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.”


Bishop McElroy: The Death of One Man Conveys the Evil of 400 Years of Racial Oppression

via Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego:

A deep and crippling sadness envelops this nation that we love so deeply. The peril and the burden of a pandemic have worn us down. We have become isolated, cut off from so many of the joys that give meaning to our lives, and in many cases cut off from the blessing of family itself. While at most moments such a trauma for our society would have created an energized sense of unity and solidarity, in this moment it has created division and alienation. Our economy has suffered a cardiac arrest, and the fear of economic free-fall duels with the peril of pandemic to blur the pathway forward. We are worn down.

And alongside this exhaustion of our entire people, the seismic fault line that is the greatest shame of our nation’s past and present – our legacy of racial prejudice, violence and silence – has erupted once again and now tears apart the fabric of our society. The death of one man – in the killing of George Floyd – conveys the evil of 400 years of racial oppression. The words of one man – “I can’t breathe” – capture the pervasive and insidious power of racial prejudice that is layered within the structures of American public life and its legal, political and economic systems.

Where lies grace in a moment such as this?

It lies in understanding that a genuine healing for our nation can only be found in a radical effort to accompany the African-American community in their weariness and rage and hope and despair that have been formed and deformed upon the anvil of racism. Ours must not be an episodic response that seeks to calm the waters of racial turmoil and then return to normalcy. The only authentic moral response to this moment in our nation’s history is a sustained conversion of heart and soul to genuinely comprehend the overwhelming evil of racism in our society, and to refuse to rest until we have rooted it out.


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.”


The Church in America Must No Longer Be the Handmaiden of White Supremacy

The AND Campaign has released a statement on racialized violence in America:

We mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives due to racialized violence. The grief of their loved ones is our grief and we share in their agony. The riots in Minneapolis are not to be glorified or romanticized, but we must realize that they are a product of a riotous and unjust system. The disorder began when a man’s rights were violated and his life was taken. American racism was rioting against the people long before they took to the streets. We must condemn and address the cause before we can appropriately address the broken reaction.

The Bible very clearly demands justice in the sight of oppression and murder. In response to vain worship, the Lord told ancient Israel, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:23-24, NKJV).  Any theology or ideology that minimizes or denies the importance of justice in a social context is not biblical and must be called out accordingly. We cannot place our cultural preferences, partisan interests and flawed race narratives ahead of the Christian justice imperative.

A spirit of racial hatred and violence has engulfed the United States of America for too long; in fact, it’s our nation’s original sin. This reality presents Christians with the difficult task of rising to a biblical standard of love and truth while enduring extreme evil….

The Church cannot quietly reside in a society where Black people are murdered because of their skin. It cannot lie dormant in a culture where one’s race too often determines the duration and quality of their life. The Church in America has too often been the handmaiden of white supremacy. Now, the Church must offer a sober, determined and steadfast witness against white supremacy as contrary to no less than the very word and judgment of God. This is where we stand: not on the shaky ground of man-made ideology or carried by the shifting winds of societal judgment, but with the Lord our rock, in whom we take refuge, our shield and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold (Psalm 18:2).

You can read the full statement, including practical steps here.


US Bishops Respond to Killing of George Floyd and the Persistence of Racial Injustice in American Society

via USCCB:

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Bishop David G. O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, chairman of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs have issued the following statement:

We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.

Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

Cardinal Blase Cupich:

The death of George Floyd was not the sole driver of the civil unrest our nation is witnessing today. It just ignited the frustration of a people being told repeatedly in our society: “You don’t matter”; “You have no place at the table of life”  — and this painful frustration has been building since the first slave ships docked on this continent.

This is where our conversation about healing should begin, not with simple condemnations, but with facing facts. We need to ask ourselves and our elected officials: Why are black and brown people incarcerated at higher rates than whites for the same offenses? Why are people of color suffering disproportionately from the effects of the novel coronavirus? Why is our educational system failing to prepare children of color for a life in which they can flourish? Why are we still asking these questions and not moving heaven and earth to answer them, not with words, but with the systemic change it will take to finally right these wrongs?

These questions should be particularly troubling to people of faith….

Other societies have experienced unfathomable offenses against humanity and found ways to engage the history, to admit the crimes, to hold accountable those who committed them and to move toward something resembling reconciliation: the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime, the Rwandan genocide, the crimes of South African apartheid. We Americans can do this too. We are well past overdue for such a national reconciliation and the need to account for the history of violence against people of color in this country.

Tragedy does not eradicate hope. If there is anything we Christians take from our faith, it is that even the darkest deeds can be redeemed by love. And love is what is called for now. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Not the love of transactional friendships and cheap associations made by the click of a mouse button or an easy retweet. Signpost solidarity will not do. Only the hard work of familial love will set us on the path toward justice.

Archbishop José. Gomez:

We should all understand that the protests we are seeing in our cities reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin. It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life.

It is true what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that riots are the language of the unheard. We should be doing a lot of listening right now. This time, we should not fail to hear what people are saying through their pain. We need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society.

But the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let us keep our eyes on the prize of true and lasting change.

Legitimate protests should not be exploited by persons who have different values and agendas. Burning and looting communities, ruining the livelihoods of our neighbors, does not advance the cause of racial equality and human dignity.

We should not let it be said that George Floyd died for no reason. We should honor the sacrifice of his life by removing racism and hate from our hearts and renewing our commitment to fulfill our nation’s sacred promise — to be a beloved community of life, liberty, and equality for all.


Why Sean Doolittle Skipped the Nationals’ White House Celebration

via the Washington Post:

“There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and the enabling of conspiracy theories and widening the divide in this country. My wife and I stand for inclusion and acceptance, and we’ve done work with refugees, people that come from, you know, the ‘shithole countries,’ ” Doolittle said, referring to Trump’s comments about Haiti, El Salvador and African nations in a January 2018 meeting….

“I feel very strongly about his issues on race relations,” Doolittle said, and he listed the Fair Housing Act, the Central Park Five and Trump’s comments following a white supremacist rally in 2017….

“I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and [Trump] is a guy that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain that to him that I hung out with somebody who mocked the way that he talked or the way that he moves his hands? I can’t get past that stuff.”…

“People say you should go because it’s about respecting the office of the president,” Doolittle said. “And I think over the course of his time in office he’s done a lot of things that maybe don’t respect the office.”…

“The rhetoric, time and time again, has enabled those kind of behaviors,” Doolittle continued, referring to racism and white supremacy. “That never really went away, but it feels like now people with those beliefs, they maybe feel a little bit more empowered. They feel like they have a path, maybe. I don’t want to hang out with somebody who talks like that.”


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.