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I hear lots or words! But what do they mean?

I read lots of words about race-related issues  – inequality, systemic change, racial profiling, prejudice, privilege, etc. I even came across a glossary of 64 commonly words in “conversations” about issues of race

Keep in mind that these words often hold different meanings for different people. To complicate things even further, there are connotations of words that have their origins in an era when slavery was at its height. “Master bedrooms” in our homes. “Blacklists” and “whitelists” in computing. The idiom “sold down the river” in our everyday speech.

Words such as “Kraut”, “Gringo”, “Slanty eyes” and the like were painful for the nationalities they were hurled at.

I hear lots of words! But what’s the issue?

Here I offer just two words not in any of the word lists… but at the heart of any discussion.

Our Father! These two words, taught by Jesus himself, are key to who he is and who we are.

  • Jesus was on a mission from his father to tell us that we are all sons and daughters and therefore sisters and brothers.
  • Jesus spent himself in tirelessly explaining the implications of living the reality of being brothers and sisters.
  • Jesus loved us, his brothers and sisters, to the end to show us how much he loves each and everyone of his sisters and brother… even those who were his enemies.
  • Jesus told us to “do this in memory of me”! Wash one another’s feet!

If we really believe those two words, we cannot tolerate any form of racism.

The United States Bishops acknowledge there is a problem with stark words,

 “…we, the Catholic bishops in the United States, acknowledge the many times the Church has failed to live as Christ has taught – to love our brothers and sisters. Acts of racism have been committed by leaders and members of the Catholic Church – by bishops, clergy, religious and laity – and our institutions. We express our deep sorrow and regret for them. We also acknowledge those instances when we have not done enough or (we have) stood by silently when grave acts of injustice were committed. We ask forgiveness from all who have been harmed by these sins committed in the past or in the present.” (no. 18)

I hear lots of words! But what is racist?                                                     

Recently, I and my confreres were offered Sr. Addie Walker’s insights during an excellent workshop. Think about them.

  • What is a racist idea? A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. Racist ideas argue that the inferiorities and superiorities of racial groups explain racial inequities in society.
  • What is a racist policy? Any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups. (Policies are written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people.)
  • What is racism? Racism is the marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produce and normalize racial inequities.fRacism, as distinct from prejudice, requires that one have the power to enforce the particular idea or policy.

Common examples of racism embedded in the structures of our society include such things as housing discrimination (limits on where people of color can live); laws or policies that deny people of color access to quality education, employment, and adequate health care; mass incarceration and criminal justice systems that disproportionately target people of color with lengthier sentences; over-policing of communities of color.

I hear lots of words! But what should be our actions?

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

Lots of Words… What’s the issue?
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