HEALING THE RACIAL DIVIDE –
WHAT WILL IT TAKE
Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican
In the past some efforts have been made
to address racism. Today, many more civic organizations and faith
communities seem to have a growing awareness of the need to address
racism in its many forms. In our Racine area, a taskforce was
established called "Coming Together Racine" to look at the state of
our community in terms of racial equity. The vision established by
the group is to "create a genuine interracial
community where all people have
equality of voice and access to resources and opportunities." A
community-wide approach was taken to address the issues and to make
systemic change in response to the needs identified. Crossroads
Anti-racism Organizing and Training has taken a lead role in
facilitating gatherings and in training to address racism. Our
Racine Dominican Community has established a taskforce to address
the issue of racism.
HOW DO WE DEFINE RACISM?
It is important to have a common
definition of racism in order to define our goals.
In the past, racism was understood as
bigotry and prejudice. Today our understanding goes well beyond that
definition. It has many different levels – individual attitudes and
actions. It implies a belief that one race or group of people is
superior to another group. Judgments made by the dominant group will
often lead to discrimination and conflict. Racism implies prejudice
as well as power and privilege which do not disappear without a deep
and prolonged struggle. Some church leaders have called racism the
major sin of the 21st century which imprisons and
diminishes both the oppressed and the oppressors, and hinders full
human growth and development for all involved.
The first task is to identify racism at
an individual and organizational level. How can we take down the
walls that have divided us over the centuries? Will we have the
courage to join hands and hearts with others over the long haul, and
in so doing to allow the dignity and freedom of all people to
flourish? It is more than a Black/White issue. It also affects
people of other cultures, a growing number of immigrants who have
come to our shores and a very large Latino population. The United
Nations has declared "preference based on race, color or national
origin cannot be perpetuated and must be eradicated."
The issue is gaining prominence again.
It appears that there is a growing fear behind racism because of the
changing demographics in the US. They predict that in 2050,
Minorities will make up more than 50% of the population. Hispanic
Americans, African Americans and many other cultures will far
surpass the Anglo population. Our faith calls us to look at this
fact in a whole way so that we may be a positive part of creating
the world according to God’s Design. "There is neither Jew nor
Greek, neither slave nor free. All are one in Christ." Gal. 3: 28."
Many hope that we will have in the not too distant future,
congregations that will be multi-racial and multi-cultural. To
accomplish this, we cannot let the fear element overcome our
efforts. Faith communities can lead the way toward racial healing
and reconciliation. God created all of us and calls us to unity
beyond any distinctions of color or culture. We can view the
diversity of God’s family as a blessing that mirrors God’s design.
It s something to be cherished and anticipated with great joy.
WHAT IS NEEDED TO BRING ABOUT RACIAL
HARMONY AND HEALING?
First of all we need to open our minds
and hearts to God’s call to conversion in our lives. We also need to
listen intently to the pain whose lives have been destroyed by
poverty and racism and help them define who they are as full members
of God’s family and not lets racist definitions destroy them. It
will take all of us working together to create a pluralistic,
inclusive and healthy community and let all enjoy the fruits of
their efforts. It will restore hope to all aspects of life and
benefit both giver and receiver. We need to name, face, denounce and
dismantle racism in a holistic way and work with others to create a
community that is whole, inclusive and just.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WAYS TO ADDRESS
Study the relationship between
poverty and racism, both locally and globally. Catholic
Charities USA has some excellent resources in this regard.
Convene a group to study racism.
There are many videos that could be used for this purpose. One
such video is "True Colors," to be used with a study guide
following the viewing.
Encourage local clergy and other
faith leaders to address racism. Involve children and youth in
Get to know and befriend people of
other races and cultures. You will be amazed at what God can do
through each of us, if we open our minds and hearts to the
Go beyond the church and faith
community and help people look at other systems of oppression –
in the criminal justice system, in health care delivery and
access in employment and many other areas.
Ask forgiveness for our own
involvement in racial inequities and white power and privilege
and make a clear commitment to racial reconciliation. Then we
can strengthen our belief that another world is indeed possible.
- Gather groups together to discuss
the issue. One excellent resource to use is Fr. Bryan
Massingale’s book entitled: "Racism in the Catholic Church"
- Use Diversity Circles to look at
ethnicity, age, gender and race and to foster greater
understanding, cooperation and community participation. Check
I conclude with a reference from the US
bishops Pastoral Letter on Racism, which call us to address the
issue at this time:
"There must be no turning back along
the road of justice, no sighing for bygone times of privilege, no
nostalgia for simple solution from another age. For we are all
children of the age to come, when the first will be last and the
last first, when "Blessed are thy who serve Christ the Lord in all
his bothers and sister, especially those who are poor and suffer
Let us begin today to realign our world
more closely with God’s design for all people. May we continue the
journey with courage, conviction and hope.