Around the Web: Articles on Racial Justice and Reform

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Are racial justice movements straying from Catholic tradition — or are Catholic leaders out of touch? by Alessandra Harris: “The racial justice movement will continue until Black people are no longer treated as second-class citizens, segregated in economically depressed neighborhoods, denied adequate education and health care, and disproportionately incarcerated and murdered by the death penalty. I, along with millions of Christians and Catholics, will continue to carry the mantle while proclaiming the Gospel message. We do not need the U.S.C.C.B. to give us permission. We need only follow what the prophet Micah proclaims the Lord requires: to do justice, to love goodness and to walk humbly with God.”

The Racial Justice Debate Needs Civil Discourse, Not Straw Men by Esau McCaulley: “By God’s grace, we can find our way forward in the critical race theory debate and the various related disputes. That progress begins with interpreting others’ words and ideas with generosity, not with fearmongering. It begins with seeking semantic clarity and understanding semantic range. And it begins with opening to the world the whole of our faith tradition—including Christian social teaching—with the confidence that he who began a good work will carry it on to completion on the day of our Lord.”

The Black church has major generational challenges. Here’s what we’re doing about it. by  T.D. Jakes and Sarah Jakes Roberts: “As pastors with more than 50 years’ experience between us, preaching and ministering to people in several of the nation’s largest cities, we maintain that the role of the church as an anchor of the Black community is just as important as ever, despite emerging data that shows fewer young people in our community are embracing the church.”

A crisis within a crisis by Nicquel Terry Ellis and Adrienne Broaddus: “The US has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. About 700 women die each year in the US due to a pregnancy-related complication either during pregnancy or within the year after delivery, says Dr. Wanda Barfield, Director of the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. ‘What’s even more striking is when you’re looking at the differences between Black and White women,’ she says.”

I was disturbed reading ‘Beloved’ at my Virginia high school — and rightly so by Christine Emba: “I was also asked to read “Beloved” in a high school English class, also in Virginia — Richmond, to be precise. It was a hard read. You felt bad. It was also an illuminating corrective, studied against the Virginia backdrop of Robert E. Lee worship, Stonewall Jackson fetishization, and the plantations where enslaved people, we heard in our history classes, worked mostly happily for noble, caring masters.”

Black Catholic History Month: An Interview with Dr. Shannen Dee Williams: “In the United States, where the Church’s African roots are as old as its European roots, many people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, believe that African American Catholics do not exist or are historical anomalies resulting from the Church’s twentieth-century evangelization efforts to Black migrant communities in the urban North, Midwest, and West. However, much of early African American history is Catholic history, and much of early American Catholic history is Black history.”

Is America Willing to Tell the Truth About Its History? by Tish Harrison Warren: “The question before us as a nation is simple: Are we willing to tell the truth about our history or not?”

How to Teach a Little Girl to Love Her Brown Skin by Wajahat Ali: “How many girls like Nusayba look in the mirror and see only defects and imperfections? A nose that’s too big, lips that are too full, eyes that should be rounded, hair that must be straightened, skin to be bleached. This must end here.”


Around the Web: Articles on Racial Justice and Reform

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Race Manners: Which Black People Should I Believe? by Jenée Desmond-Harris: “Should you weigh the perspectives of people who are personally affected by racist policies? Of course. But you don’t have to weigh them all equally. Gather information and learn, yes, but as you’re digesting all those tweets and articles and interviews, ask yourself questions like these: Do I generally consider this person or media outlet to be smart and trustworthy? Do I see eye to eye with this person or media outlet on issues about which I feel more clear and confident? Does what I’m hearing line up with my values?”

Why Christians Must Fight Systemic Racism by Esau McCaulley: “When people point out bias or racism in structures (health care, housing, policing, employment practices), they are engaging in the most Christian of practices: naming and resisting sins, personal and collective. A Christian theology of human fallibility leads us to expect structural and personal injustice. It is in the texts we hold dear. So when Christians stand up against racialized oppression, they are not losing the plot; they are discovering an element of Christian faith and practice that has been with us since the beginning.”

Why Is the Country Panicking About Critical Race Theory? by Spencer Bokat-Lindell: “Florida is one of six states in recent months that have passed such pedagogical regulations — which in some cases apply to public universities — and 20 others are considering measures to the same effect, often explicitly targeting critical race theory. Where did this movement come from, and what are the underlying disputes? Here’s what people are saying.”

I’m a conservative who believes systemic racism is real by Michael Gerson: “Though our nation is beset with systemic racism, we also have the advantage of what a friend calls “systemic anti-racism.” We have documents — the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the 14th Amendment — that call us to our better selves. We are a country that has exploited and oppressed Black Americans. But we are also the country that has risen up in mass movements, made up of Blacks and Whites, to confront those evils. The response to systemic racism is the determined, systematic application of our highest ideals.”

Service, patriotism and the promise of Black liberation by EJ Dionne: “In his interviews with Black veterans, Parker, a political science professor at the University of Washington, found a patriotism rooted not in the reality of their moment but in aspirations for the future — “hope that America would recognize its founding values. It’s the thing that kept them going,” he told me.”

The War on History Is a War on Democracy by Timothy Snyder: “The memory laws arise in a moment of cultural panic when national politicians are suddenly railing against “revisionist” teachings. In Russia, the supposed revisionists are people who write critically about Stalin, or honestly about the Second World War. In the United States, the “revisionists” are people who write about race. In both cases, “revisionism” tends to mean the parts of history that challenge leaders’ sense of righteousness or make their supporters uncomfortable.”

His Name Was Emmett Till by Wright Thompson: “A Mississippi-history textbook taught at one in the early 1990s didn’t mention Till at all. A newer textbook contains 70 words on Till, calling him a “man” and telling the story of his killing through the lens of the damage that two evil men, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, did to all the good white folks. Half the passage is about how the segregationist governor was a “moderating force” in a time when media coverage of Till’s murder “painted a poor picture of Mississippi and its white citizens.” This textbook is still in use.”


How Racism Degrades and Denies the True Nature of the Human Person

Gloria Purvis is the host of The Gloria Purvis Podcast, produced in collaboration with America Media. A radio and media personality, she has appeared in various media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, PBS Newshour, and EWTN News Nightly. She previously hosted Morning Glory, an international radio show. In this episode, she describes her commitment to upholding the dignity of every person, the faith that inspires that commitment, systemic racism, the response of pro-lifers to persistent racial injustice, and her new podcast.

Co-hosts Kristen Day and Robert Christian discuss the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case that centers on a Mississippi law that would prohibit most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, new voter suppression laws and efforts to strengthen democracy and secure voting rights, recent events on the Hyde Amendment, and a letter to Congress on paid leave and sick days, accommodations for pregnant workers, and efforts to reduce inequity and improve infant and maternal health. They also discuss this month’s question of the month: Are we looking at the end of the Hyde Amendment?

This episode can be found on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and below. You can support the show here: https://support.democratsforlife.org/product/2EFF09A/whole-life-rising


The Future of Anti-Racism and the Catholic Church


via the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life:

The killing of George Floyd sparked a renewed racial justice reckoning in our nation. The national response to police violence against Black Americans has affected our country and communities in a way previously unseen in a generation. These recent events have led our communities to examine more closely the impact that injustice and racism have on an individual, structural, and institutional level. As a result, more young Catholics have begun to engage in difficult conversations about the history and present reality of racism in the U.S. Catholic Church.

This Salt and Light Gathering for young adults under 40 brought together a panel of young Black Catholic leaders to engage challenging questions about the spiritual and practical actions needed to work towards a culture of anti-racism, which values the equal dignity of every human life. The panel discussed the history of racism within the U.S. Catholic Church, how racial injustice exists in our communities today, the role of white privilege, and practical ways that Church leaders and young Catholics can work towards a more anti-racist and racially just Church.

Kim Daniels, associate director of the Initiative, introduced the online conversation. Jonathan Lewis, assistant secretary for the Secretariat of Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, moderate the discussion, which featured:

—Ogechi Akalegbere is a Nigerian-American who is the host, executive editor, and content creator for the podcast Tell Me, If You Can. She also works as the Christian service coordinator at Connelly School of the Holy Child.

—Fr. Robert Boxie is the chaplain at Howard University and the priest-in- residence at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Washington, DC. He had been the parochial vicar at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Largo, Maryland, since July 2017.

—Gerald Smith, Jr. is the principal at St. Thomas More Catholic Academy in Washington, DC, where he previously taught 4th-8th grade science. He formerly taught at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland.

—Shannen Dee Williams is the Albert Lepage Assistant Professor of History at Villanova University. She is the author of a forthcoming book with the working title Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle.


Love, Racism, and Alienation: James Baldwin’s ‘Conundrum of Color’ in 2020

What does it look like to be loved entirely? To give yourself, to be received, to be embraced, with all of your wounds and all of your beauty?

The desire for a love like this permeates the life and work of James Baldwin.

For a Black man born in Harlem during the Great Depression, the grandson of a slave, the stepson of a man who was part of the first generation of free men, these questions bear a unique weight and, for Baldwin, carry the urgency of  a prophet.

When you are met each day with the anger and bitterness of a father who, as Baldwin put it, was very black and beautiful, but who did not know that he was beautiful, and with a society that has conspired to teach you that you are worthless, that you are less than–a society in which  the basic freedoms taken for granted by most people in your country will have to be literally fought for, sometimes to the death—when this is the world in which one is immersed from the day of one’s birth, then the recovery of one’s “birthright” of human dignity and the necessity of grappling with what Baldwin called the “rock of ages” – that inheritance of suffering and pain that has accrued for hundreds of years, forming into the bedrock of the nation – becomes the work of a lifetime.

But for Baldwin, this work belongs to an entire people, to all of us. “The conundrum of color,” he wrote, “is the inheritance of every American.” Facing the fact that we are each created with this unimaginably deep need for love, a desire to be affirmed to the very core of our being as good, as worthy, as one who is, in the fullest sense of the word, a person, we also must face the fact that, in a unique and specific way, our world as Americans has been formed around both a denial of this love and a denial of this need.

After 244 years of brutalization and bloodshed, followed by a war that turned brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers against one another, it shouldn’t surprise us that many have felt inclined to try to forget this history—to, as they say, “move on.” And yet, if we actually listen to each other’s experiences, if we actually study what has occurred in this country since 1865, we will quickly discover that 244 years of slavery cannot be undone, that in some way our history will always shape us, and that if we truly want to be free, rather than determined by the past, we will have to grapple with this fact.

From the 1860s to the present, surges of violence and upheaval across our country have been followed by periods of relative calm and supposed stability, yet the calm hid what was just beneath the surface: the astounding reality of each person’s capacity to consistently deny the humanity of another human being—a denial that haunts us still today. In the face of this reality, we risk entering into bitterness, hatred, and nihilism, either through adopting a racist attitude ourselves, through continuing to ignore the problem at hand, or through failed attempts to resolve it. If we pretend it does not and never has existed, or repeat that mantra of complacency (“Well, I’m not a racist!”), we can live in a banal and lukewarm bath of contentment, patting ourselves on the back about “how far we’ve come as a nation.” Or, acknowledging reality, we might attempt to assemble a system that guarantees the total eradication of prejudice by eliminating those who transgress the norms imposed by the system, attempting to completely externalize evil by engaging in witch hunts and purifying our communities through violent exclusion. In the same country, even in the same city or home, we can live in a variety of parallel worlds that each respond or fail to respond to this traumatic past in different and often entirely irreconcilable ways.

According to Baldwin, none of these responses get to the root of the problem. He proposes that the origin of the slave trade was not necessarily the evilness of the traders and owners, but instead their lack of awareness of the needs of their own humanity. The trajectory of racism in the US is the result of a people alienated from who we are as beings created for relationship. This alienation from ourselves, this lack of understanding of our own need for love and unity, has often convinced us that power and hatred are more satisfying ends to pursue. In fact, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has recently argued, “Race is the child of racism, not the father.” In other words, the concept of race itself was generated out of this supposed need to oppress the other, rather than out of any truly fundamental difference between groups of human beings. It is our blindness that allows us to think we can own another human being, deny him rights, kill him out of an irrational fear—to consider him our enemy rather than our brother or sister. Baldwin suggests that the only remedy to this evil is an encounter that can reawaken our own personhood. It is those who take the risk of allowing themselves to be loved who can begin to discover their own need, and to respect that same need in their neighbor.

As we go forward into an unknown future, I invite each of us to engage in the work of deeply and sincerely listening. This starts within our own families, schools, and places of employment, but it doesn’t end there. Depending on our age, geographical location, profession and so forth, this listening could extend in different ways. It might involve entering into a serious study of the history of African-American experience in the United States. It might involve broadening our knowledge of American literature to include voices and experiences far outside of our own. It might involve volunteering in our local communities and spending time together with people of a variety of backgrounds with whom we might normally not interact. It might also involve familiarizing ourselves with our local governments and public institutions, and participating in needed reforms. It will always involve relinquishing the fearful, dismissive attitude that so often characterizes responses to the call for greater understanding of “the conundrum of color”. There are endless creative possibilities available when we begin from a position of openness and curiosity in the face of reality. Remembering our own experience, the experience that allows us to make a judgment about the fundamental positivity of reality, we should find ourselves with a profound freedom to encounter one another, to listen to one another, and to live with one another in a new way.

Rose Tomassi teaches Philosophy, History, and Craftsmanship at Martin Saints Classical High School in Oreland, PA.


Around the Web: Articles on Racial Justice and Reform

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

The Fullest Look Yet at the Racial Inequity of Coronavirus by NY Times: “Latino and African-American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors, according to the new data, which provides detailed characteristics of 640,000 infections detected in nearly 1,000 U.S. counties. And Black and Latino people have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, the data shows.”

Toward a Catholic Understanding of the Phrase “Black Lives Matter by Fr. Matthew Hawkins: “If a person understands the history and circumstances that have given rise to this cry, then they will not misinterpret it, they will not feel threatened by it, and they will not feel excluded from it. Properly understood, “Black Lives Matter” is an expression of fundamental Catholic values of family, community, universality, life, and faith.”

Racist Litter by Randall Kennedy: “Acting strictly along party lines in states it controls, the Republican Party – which has increasingly become the white man’s party – enacts legislation that makes it more difficult for certain sectors of the population to register to vote. Asserting that such laws are required to stem fraud (a claim that has been repeatedly discredited), the Republicans impose new requirements that invariably and invidiously disqualify racial minorities in disproportionate numbers.”

Racism and resilience: An overview of Catholic African American history by Katie Scott: “Such painful experiences are echoed by generations of Black Catholics in Oregon and across the country. Some individuals have a handful of stories, others an extensive list. Each story is part of a long history of racism in the wider culture and the church.”

The real stakes in the David Shor saga by Matthew Yglesias: “People with unsound views are able to get operatives fired and render them unhirable. They’re able to shut down discussions on listservs meant for tactical discussions. And most of all, they create an environment where lots of people feel they need to watch their words very carefully. There is a genuine ongoing dialogue about whether claims made on behalf of racial justice should be subject to critical scrutiny.”

How partisanship is ‘weakening the Gospel witness’ in America by Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble: “Sadly, I can honestly say that I learned more about racism in my time as a punk rock atheist than I ever did as a Catholic. And while my personal story is unique to me, unfortunately, my experience’s broad brush strokes are far from rare among Christians in this country. In many congregations, parishes and homes around the United States, a partisan presentation of the faith is ever-present.”

Bryan Stevenson on how America can heal: “In the 250 years of enslavement in which Black people endured being kidnapped, put in chains, brutalized, mistreated, abused, raped — there was daily humiliation and degradation, the violence of slavery. That kind of abuse and mistreatment finally ends in 1865 after the Civil War, after the ratification of the 13th Amendment. And instead of seeking revenge or retribution or violence against those who had enslaved them, emancipated Black people said, We’re going to make peace here. We’re going to make community here. We’re going to commit to education. We’re going to commit to voting. We’re going to become ideal American citizens.When you think about all of the brutality and violence and abuse that Black people suffered and they still were willing to live in harmony with those who had abused them, it says something remarkable about the power of “we.” They believed in an America and they got no credit for that.”

The Dehumanizing Condescension of White Fragility by John McWhorter: “Despite the sincere intentions of its author, the book diminishes Black people in the name of dignifying us. This is unintentional, of course, like the racism DiAngelo sees in all whites. Still, the book is pernicious because of the authority that its author has been granted over the way innocent readers think.”

John Lewis’s Last Journey by Randall Kennedy: “Third, Lewis displayed a wonderful, empathetic, plainspoken cosmopolitanism. Attuned to the aspirations of African Americans, Lewis was also sensitive to the yearnings of others. A lifelong apostle of Rev. King, Lewis faithfully followed the teaching of his hero in embracing universal brotherhood and sisterhood. He eschewed tribal narcissism and embraced coalition politics. He was the most praiseworthy American activist-politician of his generation, a veritable fountain of instruction and inspiration.”

Black lives matter in the worshipping church by Kim Harris: “Black Catholic women know the view of the world from under and on the cross. It is in response to these experiences that our African traditions, our African American practices, our deep relationship with Jesus, our Black ways of being and doing manifest in cries, hums, moans, rocking, patting our feet and lifting our hands. We bring our wholly functioning, fully active and participating selves to the church as example and as gift.”

America’s Enduring Caste System by Isabel Wilkerson: “Caste is rigid and deep; race is fluid and superficial, subject to periodic redefinition to meet the needs of the dominant caste in what is now the United States. While the requirements to qualify as white have changed over the centuries, the fact of a dominant caste has remained constant from its inception — whoever fit the definition of white, at whatever point in history, was granted the legal rights and privileges of the dominant caste. Perhaps more critical and tragic, at the other end of the ladder, the subordinated caste, too, has been fixed from the beginning as the psychological floor beneath which all other castes cannot fall.”


Around the Web: Articles on Racial Justice and Reform

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Becoming a Parent in the Age of Black Lives Matter by Clint Smith: “My children are both respite from all the tragedy transpiring in the world, and a reminder of how high the stakes are.”

Black Catholics: Words Not Enough as Church Decries Racism by the AP: “Black Roman Catholics are hearing their church’s leaders calling for racial justice once again after the killing of George Floyd, but this time they’re demanding not just words but action.”

Black Catholic leaders say more integration in the Church is possible — if all are willing to do the work by Brian Fraga: “Figueroa and other black Catholic leaders told Our Sunday Visitor that the Church in the United States needs to step up to the challenge of bringing about greater racial reconciliation and confronting the toxic legacy of racism against black- and brown-skinned people that still manifests itself in sinful and unjust social conditions and institutions.”

As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, to confront racism we must find the strength to love by Chloé Valdary: “This attempt to correct injustice is laudable, but the work of anti-racism must be rooted in the moral ethic of love and acknowledge the profound sacredness of human beings.”

These numbers show that black and white people live in two different Americas by Sergio Peçanha: “Numbers can help put American racism in perspective. And here is what the numbers say: The United States is a vastly different country, depending on the color of your skin. For African Americans, hardship begins before birth. The infant mortality rate for blacks, for example, is more than twice that of white Americans.”

You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument by Caroline Randall Williams: “I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South. If there are those who want to remember the legacy of the Confederacy, if they want monuments, well, then, my body is a monument. My skin is a monument.”

Read Up on the Links Between Racism and the Environment by Somini Sengupta: “This week, amid a surge of protests over police violence against black Americans, there’s been renewed scrutiny on the links between racism and environmental degradation in the United States. To help readers understand those links, I put together a quick reading list about climate change and social inequities. These suggestions are meant to be starters, laying out a few entry points.”

Black Families Were Hit Hard by the Pandemic. The Effects on Children May Be Lasting. by Kelly Glass : “Eileen Condon, Ph.D., a nurse practitioner and postdoctoral associate at Yale University School of Nursing, and her colleagues examined the stressors related to the coronavirus pandemic, and how they disproportionately harm disadvantaged and marginalized families.Poverty, food insecurity and housing insecurity are major sources of pervasive stress, Condon said. When a child experiences toxic stress, their stress response is “essentially always activated.””

Elijah McClain’s final words haunt me as the parent of a child who is ‘different’ by Jackie Spinner: “I only knew that being different and black in America means that my son is vulnerable if stopped by police. A 2016 report, analyzing incidents from 2013 to 2015, found that nearly half the people killed by police had some sort of disability. A 2019 study of police-involved deaths found that 1 in every 1,000 black men is at risk of being killed by law enforcement.”