack it; to seek justice and attack injustice. Words shape our sensibilities; they are part of the civic and political fabric of a nation. This year in particular, we are seeing how the words of an American president who knows only conflict, escalation, and dehumanization—who loves to throw matches on dry kindling, to use the vivid imagery of a friend of mine—can inflict grave injury on the nation.”

Justice and Race: What We Can and Cannot Change by Matthew Loftus: “There are no easy answers to deal with the problem of police violence, although there are a lot of reforms that could focus policing to deal more exclusively with solving crimes while reducing the number of interactions that could turn fatal. While police abuses occupy a great deal of our discourse, they’re only a small part of the racial injustice that has haunted the church for centuries. The church, if it is willing to finally able to hear our brothers and sisters who are testifying to what is happening, will find strategies for battling the demonic power of white supremacy. If we are willing to listen and pray.”


Pope Francis on Anti-Racism Protests in the US: We Cannot Tolerate or Turn a Blind Eye to Racism

via Vatican News:

In his greetings to the English-speaking faithful at the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis addressed the people of the United States, as protests continue throughout the nation.

“I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd,” he said. “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”…

“At the same time, we have to recognize that ‘the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost’.”…

Pope Francis added that today he joins the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and throughout the entire US, “in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism.”


Highlights from Bishop Mark Seitz’s Prophetic Pastoral Letter on Racism, El Paso, and the Border

Bishop Seitz writes:

  • On August 3rd, 2019, El Paso was the scene of a massacre or matanza that left 22 dead, injured dozens and traumatized a binational community. Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy.
  • 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.
  • The Catholic Church in the United States supports the ban on assault weapons that lawmakers senselessly let expire in 2004 and our Church continues to advocate for reasonable regulations on firearms that Congress still won’t pass.2 The constant pressures on families and the embarrassing lack of access to mental healthcare in this country surely also play a role.
  • But the mystery of evil motivating attacks like the El Paso matanza goes deeper than these. It is something more complex than laws and policies alone can fix. What else explains the perversity of attacks on African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other communities?
  • This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to ‘white’ people than to people of color. This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’, paving the way to dehumanization. In other words, racism.
  • If we are honest, racism is really about advancing, shoring up, and failing to oppose a system of white privilege and advantage based on skin color. When this system begins to shape our public choices, structure our common life together and becomes a tool of class, this is rightly called institutionalized racism. Action to build this system of hate and inaction to oppose its dismantling are what we rightly call white supremacy. This is the evil one and the ‘father of lies’ (John 8, 44) incarnate in our everyday choices and lifestyles, and our laws and institutions.
  • Our highest elected officials have used the word ‘invasion’ and ‘killer’ over 500 times to refer to migrants4, treated migrant children as pawns on a crass political chessboard, insinuated that judges and legislators of color are un-American, and have made wall-building a core political project.
  • Yet the attitudes of the Spanish colonizers included the erroneous notion of racial purity based on light skin, a belief which in some places continues today, even in internalized fashion.
  • After its entry into the United States, Texas saw dramatic mass migration into the state from White settlers from other parts of the country…. In their wake came ‘Juan Crow’ laws of segregation, the prohibition of then-common interracial marriage, new racial hierarchies, the dispossession of tribal communities, efforts to disenfranchise Mexican residents and a true campaign of terror. This campaign included the lynching and murder of likely thousands of Latinos, terror undertaken just as much by vigilantes as by official state actors like the Texas Rangers, and often in concert.
  • The wall is a powerful symbol in the story of race. It has helped to merge nationalistic vanities with racial projects.
  • Some cannot understand the visceral reaction of many in the borderlands to the wall. It is not just a tool of national security. More than that, the wall is a symbol of exclusion, especially when allied to an overt politics of xenophobia…. It perpetuates the racist myth that the area south of the border is dangerous and foreign and that we are merely passive observers in the growth of narco-violence and the trafficking of human beings and drugs…. There will be a day when after this wall has come crumbling down we will look back and remember the wall as a monument to hate.
  • Why is there greater poverty, less access to education and health care and lower wages in our border community?
  • Our identity is formed in the grace-filled relationships we freely pursue with God, others and Creation. In the words of Pope Francis, ‘human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself’. On our border we have seen that racism radically undermines those relationships.
  • Guadalupe invites us to leave behind fear and join her in the work of advancing justice in America with joy. We are called to die to an attitude of fear and rise with a will to encounter others in vulnerability, to appreciate the gifts of every culture and people, with a willingness to be changed for the better by right relationships with God, others and the earth.
  • But as builders of the Temple of Justice here in the Americas, it is not enough to not be racist. Our reaction cannot be non-engagement. We must also make a commitment to be anti-racists in active solidarity with the suffering and excluded.
  • We must work to ensure all our children have access to quality educational opportunities, eliminate inequality in the colonias, pass immigration reform, eradicate discrimination, guarantee universal access to health care, ensure the protection of all human life, end the scourge of gun violence, improve wages on both sides of the border, offer just and sustainable development opportunities, defend the environment and honor the dignity of every person. This is how we write a new chapter in our history of solidarity and friendship that future generations can remember with pride.
  • In the absence of immigration reform, I also renew my appeal to the President of the United States, to the Members of Congress and to the jurists of our highest Courts. I beg you to listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border.

Remembering MLK’s Radicalism and Defending the Dignity of Black Lives

Nichole Flores writes:

Martin Luther King Jr. has been upheld as the paragon of racial justice activism, offering a broadly compelling account of human dignity grounded in his vision of the beloved community. But 50 years after his assassination, this vision is often manipulated or taken out of context in ways that water down the radical nature of his dream or minimize his life of protest and active solidarity that ended with the violence of a bullet aimed at silencing his message. It is this same vision of human dignity, however, that calls us to re-examine Dr. King’s moral legacy for us today. Specifically, his affirmation of human dignity compels Catholics to declare that black lives matter and to align our church with an affirmation of the sanctity of black life….

If human beings are created in the image of God, then the hatred of any human person, including the hatred or mistreatment of another person based on his or her race, is an affront to that image. But this is only the baseline of a Christian response to racism. The more difficult, more demanding and more Christlike response to racism requires a positive love of and enduring solidarity with those who have been subject to racial injustice, especially those neighbors whose lives are being threatened by hatred and violence. More than a general, abstract affirmation that racism is wrong or undesirable for society, Catholic faith requires acknowledgment of specific persons and communities who are being threatened and harmed by enduring structures of anti-blackness and a resurgent cultural acceptability of racist ideas and actions. In short, Catholic faith demands that we proclaim that black lives matter….

Protest is the public face of the demand for dignity, expressing specific social and political claims linked to this moral affirmation. These claims include voting rights, education, employment, housing and equal treatment under the law. While some find protest to be too radical or socially disruptive, marching with those whose lives are treated as if they do not matter is a vital aspect of Christian solidarity.

We cannot forget that protest was a centerpiece of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Christian witness, the embodied manifestation of his belief that all people are created equal. He marched for the truth for which he was ultimately killed: that black lives should matter to us because they already matter to God.


White Christians Are Called to Embrace Anti-Racism, Not Just Non-Racism

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Millennial writer Meghan Clark writes:

As Christians, we must recognize that there is no such thing as a non-racist. There is no third option. Non-racism is a passive rejection of racism, but it is also a rejection of human dignity, solidarity and the common good. It is a category created to allow one to feel comfortable in one’s own moral rejection of racism while tolerating it in society.

We must speak up, and we must stand up. It is a moral imperative that we respond not only with words but actions. We are called to emulate the courage and actions of the U.V.A. students and Heather Heyer, the woman killed in Charlottesville.

Solidarity is the recognition that we are all one human family and we all have equal human dignity. In realizing that my human dignity is bound up in yours, I come to understand that any violation of your dignity violates my own as well. Solidarity reframes our understanding of moral responsibility and recognizes that we have a moral duty to promote justice and the common good. More than just a negative duty not to harm, we have a positive duty to promote the dignity of others. We have a duty to confront and dismantle racism and white supremacy. As Christians, we have a moral duty to be anti-racist.



Statement of the National Black Catholic Congress on the Civil Unrest in Baltimore

The National Black Catholic Congress has released a statement on the civil unrest in Baltimore:

The recent events in Baltimore, Maryland, along with those in Ferguson, Missouri and other communities in our nation, lead us to reaffirm our position as African American Catholics on the inviolate value of the Life and Dignity of every Human Person.

Deeply rooted in the Word of God and our Catholic Social Teaching, and in the spirit of the Pastoral Plan from the eleventh National Black Catholic Congress in 2012, we deplore the violence, brutality, harmful illegal and self-destructive behavior and the racism that plagues our communities. We call for prayerful, honest and peaceful dialogue that will lead to justice and truth.

Poverty and hopelessness breed violence and despair. With tragic frequency young people, our most treasured human asset, seem to be both perpetrators and victims. Not all anger and frustration manifests itself in looting or violent behavior, and many know how to positively, creatively and productively channel their frustrations.

More than ever we need a new model for engaging society on poverty and race. Faith communities have a unique and particular role to play in the healing of broken communities and are called to courageous witness. The Catholic Community in particular has been challenged by Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to enter fully into the struggles of the people who are most marginalized and on the peripheries of society. We call for a renewed a commitment to ministry with our youth and young adults, along with meaningful commitment to meet their educational, employment and other social justice needs.

The full statement can be read here.