Recognizing Personal & Systemic Racism: If you’ve returned to coming back to church physically recently & it coincided with our national race riots & chaos, then you’ve heard me speak only briefly about the Original Sin of these United States that first affected our indigenous native American peoples (those who were here in this land way before all of our European ancestors came conquering & plundering). It now continues with our black & brown sisters/brothers—who are feeling oppressed by some in law enforcement community.
I grew up in my Irish-American grandfather’s home, & I still seriously love my ‘Pop,’ who died while I was a high school teenager—but I must recognize that he was terribly racist; & I was taught such ideological nonsense by growing up in his home. My Irish uncles were also quite racist, & so I was exposed to this ugly virus from a very young age. My mother told a story that she was dating a swarthy Italian-American guy & was severely reprimanded by her Dad for disgracing the family: his skin was dark & not light & fair. I was later part of the local Boy Scout troop & became a friend of this man’s son, & they were a stellar, Catholic family!
Young children do not recognize skin color differences, only adults do that crazy thing. Certainly not every white person is a personal racist, & every individual must examine her/his upbringing to consider whether they were exposed to that ugly social virus. But every white person is the beneficiary of ‘white privilege,’ which means simply that doors open more easily for you across the board socially if you happen to have white skin. To use a card playing image: you are dealt a much better hand in life because of your skin color. Opportunity presents itself more easily & quickly because you are white--& you are largely unaware of this because it is the established manner—the way it is; it ain’t just because you’ve worked hard.
A litmus test in all of this upheaval is whether you are able to affirm that black lives matter. Indeed, they most certainly do!--& they are under siege both near & afar in very many states, including our own state of Pennsylvania. Of course, each & every life does matter, but an inability to give voice to the downtrodden black community is a signal that you just may have grown up with some personal racism like I have, & perhaps that is also compounded by your unknowing engagement with cultural/societal racism? There is an opportunity here to grow.
My responsibility as our pastor requires of me to sometimes confront some harsh realities within our parish community, & this is one of those things. I hope that I have not unfairly branded anyone or pre-judged with my comments on painful events that were unfolding within our nation. Let’s take the opportunity to do some soul searching & reflection upon these things, asking God for some illumination & whether we need conversion. May God bless us in these uncertain times & bring good out of so much chaos & division. AMEN!