Make no mistake, as Catholics, we are called to do something about racism. As the Body of Christ, part of our mission is to proclaim the Gospel and to witness to justice in word and deed. This means we cannot remain silent and, at the same time, claim we are living out our mission as the Church.
First, we must acknowledge the truth that racism exists; a pernicious sin that attacks the human family. We must keep vigilant and continue to root out racism’s sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle sanctuaries. We ask for the courage to speak the truth against injustice and pray for healing.
This requires that we examine our hearts and minds more than ever. Before the recent wave of protests that spread throughout our country due to racial injustices, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” in November of 2018. We know that racism, in particular towards Blacks, has plagued our country for more than 400 years, beginning with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans. Through this letter, the bishops remind us that racism, in general, grows by attitude and intention and we must uproot it:
“Racism can often be found in our hearts — in many cases placed there unwillingly or unknowingly by our upbringing and culture. As such, it can lead to thoughts and actions that we do not even see as racist, but nonetheless flow from the same prejudicial root. Consciously or subconsciously, this attitude of superiority can be seen in how certain groups of people are vilified, called criminals, or are perceived as being unable to contribute to society, even unworthy of its benefits. Racism can also be institutional, when practices or traditions are upheld that treat certain groups of people unjustly.”
Dr. Janet Taylor, a native of Lexington who is a psychiatrist, life coach and the mother of four, offers three tips to help families talk about racism and the protests currently under way:
Tell the truth:“It’s an opportunity to teach, when you have conflict, how to speak up and do the right thing instead of inflicting more pain.”
Celebrate the differences: “You can point out the differences in skin color, hair texture, things that our kids know anyway. We need to celebrate differences and we also need to point out that we can come together and make a difference and it has to be that way.”
Set the example as parents: “As important as it is to talk about racism, our children are not born racists. That is something that develops based on what they hear, what they see. It’s really important to teach our children as early as possible to be allies, to stand side by side with their classmates.”
Educators Michael Sidwell and Supreet Mahanti remind us that, “There are no others, just other people.” We model to our children the example we want them to follow in how we treat or see others who are different from ourselves. How important it is, more than ever before, to find ways to introduce your child to diverse cultures and people from different ethnicities and races. The hope of positive interactions with other racial and social groups early on can help decrease prejudice and encourage more cross-group friendships.
As Catholics, we pray that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, all our children can uniquely build trust and openness to different perspectives. Families are the domestic Church; are we living in a way that embodies our Catholic faith? What they see you do is as important as what they hear you say. Do your kids see the value of diversity in your language, prayer, friend group, social events? Do you share with your children the importance of standing against racism and learning about our Catholic history from its rich diversity? Together, as a church family, let us take every opportunity to stand against the sin of racism.